Expectations had been at rock bottom for the Detroit Lions coming into their game against the Carolina Panthers, but for the fourth time this season, the team managed to pull out a quality win against a quality opponent. While their losses have been ugly, the team has won four games and none of their opponents has a losing record (well... “had.” Hi, Packers).
The Panthers seemingly had a good matchup in every level on both sides of the ball, but the Lions managed to control the line of scrimmage and abuse skill matchups on their way to a win. Once again we’re going to dig right into what went right and what went wrong in this one, so let’s go!
Stock Up: Matthew Stafford, QB
Matthew Stafford has dropped a couple of stinkers the last few weeks. Easily the most scrutinized player on the team, he continues to have his doubters. Performances like this one highlight both his abilities as a game manager, organizing the run game and connecting on short passes or whatever else the secondary was giving up. His play-making ability going deep to Kenny Golladay for the final go-ahead touchdown was classic Stafford. It wasn’t a flawless game, but it was pretty close to it. If not for drops, of which there were many, this score could have been much farther apart.
Stock Down: The tight ends, TE
Yeah, apparently we’re dogging entire position groups in this one to save time. The tight ends, as has been the story all year, have been bad. What made this notable is that while they only contributed a single catch and another drop on the day (par the course), they also stunk in their attempts to block. They’ve graduated from being only worthless as receiving threats to giving very little reason to put them on the field at all.
Stock Up: Kenny Golladay, WR
Speaking of Kenny Golladay, I went into the half looking at his stats and thinking of all the nice ways people will tell me I’m wrong for putting him in the stock down category despite that. His touchdown to put the Lions ahead may have been a career best, and it’s not like his others have been pieces of cake. He turned up his game when he was really needed and when Kenny Golladay is on, he’s such a bear to cover.
Stock Down: Not Kenny Golladay, WR
Kenny Golladay was a bit up and down throughout this contest, but sometime later in the game he really turned it on and never looked back. The rest of the receivers can barely be called that. Bruce Ellington caught six of his nine targets for 52 yards, but he also left injured at one point and left a lot of yards on the field. The next highest receiver was TJ Jones, who caught a single pass for 2 yards. The inability of any of the Lions receivers to separate has been an issue even before Golden Tate left and Marvin Jones Jr. was injured, but man does it show up when the depth guys are getting more snaps.
Stock Up: Ezekiel Ansah, DE
If the Lions are going to limit Ansah’s snap counts to help prevent him from being injured while he plays out the rest of his final games in Detroit, I hope they all look similar to this. Ansah as a pass rushing specialist can be deadly and while it would be nice to have that all the time, we’ve already seen what happens when they try that. We’ve reached the point where I’m content to simply get whatever value we can out of Ansah as the season closes out and to stop hoping he’ll be available on the regular.
Stock Down: The Defensive Backfield, All of it
So let’s do a quick roll call.
Darius Slay - Hurt seemingly every game
Nevin Lawson - Always close enough to probably tackle the guy he just allowed catch the football
DeShawn Shead - Exists, probably
Teez Tabor - Should be receiving 0 snaps, is instead allowing touchdowns seemingly every time he is on the field
Mike Ford - Signed only recently, missed two tackles that went for big gains (but coverage was fine).
It’s a real horror show.
Nick Bellore, FB: Bellore wasn’t beasting out with his blocks, but each of the times he saw the field he was where he was supposed to be blocking who he was supposed to block.
Tyrell Crosby, OT: Crosby is more and more likely to see the field, it seems only like a matter of time.
Jarrad Davis, LB: Davis did a lot of the basic stuff right and also continued to show his value as a spy and pass rusher.
Taylor Decker, OT: Decker has looked really bad while he played through injury, but I saw very little poor play in this one. Back to form?
Bruce Ellington, WR: Am I cheating by talking about how the WRs struggled and them putting him up? Yes. He’s up here because of opportunity. Nine targets is no small thing, it’s something to watch.
Mike Ford, CB: I’m cheating here, too. Ford gave up two plays, and one was a big’un. In both situations, though, it was his strength and tackling that was the issue and not coverage. That’s an improvement over what the Lions have been fielding.
Graham Glasgow, OC: I’m not sure it was all that consistent, but the interior OL often stood out positively to me against the Panthers. Always starts with the man in the middle.
Damon Harrison, NT: Harrison missed a tackle early in the game and you could tell just how pissed he was. The rest of the game he played angry and it showed, to the Panthers detriment.
Andy Jones, WR: Dude gets brought up and immediately gets activated. A good sign they like him around as a contributor, a sign for his 2019 prospects.
Christian Jones, LB: Jones has been a flop of a signing but I only noticed him on a few plays and he was actually pretty good on them. Maybe he’s turned some kind of corner.
TJ Jones, WR: Maybe his returning ability has improved, but all the promise we saw from him as a receiver in 2017 seems gone.
Devon Kennard, LB: Kennard looked pretty good even outside of his sack. Kennard isn’t a foundational piece, but he’s a good jobber so far.
Sam Martin, P: Martin downed three kicks inside the 20 and averaged around 46 yards per. The special teams unit has struggled so it’s good to see something working.
Don Muhlbach, LS: Don got some film time on kicking replays.
Matt Prater, K: Still money.
Frank Ragnow, OG: Ragnow showed off his athleticism and run blocking ability several times and continues to impress game after game.
Theo Riddick, RB: Riddick had a bad drop, but he’s back in his natural position in the backfield.
Rick Wagner, OT: After some bad weeks, Wagner looked far better against the Panthers. Did give up one bad hit on Stafford, but was otherwise very solid.
Tracy Walker, FS: If Walker hits, it’s going to be hard to hate this draft class. He’s looked good so far and had his first* interception of his career.
Charles Washington, FS: Washington had multiple boss special teams plays in this one. The Lions have missed a strong special team presence, Washington may be turning into that.
Kenny Wiggins, OG: Hey, you know who didn’t stink? Kenny Wiggins. He wasn’t a monster by any stretch, but he wasn’t the liability he has been in previous games.
Zach Zenner, RB: Zenner sealed the game by recovering the onside kick. With how Blount has played, it’s only a matter of time before he starts getting meaningful snaps.
LeGarrette Blount, RB: I think we can dispense with the formalities and just call a bad running back a bad running back. This is his seventh game averaging less than 2.0 YPC, his third under 1.0 YPC.
Matt Cassel, QB: The chances he ever sees the field took a hit as the pass protection actually held up this week.
Quandre Diggs, SS: The only time I saw Diggs was a single blown coverage. Maybe he played the rest of the game well, but that’s the only time I saw him so he’s here.
Da’Shawn Hand, DL: I’m used to Hand dominating games, but it felt like he was having a hard time.
Kerry Hyder, DL: Continues to be a non-factor, is unlikely to be a Lion in 2019.
Ricky Jean Francois, DL: Only saw him a couple times, which was surprising considering A’Shawn was out. Didn’t look good when I saw him.
Kerryon Johnson, RB: Oh, he was awesome as usual. He just got hurt and it looks like it could be really bad news.
Marvin Jones, WR: Get healthy soon, Marvin. The team seriously needs you. Missing time sucks.
Miles Killebrew, SS: If he doesn’t have a role by now, we’re not likely to ever see one. Start looking ahead to camp 2019, Miles.
Nevin Lawson, CB: Lawson’s career of being close enough to make a play on the ball but never actually making a play on the ball continues.
Eric Lee, DE: Lee was inactive, which isn’t good if you want to show you have any long term value.
Romeo Okwara, DE: The more we see Okwara, the more we see what he really is to the defense. Reliable, steady, and average. Ultimately, a guy you want replaced but feel okay if you can’t right away.
Brandon Powell, WR: Last week, when Powell got some extended work, we saw just how unprepared he was. He needs more time, and that’s fine, but for now he’s not likely to see more action.
Glover Quin, FS: Quin got knocked on his backside on one big play, which was the worst example of how much he’s fallen off in play.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB: Maybin keeps missing valuable snaps he needs to show he has value.
Michael Roberts, TE: Can’t show red-zone value if you can’t see the field.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: Not sure what the injury is all about, nor how long it’ll last, but hate seeing a guy miss time who was coming into his own.
Jake Rudock, QB: The Lions tried out Nate “Actually an Interception” Peterman this week. Their confidence in Rudock being the dude next year has to be close to bottoming out.
Kelvin Sheppard, LB: Can’t show you’re a worthy addition if you never see the field.
Darius Slay, CB: Slay played well, really well in fact. He did slip on one of the touchdowns, but what lands him here is his strange inability to stay healthy this season. Hurt again in this one.
Jalen Tabor, CB: End this experiment, please. It’s over. It’s just mean at this point.
Levine Toilolo, TE: Toilolo had a nice catch and run, but that’s where the positives end. Got destroyed as a blocker, his primary job.
Luke Willson, TE: I’m not sure what role Willson has going forward in 2019. I’m also not sure what he’s supposed to be in 2018.
Tavon Wilson, SS: Wilson didn’t do much in this one, and the only time I noticed him was on a play he took a bad angle on.
Matt Patricia, Head Coach: Stock Up
Patricia can’t seem to avoid controversy and you could tell many were already looking for those little things they felt would be pain points after the game. Winning cures all ills, though, and he was able to close this one out against a winning team. The idea that he had lost the team was always a long shot, but a hard fought win like this really puts a dagger in that thought.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down
Cooter continues to have a great gameplan to start the game that ultimately falls apart once they have to start improvising. His offense got exactly how many yards his players could get for it and nothing more. LeGarrette Blount’s usage and play are a great example of just how predictable and easily countered his play calling is.
Paul Pasqualoni, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Up
Pasqualoni has been a whole lot of hit or miss in this one, but it’s hard to pin any of the team’s issues in this game on his play calling or design. On each of the big plays, it was a player screwing up that caused the play. In fact, the only really bad play call I can remember ended up being an incompletion by Devin Funchess. The drops by the Panthers certainly helped this unit look better than it really was, but the play calling was on point for a slow defense forced to cover a fast offense.
Devin Fitzsimmons, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Up
Who knows what the ST unit is going to look like in 2019, but it’s taken a huge step forward once Joe Marciano was let go. Hard to not credit coaching with that at this point.