Matthew Stafford was having a fine day up until the fourth quarter. While it is true that he threw a near interception earlier in the game, and he just missed Theo Riddick for what probably would’ve been a touchdown in the third quarter, he was managing the game fine, and considering the constant pressure he was under, Stafford was playing well.
But his costly fumble turned the entire tide of the game. Detroit immediately went from a position to potentially take the lead to having to play from two-scores behind with less than seven minutes to go.
It’s the latest in a series of bad late-game turnovers from Stafford, and when it keeps happening at such crucial points in the game, it’s hard to give him much of any credit for anything that came before it.
Running backs: B
LeGarrette Blount proved that last week’s impressive performance against the Chicago Bears was no flash in the pan. Though he only rushed for 61 yards and 3.8 yards per carry, he kept the Rams’ defense honest at times, and even had an explosive play of 24 yards. Even Theo Riddick looked decent as a runner at times—something that has rarely happened in his entire Lions career.
Blount, Riddick and Zach Zenner combined for a total of 100 rushing yards, just the fourth time the Lions have done that this year.
Wide receivers: D
Whether they weren’t getting open or Matthew Stafford wasn’t finding them, the Lions’ wide receivers were almost a complete non-factor in this game. TJ Jones didn’t catch a pass until the final possession of the game—and an offensive pass interference call cost the Lions six. Kenny Golladay caught just three of eight targets. And while Bruce Ellington continues to be a focus of this offense, he was only able to create 35 yards of offense on seven catches.
This team desperately misses Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate.
Tight ends: B
Hello, Levine Toilolo. Nice to meet you.
The veteran tight end came into Sunday’s game with just six catches and 60 yards on the season. But against the Rams, Toilolo was arguable Detroit’s biggest offensive weapon. He finished with 90 yards receiving, a career-high for him, and his 39-yard catch put Detroit in position for their sole touchdown of the day.
Offensive line: F
Taylor Decker’s ridiculous touchdown catch was not enough to save this unit from a failing grade. Granted, the offensive line was going up against one of the best defensive fronts in the league, but that doesn’t excuse them from the performance they had on Sunday.
Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass 38 times against the Rams. He was sacked four times, he was forced to scramble once, and he was hit a total of 11 times. Nearly every third time he dropped back to pass, he would end up on the ground. By comparison, Goff dropped back 37 times and was only hit four times.
Ultimately, Stafford’s fumble is on him, but look at how Aaron Donald just embarrasses Graham Glasgow and Kenny Wiggins:
Aaron Donald's ability to beat double teams on the regular is something I've never seen before. He either rushes so wide the center can't help or he just does this, and splits the double team. It's rare. He needs to get MVP votes.pic.twitter.com/e2v2oN06Lv— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 3, 2018
On top of that, the offensive line was pegged with seven penalties (including those declined or negated by other penalties). Six of those were holding calls. Detroit was absolutely dominated in the trenches on Sunday. There’s no other way of saying it.
Defensive line: B+
Though Detroit’s pass rush remained inconsistent, the Lions defensive front continues to be their biggest asset on defense. For the majority of the game, the Lions made life difficult for Todd Gurley. 16 of his 23 carries went for three yards or fewer. Granted, the Lions defense was also responsible for some big plays from Gurley, but Detroit still did a pretty darn good job bottling up one of the best in the league.
And while the pass rush was ultimately disappointing with a finally-healthy Ezekiel Ansah, it did create a massive turnover when Damon Harrison Sr. strip-sacked Jared Goff for a huge turnover in the game. Detroit almost came up with a couple of interceptions from this unit in the second half. And while the balls ultimately fell incomplete, I give the Lions’ linemen credit for making impressive pass breakups.
This was another rough performance from Jarrad Davis. He missed several tackles in this game and seemed to underestimate just how tough it is to bring down a back like Todd Gurley.
There’s not really much else to say about this unit. There just doesn’t appear to be any playmakers among the unit, so while they haven’t been giving up the big plays they struggled with earlier, they aren’t creating any, either.
It was a very mixed bag from this unit. Quandre Diggs was arguably the best player on the field for the Lions on Sunday, pulling down an interception, defending another pass and laying down hits that had the Ford Field crowd oohing and ahhing.
But the rest of the unit continues to be a bit underwhelming. Darius Slay has not quite been himself this season. Glover Quin is always a step too late. And while Mike Ford has shown some serious promise in three games, he’s still prone to a rookie mistake or two.
This wasn’t nearly as bad of a game as I was expecting from the unit, but it wasn’t good either. That being said, Jared Goff’s 68.6 passer rating was the second-lowest of his career. Though part of that was due to some inaccuracy issues from Goff, the Lions deserve at least a little credit for forcing him to make some tough throws.
Special teams: B
There weren’t any big plays on special teams for either team. Considering how good Los Angeles is at special teams, that’s a win for Detroit.
I’ve already given my longer thoughts on some of the in-game decisions from the coaching staff. You can read them here. Long story short: I thought both onside kicks were acceptable, but the pace of the two-minute drill at the end of the first half and the drive with seven minutes remaining were inexcusably slow and conservative.
However, the overall gameplan was sound. Detroit managed to slow Los Angeles’ offense to a crawl, and they were in the game in the fourth quarter.
As for offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, I think Mansur Shaheen said it perfectly (and I’m paraphrasing): He’s a great play designer, but a horrible play caller. Detroit’s trick play to Decker was a masterpiece, but too often the Lions found themselves throwing away possessions because of short-yardage routes or ill-timed draw plays.