The Detroit Lions may be a little happier with this week’s report card, but it’s anything but post-to-the-fridge worthy. Here are my grades for the Lions’ Week 2 performance against the San Francisco 49ers.
I’m probably being overly harsh here because the bar is set so high for Matthew Stafford, but the Lions quarterback made some critical mistakes on Sunday, and was also uncharacteristically shaky at times.
The mistakes were obvious: The fumble deep in Lions territory was undefendable, and Stafford missed on a handful of big plays. Obviously, deep passes are low-percentage plays to begin with, but Stafford was not even close on some of these throws. When Marvin Jones Jr. gets two steps on his defender, you have to at least give him a shot to catch the ball.
But just as troubling was Stafford’s composure on Sunday. Last week, he admitted he did tried to do too much against the Jets. It seems like he went in the opposite direction this week. When his first read wasn’t there, Stafford showed no patience and immediately checked down, whether it was a good option or not. The offensive line often gave him time to sit and wait for routes to develop, but Stafford rarely actually waited.
Overall, his statline was quite impressive, but I don’t think it’s really representative of his performance.
Running backs: B+
If it weren’t for Theo Riddick’s absolutely gut-wrenching drops at the end of the game, this was a full A performance from the Lions’ tailbacks.
LeGarrette Blount was in full beast mode, breaking several tackles nearly every time he touched the ball, while rookie Kerryon Johnson proved what everyone already knew: he’s ready for more touches. Together, the two combined for 81 yards on 16 carries (5.1 YPC). Perhaps there is actually a running game developing in Detroit.
Wide receivers: B
Kenny Golladay continues to look like the Lions’ best player on either unit, scoring this fantastic touchdown to give the Lions their first and only lead.
Overall, Golden Tate was more good than bad, but the drops just have to stop with him. Marvin Jones Jr. has a pretty quiet day, but that wasn’t much his fault. I’d just like to see this group get consistently more open now that Stafford is actually getting more time to throw.
Tight ends: C
If Only y’all knew everything I’ve sacrificed, how many times I just had to Shut up and and just say “Yes sir”. If only y’all knew the dedication and perseverance I’ve given! ALL FOR THIS MOMENT! the 638 Day streak has been broken. M80 is back home pic.twitter.com/ogHEujCSeV— Michael Roberts (@Mikeey___) September 17, 2018
Congrats to Michael Roberts on his first NFL touchdown reception. Many of us probably thought he would have had a few by now, but that’s a moment that had to feel great for the Toledo product, especially considering it was a tough catch to make and one that brought the Lions within a score.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else positive to say about the tight end group. They were targeted a total of two times all game, and while Luke Willson successfully caught the other pass, that’s just not enough production out of this group.
Offensive line: B+
The Lions had a run game and Stafford had time to throw the ball. That’s something this offense hasn’t been able to say in a very long time, and this was up against one of the best defensive fronts in the league.
Of course, they were far from perfect. Frank Ragnow continues to struggle early on at left guard and Stafford was probably hit a little too often (2.0 sacks, 5 QB hits, per ESPN), but considering the tough matchup against the 49ers and Detroit sporting a shorthanded offensive line, I thought this was the best performance out of this unit in a full year.
Defensive line: D
It was a pretty quiet day for everyone involved on the defensive line. Starters Sylvester Williams and Ricky Jean Francois combined for two tackles. While A’Shawn Robinson was better in his debut—four tackles—and Da’Shawn Hand looks like the best guy out there (5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), it’s just not enough out of this group.
This run defense is absolutely horrible. Even taking out the 49ers big 66-yard run, San Francisco was able to rush for 124 yards on 27 carries (4.6 YPC). Those numbers would be unacceptable alone, but with another long run it’s downright horrible.
It’s hard to downgrade a unit that was responsible for literally all six sacks in the game, but this unit was just as culpable in the awful run defense. Jarrad Davis continues to look like he’s trapped in his own mind, while just about everyone in this unit was missing tackles on the regs.
But on the bright side, Davis also showed a little coverage abilities in this game, which, I’ll admit, I thought was a lost cause for the young linebacker.
No excuses for this unit. It was terrible on Sunday. With a completely decimated receiving corps, Jimmy Garoppolo was able to still complete 69.2 percent of his passes at 7.9 yards per attempt.
The problems were everywhere: tackling, coverage, miscommunications and penalties.
This has to be the most disappointing unit on the team thus far, and if Darius Slay misses any extended time, it’s not going to get any better.
Special teams: D-
Another big return nearly put the game out of hand in the third quarter, and while the Lions had a big kickoff return of their own, the nullified punt return touchdown by Jamal Agnew sticks out more. The Lions had two awful penalties on punt returns, one nullified that touchdown, the other put the Lions deeper in their own zone when trying to run a one-minute drill at the end of the half.
I don’t know how this unit got so bad so quick, but for a team that isn’t winning elsewhere on the field, they can’t afford these continued mistakes.
Let’s start with the good. Head coach Matt Patricia deserves a lot of credit for generating some quarterback pressure with this roster. We knew the Lions were going to rely on their linebackers a lot more for sacks, but I don’t think anyone expected a six-sack performance out of a Ezekiel Ansah-less Lions team.
Additionally, Patricia had this team motivated enough not to panic after another awful third quarter put the Lions down three possessions.
However, I remain completely baffled by how clueless most NFL coaches are when it comes to time management. His decision not to call a timeout after his team notched a sack late in the first half is indefensible. And Patricia unbelievably defended his actions after the game. (Quotes via the Detroit Lions)
What went into the thinking at the end of the first half and the timeout?
“Actually, that was executed great. I’m not sure how many situations you guys have gone through, but really what we wanted to do was go down and score, first and foremost, at the end of the half. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t give them a lot of time to go back and try to get some points because we had the ball coming out to start the second half. So, we got in range, we got in good position right there. We just have to execute and make sure we have everything that we got there to try to score. But, we did come away with three points, which was positive and that’s kind of what we’re looking for.”
You didn’t think about using one on defense though before that last drive?
“Before the half?”
Yeah, before the half.
“Nope, we wanted to keep them for exactly where we needed them which is exactly where we had them. So, it was great. We moved the ball way down the field. We got into scoring range which is exactly where we wanted to be. So, it was actually perfect.”
If the plan was really to not give the 49ers any time to get the ball back, you can much better dictate that when you’re on offense. As it was, the Lions only got the ball back with 45 seconds left, needing to go 66 yards for a touchdown. Sure, the Lions eventually got close, and had a couple shots at the end zone, but don’t tell me they wouldn’t have been better off with an additional 40 seconds on offense.
As for the coordinators, I still have my issues with the Lions’ offense, especially on third-and-short situations. Detroit had several opportunities to keep drives alive early on third-and-3s, but uninspired playcalling made the Lions come up short. Also, I never want to see a draw on first-and-29 ever again. You have Matthew Stafford, fergodsakes.