Not many people expected the Lions to pull out a win with how they’ve been playing, but they kept it interesting on defense for the first half. The offense’s complete inability to do anything of any consequence, however, made it another painful watch as a fan as the Vikings coasted to a win after shutting the Lions out of the end zone for all four quarters. With so little working on offense, you would expect the team to try some different things on offense, and while they did do a couple things right by the team from a long-term perspective, they did next to nothing to win this football game.
Stock Up: Lions draft position
This loss puts the Lions at 5-10 on the season and firmly in top-five draft pick territory. That puts players like Josh Allen, Nick Bosa, Ed Oliver, and others in play for a team desperately in need of an infusion of talent. In the midst of a rebuild, the team needs talent at virtually every position, and if it weren’t for the Lions cap situation with Matthew Stafford making it untenable and the draft class being weak at the position, you could argue that QB is the only position that is unlikely to be explored in some way with that first pick.
Stock Down: Roster consistency
The Lions have had a crazy amount of turnover the past few seasons and with how poorly the depth has played on this roster you have to think the turnover will be big again this offseason. Lions had poor play from their defensive backfield, and with nine separate corners taking snaps this year it really isn’t that surprising. How many of them will return? Will players like Teez Tabor survive the offseason? What about former practice squad players like Dee Virgin, Mike Ford, and Marcus Cooper? Each season, there’s usually a few guys that you can hang your hat on and hope for development from, but there simply aren’t many guys on this roster in the depth that have shown any kind of promise. Most of the young talent that finally gets their shot simply go through the motions, offering little in terms of future potential and just reminding you that they’re playing instead of more talented players dealing with injury.
Stock Up: Nevin Lawson, CB
Going into the second half, I was genuinely impressed with how Nevin Lawson had played for the first two quarters. The Vikings hadn’t gotten much going with their strong duo of receivers and Lawson’s sticky coverage was making him an undesirable target for Kirk Cousins. Lawson would finish the game with a sack and a tackle for a loss, and while that isn’t the normal stat line you’d be pointing to for a defensive back, it speaks to how much value he was able to provide overall in the game. The second half wasn’t as impressive, but it wasn’t a poor showing and one could argue he outplayed Darius Slay through the entirety of the game.
Stock Down: LeGarrette Blount, RB
When we all thought he couldn’t play any worse, Blount had to go out and prove everyone wrong. Blount finished the game with his ELEVENTH game at 3.0 or worse yards per carry. He was also targeted four times, which he turned into two catches for -5 yards and two awful drops. More than just playing his way off the Lions roster in 2019, Blount seems to be doing everything in his power to be off any roster in 2019, and he may be playing in one of his final NFL games. Bad as he was, he led the team in carries, blame that doesn’t belong with Blount but the same person that is the cause of most of the team’s offensive struggles.
Stock Up: Sam Martin, P
Yeah, the team played bad enough as a whole that one of their best performers was a punter. Martin is always strange to me as there is this subset of Lions fans who think he’s the worst punter to have ever put on cleats while he simply plays better than most punters in the NFL week in and week out. This was another example of him just doing his job and playing well as the rest of the team finds new ways to stink up the field. Martin would finish the game with six punts for 249 yards, four of those landing within the 20-yard line. The Lions could save a couple million by moving on from Martin in the offseason, but there isn’t really any reason to do so based on how he’s played and how little those savings would mean.
Stock Down: Matthew Stafford, QB
The only reason Stafford played in this game was to preserve his consecutive starts streak. Period. Full stop. Keeping him in the game didn’t give the Lions the best chance to win, and that’s not because there’s no small dropoff between him and Matt Cassel. It’s just that with Jim Bob Cooter calling plays and a non-existent skill position group outside of Kenny Golladay, the passing game was always going to be a huge problem against the Vikings. The team actually did some admirable things early in the game in regards to blocking and scheme to keep Stafford out of trouble, but once the Vikings started putting points on the board there was never any realistic hope of the team snagging victory. Instead of a few minutes left in the game, the team should have put Matt Cassel in the game the moment the Vikings were up by 8 points. 8 points with this offense amounted to three unanswered scoring drives and putting Stafford in that kind of risk for no good reason was a poor football decision.
John Atkins, DT: Atkins got some playing time and even got a tackle. I don’t know why the 26-year-old rookie is on the roster, but getting work means he may have another shot in camp 2019.
Nick Bellore, FB: Bellore may have lost his role as the fullback, but he’s one of the only special teamers still trying.
Matt Cassel, QB: Cassel got snaps! Not really meaningful ones, but good for him anyway.
Joe Dahl, OG: Not just playing all over the field, but playing often. Dahl has a clear role with the team going forward, which says a lot for his 2019 prospects.
Taylor Decker, OT: Like Wagner, Decker bounced back in this one after getting obliterated the last time these teams faced off.
Quandre Diggs, SS: There were times it seemed like Diggs was the only player who looked like he knew what he was doing. The hail mary for instance.
Mike Ford, CB: Ford played pretty decent in this one, and even good early on. Tapered off as the game wore on, but the whole defense did, really.
Ricky Jean Francois, DT: You know, I expected RJF to stink in this one. With an injured Damon Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson, I didn’t expect RJF to ball out, but he did so for most of the game. Tailed off at the end, but a net positive day.
Andy Jones, WR: Jones didn’t do much, but on a team with few pieces worth developing I’ve seen enough to want to see more in camp 2019.
Christian Jones, LB: Jones has been quietly playing well of late, and while he wasn’t very consistent in this one I think he did alright.
TJ Jones, WR: Jones caught a couple passes, and while he wasn’t super effective it still marks a day that was better than most of what we’ve seen from him this year.
Don Muhlbach, LS: He didn’t botch anything this week.
Romeo Okwara, DE: A restricted free agent in 2019, Okwara has done enough to show that he’s, at worst, a rotational piece going forward. Notched another sack in this one.
Frank Ragnow, OG: Ragnow played alright against a Vikings front that has been terrifying. Not a bad day, though he probably needs new shoes.
Rick Wagner, OT: Wagner was back in at tackle and for most of the game stonewalled a Vikings front that embarrassed the Lions in their first meeting.
Zach Zenner, RB: Zenner once again played like he should be getting more touches but for some reason got less touches. Maddening.
Jamal Agnew, CB: Agnew played pretty poorly on teams, but it was his first game back from injury so that’s hopefully just rust.
Trevor Bates, LB: Bates was active, but didn’t record so much as a tackle in the team's’ final home game. Not great for a special teamer.
Marcus Cooper, CB: Cooper had one good game a few weeks ago and in his only action in this one was mercilessly exploited. Unlikely to return in 2019.
Tyrell Crosby, OT: Crosby was back on the bench and when it came time to put in a reserve guard it was Joe Dahl. Crosby oddly has a lack of versatility I don’t think we saw coming.
Jerome Cunningham, TE: Cunningham got a target, which is one more than expected, but he caught none, which is exactly like expected.
Jarrad Davis, LB: Davis didn’t do anything to stand out to me positively or negatively. While that could be a good thing, I’m going to err on the side of outcome and say it wasn’t great.
Graham Glasgow, OC: Glasgow kept the pass rushers at bay for most of the game, but the interior line’s inability to get any real push made an already hard day for rushing even harder.
Devon Kennard, LB: 1 tackle and no noticeable pressure on Kirk Cousins, I saw very little to get me excited about Kennard in 2019.
Theo Riddick, RB: I joked about how bad Blount was as a receiver, but Riddick ended the day with four catches for only 7 yards and - 2 yards rushing on three carries. Seven touches, 5 yards.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: Robinson got hurt again and it’s likely he’s been playing hurt. He needs the offseason to come sooner than next week.
DeShawn Shead, CB: Shead had a bad day when I was watching him.
Darius Slay, CB: Slay was up and down, but it’s more notable that he was injured yet again in this game. It seems like every week this year he’s missed some time with one injury or another, and have to hope it’s just bad fortune.
Levine Toilolo, TE: If you were hoping Toilolo was some kind of answer as a receiving tight end, this game should remind you that isn’t likely.
Tracy Walker, FS: It wasn’t all bad for Walker against the Vikings, but it was mostly bad. Awful special teams penalty aside, he had a rough outing.
Luke Willson, TE: Willson left with what was reported as a concussion.
Damon Harrison, NT: Even on a down day, playing injured, Snacks is the best Lions player on the field.
Chris Lacy, WR: Lacy was inactive in his first week on the roster, but this is probably the apex of what we’ll get from him this season.
Eric Lee, DE: Lee was active and got a tackle. That kind of production is the height of what I’ve been expecting, and probably the best we’ll get.
Brandon Powell, WR: Active on game day and getting snaps, but not being productive with them is probably the best we’re going to get.
Matt Prater, K: Prater was money. He’s usually money.
Dee Virgin, CB: Inactive after being signed, Virgin will be fortunate to still be on the roster to be inactive next week.
Kenny Wiggins, OG: If we don’t have to worry about Wiggins, that’s probably the best we’re gonna get.
Tavon Wilson, SS: Is Wilson coming back next season? Hard to say, but his value is pretty much as high as it’s ever going to be, which still isn’t high.
Andrew Donnal, OT: Back on the inactive report, Donnal still doesn’t really have a role.
Kerry Hyder, DE: Hyder inactive again, likely missing a chance to play his last game in Ford Field.
Miles Killebrew, SS: Killebrew still has the same role, which is almost nothing.
Glover Quin, FS: Replaceable starter is probably the last thing we’re going to get from Glover Quin. Loved having him as a Lion, and he’ll be remembered fondly.
Kelvin Sheppard, LB: Active, but not a tackle to his name, probably all we’ll see as we enter the offseason.
Teez Tabor, CB: Tabor’s likely last game at Ford Field was one he spent inactive.
Matt Patricia, Head Coach: Stock Down
The good. Patricia schemed to keep Matthew Stafford upright for this game and adjusted his gameplan from the last meeting with the Vikings to help meet that end. He was successful in that.
The bad. That gameplan meant once again neutering Stafford and doing everything in his power to limit the touches that his playmakers get. He, along with Cooter, kept force-feeding LeGarrette Blount while he ran in quicksand and greenlit an offensive gameplan that had four targets to Blount as primary reads. Four!
On defense, Patricia did his best to keep patching together the defense with almost no players who can make plays, but the hail mary defense saw players wandering around confused in the end zone and it looked like it had never been practiced. It’s one thing to give up a hail mary touchdown, it’s another entirely to have exactly one player (Quandre Diggs) who was both where he was supposed to be and doing what he was supposed to be doing.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down
We’re running out of ways to fully describe just how bad the play design and play calling has been in Detroit. On back-to-back offensive drives in the first half, Cooter called run plays that got stuffed and forced the team out of field goal position on third-down. He designed and implemented multiple passing plays to one of the worst receiving backs in the league and after two drops kept trying that avenue despite Theo Riddick being available and Zach Zenner playing far better. He’s working with Kenny Golladay and nothing else at WR or TE, but the Vikings defense seemed to know every single play Cooter called to his other receivers because they’re the same telegraphed garbage he has been calling all year back when he had more talented players executing those plays.
Paul Pasqualoni, Defensive Coordinator, Stock Down
Pasqualoni did a good job neutralizing the Vikings rushing game for most of the contest, but his play design in this one was the worst he’s shown all year. Not once, not twice, but three separate occasions saw him leaving Kyle Rudolph completely uncovered, and multiple other times saw such soft coverage that Rudolph was able to brutalize the stat sheet. If it weren’t for a struggling Vikings offense, the score would have been far more lopsided as Pasqualoni did very little to combat the very small amount of ingenuity the Vikings managed with their second offensive coordinator and Kirk Cousins.
Devin Fitzsimmons, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Down
More penalties, more undisciplined madness, and more players who look like they’re more excited for a chance to compete in the AAF this February.