The Lions’ pathetic offensive production faced off against a Bills defense that led the NFL, so I don’t think many of us were expecting an offensive shootout. Early on, it looked like the Lions may have at least found a way to cheat through the Bills’ stout defense, throwing ridiculous pass after ridiculous catch to Kenny Golladay. After that worked for a while, the team went away from Golladay, stopped calling anything resembling an aggressive play call, and basically soiled their uniforms for the rest of the game until they lost to one of the worst offenses in the NFL. Some people didn’t suck, so we’ll talk about them, too.
Stock Up: Kenny Golladay, WR
Golladay has had days where he looked completely uncoverable and days where he disappeared. This was one of the former, as one of the league’s best young cornerbacks in Tre’Davious White covered Golladay in near blanket coverage, but it simply wasn’t enough to prevent the big man from taking his footballs and pushing the Lions downfield by sheer force of will. The Lions would eventually go away from Golladay despite the Bills not seeming to do much by way of changing their coverage, but Kenny G had a career day in what was ultimately a losing effort.
Stock Down: The entire special teams unit
"I let everyone down. It sucks." -- Don Muhlbach— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) December 16, 2018
The coverage units were poor and once again prone to penalty. Don Muhlbach botched a snap that would lead to the point differential for the game. Matt Prater would go on to miss a 48-yard field goal in a game that was decided by a single point. Sam Martin did his best to hold it together with a dumpster fire of a special teams unit, but to no avail. The whole group sucked aside from Andy Jones and for some insane reason Quandre Diggs as a return man. Expect another season of massive turnover for this unit.
Stock Up: Andy Jones, WR
Jones didn’t do a whole lot in the game, so don’t think this is some sort of endorsement for Jones deserving more playing time on offense or needing to become a focal piece or some other nonsense. He did, however, notch his first touchdown after he was able to break free from his coverage and get open while Stafford went through his reads. He was also one of the only players on special teams who seemed to remember they were playing in a televised game with his best play coming immediately after his touchdown. A guy who did his job well and stepped up elsewhere when needed.
Stock Down: Jarrad Davis, LB
"I fucked up. That's it. I fucked up. I messed up and lost it for the team. I have to go out and I have to be better. I have to be better for me and I have to be better for my teammates." -- Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, who jumped offside on a late third-down stop.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) December 16, 2018
Early on, Jarrad Davis was playing with his hair on fire and flying all over the field. It’s the type of development we’d been waiting to see and his tackle for a loss was a thing of beauty as he beat several blockers to get into the backfield and make a signature play. He was sitting at eight tackles and looking like he was going to crush the Bills all day. His final statline of the day? Nine tackles. The entirety of the rest of the game, Davis would simply disappear, and those were the good plays. His costly penalty on the Bills’ final drive ultimately crushed any chance of the team mounting a late comeback and put the game out of reach by taking the Bills from third-and-long to third and manageable. They would eventually convert on fourth down.
Stock Up: A’Shawn Robinson, DT
I know the Lions lost but A'Shawn Robinson looked to be the best player on defense, again. He has had a tremendous year and now the Lions who entered the season without one mainstay on the interior DL have 3 darn good ones going into next year.— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) December 16, 2018
On a day where few players stood out in a positive light, A’Shawn Robinson was a nice change up. Damon Harrison Sr. continued his normal dominance, but Robinson got some clean plays of his own against the Bills front. I don’t think Robinson will ever be much of a pass rusher, any hope of that set sail long ago, but he continues to develop as a run defender and is difficult to move off the line. After rushing for a stupid amount of yards the past few weeks, the Lions front held Josh Allen to almost nothing, only 19 yards on nine carries, and Robinson was a big part of that.
Stock Down: LeGarrette Blount, RB
Legarrette Blount is a master of getting to top speed before he gets to the line of scrimmage and still managing to stop before he gets past the line of scrimmage.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) December 16, 2018
With Zach Zenner getting his first start of the season and taking the largest amount of snaps, we can only conclude that he has, in fact, leapfrogged LeGarrette Blount on the depth chart. Blount will have rushed for less than 2.0 yards per carry in EIGHT games this season after managing only 9 yards on seven carries against the Bills. This is simply a case of ‘stick a fork in him, he’s done’, but one has to wonder how many carries he’s going to continue to ‘demand’ in Jim Bob Cooter’s flaccid scheme.
Jerome Cunningham, TE: Cunningham was active, so that’s a stock up. He didn’t do a thing to make it likely he stays active, so it’s probably short lived.
Taylor Decker, OT: Decker has had some struggles lately, and while the Bills front aren’t known for producing sacks in bulk, Decker held his own.
Quandre Diggs, SS: Diggs got some play returning on teams and had a nice return... that was wiped out by penalty.
Andrew Donnal, OT: I’ve gotta wait until I see the snap count, but I’m fairly sure he never played. Still, he was active and that’s a change.
Graham Glasgow, OC: Glasgow is a steady dude and this was a steady game.
Kerry Hyder, DL: Hyder was active for the first time in weeks. He even managed to record a tackle!
Ricky Jean Francois, DT: RJF didn’t look out of sorts this week and while it wasn’t the toughest assignment he did a good job against the BIlls.
Christian Jones, LB: Jones filled in some of the gaps once Jarrad Davis disappeared in the second half.
Devon Kennard, LB: Kennard notched the Lions only sack against a Bills team that loves giving them up. He’s the only pass rusher who actually rushed the passer.
Leo Koloamatangi, OC: Koloamatangi was active. Not sure he did anything, but he was around, which is an improvement.
Nevin Lawson, CB: Lawson was the only corner who both wasn’t targeted often and was close enough to tackle the guy he was covering.
Sam Martin, P: On a day the entire special teams unit was soiling themselves, Martin kept his jersey clean and did his job well.
Frank Ragnow, OG: Ragnow had a pretty good day and aside from a miscommunication or two seemed to be on the right track.
Theo Riddick, RB: Riddick had a really nice run where he got to juke someone out of their shoes and wasn’t given as many stupid draw plays as he usually is.
DeShawn Shead, CB: I didn’t see Shead at all. That could mean he didn’t play much, but it could also mean he did his job better than the other guys.
Teez Tabor, CB: Tabor was active, wasn’t the worst cornerback on the field, and got a tackle.
Levine Toilolo, TE: Toilolo has shown himself a decent contributor and may even be getting a new contract in 2019. The team still desperately needs a playmaker at TE, but they’ll need a TE2 and TE3 as well, and Toilolo could do one of those.
Tracy Walker, FS: Walker looks like a stud every time he sees the field. He needs to see the field more.
Kenny Wiggins, OG: Wiggins continues to not be terrible, he may find a way into a backup role in 2019. Let’s hope they find a better option, but if not, they could do worse.
Luke Willson, TE: Willson is a non-factor in the passing game, but he had more than one key block in this game, something we haven’t seen much of.
Zach Zenner, RB: Zenner got the start and showed that he was worthy of it. Excited to see what he does to close out the season.
Trevor Bates, LB: Bates plays special teams pretty much exclusively and did nothing to market himself as more useful than that.
Marcus Cooper, CB: After strong play last week ended in injury, Cooper found himself inactive.
Tyrell Crosby, OT: Crosby got his start at right tackle and while I feel many will disagree with me here, I wasn’t impressed. Whenever I tuned in to him specifically he was getting pushed around.
Bruce Ellington, WR: Inactive due to injury and Brandon Powell was just as bad at producing YAC as Ellington has been.
Mike Ford, CB: Ford got abused badly in this one. While he has been an improvement over Teez Tabor, he’s raw and rough, needing more development time than he has been awarded.
Nicholas Grigsby, LB: Aside from being listed on the roster, I have no real proof this player exists.
Da’Shawn Hand, DL: Hand is unlikely to see the field again this season, which sucks. No good news this week.
Eli Harold, LB: Kennard came back, Harold relegated to the reserve role.
Kerryon Johnson, RB: We’re now entering week 2 of “Kerryon should be back this week” watch.
TJ Jones, WR: Jones is taking snaps that would better be served developing other pass catchers. I’m not sure who those pass catchers worth developing are, but Jones is taking their snaps.
Eric Lee, DE: Lee isn’t really justifying his roster spot right now.
Don Muhlbach, LS: You have one job. Fail it, and you’re going to be vilified. Fail it and cause a failed extra point that would lead to the loss, and you’re in for a bad time.
Romeo Okwara, DE: Okwara was getting really mad that the refs weren’t throwing flags at the Bills when they weren’t holding. I’m not sure why he was so whiny in this one, but not being able to make a single worthwhile play may be part of it.
Brandon Powell, WR: The Lions tried to make Brandon Powell into Golden Tate again and it failed just as bad as last time. Too slow to run those types of plays, he wasn’t put in any position to succeed, but also touched the ball four times and you have to do SOMETHING on your own.
Matt Prater, K: You have one job. Fail it, and you’re going to be vilified. Fail it and miss a field goal that would have probably nabbed a win for your team, and you’re going to have a hard time.
Glover Quin, FS: It didn’t start off badly, but it certainly ended poorly for Quin in this one.
Kelvin Sheppard, LB: I’m not sure what role Sheppard is supposed to have on this team.
Darius Slay, CB: Slay had a few nice pass deflections, so it wasn’t a terrible day. He also had way too many targets thrown his way and gave up too much coverage on his guys. If not for poor Bills receivers, the stat line against him is likely very different.
Matthew Stafford, QB: Stafford is in pain and playing like he’s in pain. Tough cat, but he’s playing as conservative as the plays he’s given, and stopped trying to force the ball more than a yard or two downfield far too early.
Rick Wagner, OT: Crosby didn’t play as well as he’ll likely get made out to have, but since he didn’t crap the bed it’s a bad sign for Rick Wagner going forward.
Charles Washington, SS: Still hurt, still inactive.
Joe Dahl, OG: Dahl continues to be a versatile blocker the team will likely hold onto due to his ability to move all over. A valuable depth piece moving forward.
Damon Harrison, NT: Harrison is brilliant.
Nick Bellore, FB: Bellore remains inactive and the Lions offense continues to churn with other players in his role (plays with a FB are some of the least sucky of the offense).
Matt Cassel, QB: Stafford is playing in constant, obvious pain. If he were broken in half, I feel like they’d strap him to a board and put him back out there before putting Cassel in.
Miles Killebrew, SS: Killebrew exists still. Somewhere.
Matt Patricia, Head Coach: Stock Up
I know, it was a loss. And it was a loss in which the team’s intentional flip from aggressive to conservative played a big part of the eventual outcome. Considering that, the team managed to rush for more than 4.5 yards per carry with both Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner against the league’s ninth ranked rush defense and top ranked overall defense. They also held Josh Allen, who has been running all over teams, to a measly 19 yards. Without the costly special teams gaffes, the team may have been looking at a slow paced and boring win, but a win nonetheless, and while the approach was painful as a fan to watch it wasn’t without reason.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down
We’re not letting our coaches max or bottom out, so Cooter once again lands here. What a horror show. And not like, Friday the 13th or Babadook, we’re not talking about classic horror or creative and suspenseful horror. We’re talking Blair Witch 2 bad, the kind of bad you don’t even want to watch ironically. Or, ooh, House of the Dead bad. So bad that you watch it to make fun of it, and realize that anything good about it would probably be a lot better if someone else were in charge. Jim Bob Cooter is the Uwe Boll of offensive coordinators, a hack whose value to his profession will be mostly laughing at it in hindsight.
Paul Pasqualoni, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Down
Keeping Josh Allen contained and limiting his rushing to the low they did is impressive, as is keeping their rushers to below 4 YPC each. So why stock down? As much as we’re going to talk about how conservative the offense was, you could teach a class on how to run a defense conservatively using only game clips from Lions/Bills 2018. The pass rush was never designed to get to the quarterback, playing terrified of his rushing ability. The run defense was solid, but the numbers are actually poor if you consider the Bills started the game with their third and fourth running backs and finished it with those two guys banged up and had a fullback rushing the ball at one point. The team finished with no turnovers forced, only a single sack, and a single tackle for a loss.
Devin Fitzsimmons, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Down
Fitzsimmons isn’t doing much to push for a job in 2018 in Detroit or elsewhere.