Well, it was predicted to be the least exciting match up of the week, and on that point the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals did not disappoint. A yawn-fest of a game, the Lions and Cardinals offenses traded blows in the first half. By that I mean that the punters were showing off and we got to see a ton of special teams play. Big play after big play was witnessed whenever the Lions game cut away to highlights of more interesting football elsewhere. Meanwhile, there were ups and downs against the Cardinals, so we’re going to dive into those now.
Stock Up: Zach Zenner, RB
Zach Zenner found his way back onto the Lions roster. That’s admirable. He found the end zone today. pic.twitter.com/8lQACEiAAV— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) December 10, 2018
After rushing only four times this season, the Lions turned to the Doc to pull them from their offensive funk against a middling defense that was somehow giving them fits. It paid off and his final statline of 12 rushes for 54 yards doesn’t truly do justice just how well he played. Zenner has an inconsistent reputation among Lions fans, but it’s games like this that highlight why he’s tough to keep off the roster. The Lions needed tough yardage to close out a game when were leading and Zenner did that and led a long drive that killed time and added more points to the Lions’ advantage. With LeGarrette Blount struggling once again, Zenner playing well could be a great sign for the Lions run game closing out the year and going into 2019.
Stock Down: Health, everyone
Lions now up to 12 players who've left with injuries today:— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 9, 2018
OUT-Hand, Ansah, Wagner
QUESTIONABLE - Bellore, Ellington, Cooper, Chuck Washington
NO UPDATE - Willson, Snacks
RETURNED - Slay, TJ Jones, Tavon Wilson
Matthew Stafford came into the game injured and it really showed at times, his face lighting up in pain multiple times in the game. To add to that, here’s a partial list of the injuries the Lions had to deal with in this one:
Darius Slay, knee (returned)
Rick Wagner, concussion
Ezekiel Ansah, shoulder (out, likely for the season)
Da’Shawn Hand, knee (uh-oh)
Bruce Ellington, hamstring
Tavon Wilson, two different injuries
TJ Jones, back (returned)
Nick Bellore, unknown
Marcus Cooper, unknown
Charles Washington, unknown
Woof. That’s all in addition to Kerryon Johnson still working through injury. At least Jamal Agnew is close to returning!
Stock Up: Jarrad Davis, LB
Davis has had more than his fair share of struggles, but he came to play in the Arizona heat. Davis was all over the field in the first half, making several key stops and big hits. I didn’t see him in coverage much, so I can’t speak to that generally weak portion of his game, but in every other area he seemed to excel. Davis is a legitimately great athlete, and seeing him fly all over the field was exactly what general manager Bob Quinn was hoping for when he drafted Davis in the first round last year. More of this, less whiffing on the easy stuff.
Stock Down: Bruce Ellington, WR
Bruce Ellington.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) December 9, 2018
Stop trying to make it happen. pic.twitter.com/8rzE2g8hFx
Golden Tate is in Philadelphia. He is on the Eagles. Someone please mail a letter to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and let him know that Bruce Ellington isn’t ‘that guy’ and he’s not able to do the same things after the catch that Tate did. We’re now, I dunno, three weeks too late into this project and still getting only a few yards per catch and no big plays to show for it. I know, in part, I’m being too harsh on Ellington. It’s not his fault that Jim Bob Cooter is incapable of scheming around the talent he has. I’m still dinging him for not being able to do much of anything and not being able to stay healthy.
Stock Up: Theo Riddick, RB
Every offense has that guy that can force defenses to respect his abilities even if they’re not super productive. For the Lions, that guy has been Theo Riddick and a game like this one shows why. Riddick was able to put on his normal receiving clinic, even if he only nabbed a few catches. His pass blocking was as good as it always is, but Riddick was even able to run a decent bit. His abilities on long distance draw plays is still not great, but that’s more Jim Bob Cooter’s fault than anyone else’s. We’re not even at Quick Hits yet and I’ve already mentioned how bad Cooter is twice. Spoilers for the Coaches section.
Stock Down: Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator
Let’s take a look at the end of one of the Lions’ drives to see just how badly called this game was by Cooter.
1st & 20 at ARI 39
- (11:36 - 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Riddick up the middle to ARZ 36 for 3 yards (H.Reddick).
2nd & 17 at ARI 36
- (10:58 - 2nd) (Shotgun) M.Stafford pass short right to T.Riddick to ARZ 38 for -2 yards (H.Reddick).
3rd & 19 at ARI 38
- (10:18 - 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Riddick right tackle to ARZ 29 for 9 yards (D.Amerson).
That’s draw play, flat pass, draw play. The whole game was like that. So many bad play calls. The first half ended with only ten points on the board and seven of them were from the defense. Most of us have resigned ourselves to seeing Cooter last until the end of the season, but it’s going to be painful if he keeps calling games like this.
Marcus Cooper, CB: Cooper has been on the team for barely a minute and he has already made more plays on defense than Teez Tabor has in two seasons.
Tyrell Crosby, OT: Wagner went down hurt and Crosby stepped in without any obvious dropoff. If Wagner is out for any length of time, we could see more play from the rook.
Quandre Diggs, SS: Diggs likes to hit people. He got to hit people. It was loud and fun to see.
Graham Glasgow, OC: Glasgow didn’t have a great game, but after the dumpster fire of a Rams game it was a huge improvement.
Eli Harold, LB: Harold was making the same level of plays that Devon Kennard did when he was healthy, and you can’t ask for much more from a reserve player.
Andy Jones, WR: Jones made plays on special teams and even had a play on offense. Moving up in the world.
Christian Jones, LB: I felt it was a better than average day from Jones. It’s not a grade I’m super confident in, but when I saw Jones he was right where he needed to be.
Sam Martin, P: Martin punted like, a thousand times, and it ranged from good to awesome in result.
Romeo Okwara, DE: Okwara has been fairly average, but he looked pretty good in this one.
Glover Quin, FS: Quin had a good game. We don’t get enough of those anymore, so kudos to it.
Frank Ragnow, OG: Ragnow had some ups and downs, but after he was killed on live television last week, this was a massive improvement.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: Robinson had two costly penalties for the Lions, so I felt like I was going to ding him. Then he had one of the best individual defensive efforts of the season and I had to give him credit. His sack was awesome.
DeShawn Shead, CB: Shead almost had a turnover, and that’s something.
Kelvin Sheppard, LB: I didn’t see Sheppard make any plays, but he got the start and that’s a big step up.
Darius Slay, CB: Slay was at his best in this one, notching at least two normal finger wags and a long pick six.
Levine Toilolo, TE: Toilolo caught a couple passes. Not a step up from the previous week, but considering how badly the TE have played this year, getting a second week of targets seems like a step up.
Tracy Walker, FS: Walker keeps getting better and taking snaps from Glover Quin.
Kenny Wiggins, OG: You know who didn’t suck? Kenny Wiggins. Kudos!
Ezekiel Ansah, DE: Ansah was hurt once again and it was bad enough that we’ve likely seen the last of him in Detroit.
Nick Bellore, FB: Fullback life isn’t easy. Often injured fullback has to be excruciating.
LeGarrette Blount, RB: Blount went back to his old slow rolling bowling ball style of play with the usual poor results.
Taylor Decker, OT: While the interior OL seemed to bounce back, the guys on the outside seemed to struggle until the second half.
Mike Ford, CB: Ford struggled in this one. He’s still the best option the Lions have on the outside, but that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass for a bad game.
Kenny Golladay, WR: 2 catches for 5 yards. I get that Patrick Peterson is good and all, but big time players have to make big time plays. Or any plays.
Nicholas Grigsby, LB: If your only job is special teams, you can’t make costly special teams penalties.
Da’Shawn Hand, DL: Oh man, get healthy quickly and please don’t be serious.
Ricky Jean Francois, DT: Francois was a notable drop off from Hand when he left injured.
Kerryon Johnson, RB: We entered “he should be back this week” this week and he wasn’t.
TJ Jones, WR: Jones has been having a down year and then he got dinged up.
Devon Kennard, LB: Whenever you’re injured and your replacement makes people forget you made an impact, the clock starts ticking.
Nevin Lawson, CB: Leave it to Nevin Lawson to be the one in coverage when someone like Larry Fitzgerald makes a historic catch.
Eric Lee, DE: Lee made a nice tackle behind the line later in the game, but his most notable play was a facemask penalty that helped extend a drive for the Cardinals.
Matthew Stafford, QB: Stafford was cautious with the ball to the point of being gelded.
Rick Wagner, OT: Wagner got hurt. He wasn’t playing well before he got hurt, either.
Charles Washington, SS: Washington was among those that got hurt. As a special teamer, that can be roster breaking.
Tavon Wilson, SS: Wilson got hurt again. Twice. After injury riddled years the past couple in Detroit, this is a constant trend.
Joe Dahl, OG: Barring anything crazy, Dahl has pretty much maxed out as a multi-faceted rotational offensive lineman.
Andrew Donnal, OT: He’s still on the roster and I can’t figure out why. So he’s got to have some value that they just feel they can’t do without.
Damon Harrison, NT: Harrison is the best player on the defense and that hasn’t changed. He’s a beast.
Don Muhlbach, LS: Muhlbach is a long snapper who doesn’t screw up.
Matt Prater, K: Prater is still money.
Matt Cassel, QB: Stafford played in noticeable pain and Cassel didn’t even get into the game when it didn’t matter.
Kerry Hyder, DL: Hyder is a weekly inactive.
Miles Killebrew, SS: He’s still just a special teamer who doesn’t make big plays.
Brandon Powell, WR: Powell is a weekly inactive.
Michael Roberts, TE: Roberts was targeted twice and dropped one. It’s hard to think of ways he could play worse than he has been.
Teez Tabor, CB: Tabor is a weekly inactive.
Luke Willson, TE: It’s a sad testament that Levine Toilolo has overtaken Willson as a passing weapon in the offense.
Matt Patricia, Head Coach: Stock Up
The first half on offense was embarrassing to watch. Boring, even. Still, the defense did a great job bottling up both Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, which is no small feat. Add to that keeping the team mostly mistake free and changing up the offense in the second half and you have some positive signs from the rookie head coach.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down
And here's another thing, how many times do we have to see the same plays called over and over only to have announcers praise the slightest deviation as "creativity"? Calling one creative play every 20 offensive calls isn't praiseworthy.
Paul Pasqualoni, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Up
Play calling was good and Pasqualoni adjusted to losing nearly half his team throughout the game.
Devin Fitzsimmons, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Down
Penalties, they haven't gotten better. If the Lions lose one of their specialists this unit would be a nightmare. A few individual efforts kept it from being a bad day, but mistakes still happening far too often with this unit.