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Lions vs. Cowboys stock report: Close calls can’t conquer Cowboys

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The Lions lost a tight contest in Dallas, closing out on a field goal after too many ‘almost’ moments to pull out a win.

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions dropped to 1-3 after a last-second field goal put the Cowboys ahead in the game’s final moments. Unlike the team’s first two losses, this one wasn’t a sloppy affair. Sure, there were some questionable moments and the players committed far too many penalties to call it a clean game, but they weren’t stomped on for 60 minutes, and until the final whistle, they were able to keep it close. It’s disheartening to lose ground, but we’re going to do what we do every week and take a look at who improved and who went the other direction in our weekly stock report.

Stock Up: Golden Tate, WR

Starting off with an easy one, Tate was phenomenal in this game. The Cowboys couldn’t cover him, and when they tried to, he often made them pay. He scored two touchdowns and managed to anger nearly every Cowboys defender on both of them by taunting his way across the line each time. Tate is likely hitting free agency after this season, so let’s just sit back and enjoy the types of shows he can put on when he’s at his best.

Stock Down: Christian Jones, LB

I labored over which defender to mention first here, but ultimately I ended up with Jones. Jones was signed along with Devon Kennard and each was declared a starter immediately and treated as such by the team. I was questionable on both since neither were starting caliber players from their previous stops, and while I’ve been very pleased with how Kennard has worked out so far, the same can’t be said about Christian Jones.

Brought in for his coverage abilities, we’re seeing now that his bad coverage skills as a Chicago Bear weren’t hiding some kind of potential that hadn’t yet been tapped. Multiple touchdowns this season have been due to Jones completely whiffing on his assignment, and it happened again this week. We’re at replacement-level play, here.

Stock Up: Da’Shawn Hand, DL

It was a quiet start to the game, and with how Ezekiel Elliott was running, I was a bit worried that Hand’s great season so far may be hitting its rookie wall. He came out guns blazing in the second half, and when the Lions needed someone to make a play late in the fourth quarter, up a point, Hand came storming into the backfield to strip Dak Prescott of the football for his first career sack. Unfortunately, Prescott would recover his own fumble and a few plays later, the game was over, but it was a fantastic individual effort when the team needed it the most.

Stock Down: Sylvester Williams, NT

In covering the Lions for a decade now, I’ve seen a lot of bad defensive plays. I’ve seen a lot of bad defensive players. I know what a guy in need of a benching looks like, even if there is no clear successor. After watching Sylvester Williams play four quarters of football against the Dallas Cowboys on September 30, 2018, I know what to call that kind of player. “Pulling a Sylvester Williams” will forever be burned into my mind as a player so completely inept at his singular, simple assignments that he needs to be placed firmly on the bench. Sadly, pulling a Sylvester Williams is not something the Lions did in the first quarter to prevent us from having to see that.

Stock Up: Kerryon Johnson, RB

I know we’ve been saying it for a while, but Kerryon Johnson is really good. The only thing holding him back is a coaching staff that sees a 32-yard run and thinks to themselves they should probably pull him and do something else. The Lions running back rotation could be the strongest in the NFL, but instead it’s disappointing to see a big play by Riddick, then Blount put in an obvious run situation, or a great run by Johnson followed by Riddick in an obvious pass situation. The team has its blockers, it has its runners, but its playcallers are still lacking in both imagination and creativity.

Stock Down: Jamal Agnew, CB

Agnew has had a pretty good start to the season as both a returner and a rotational defensive back. This game is going to be one he learns from, as it seemed like every time he saw a pass in his coverage it had a negative outcome. Agnew is one of the best athletes on the team, and easily the fastest, but for whatever reason in this game he seemed to be incapable of changing direction or following his assignments. He was bad. Hopefully it’s not a trend.

Quick Hits

Stock Up

Matt Cassel, QB: Cassel got to sit on the sideline all game and not get hit by Demarcus Lawrence three times.

Tyrell Crosby, OG: With how Kenny Wiggins played in this one, and Lang once again injured, the rookie may see the field sooner than later.

Taylor Decker, OT: Decker had a knuckle-headed penalty that he was clearly upset about having given up, but he’s playing better as the season progresses.

Graham Glasgow, OC: Glasgow is coming off a career week against the Patriots, so the concern was that he’d come crashing back to earth. He didn’t, that’s a win.

Kenny Golladay, WR: Golladay has been awesome, and seems to be getting better. Another good day.

Marvin Jones Jr., WR: Whatever funk Stafford and Jones Jr. were in to start the year, it’s pretty buried now.

Devon Kennard, LB: Kennard has nearly matched his career high for sacks and we’re only four games into the year.

Eric Lee, DE: Signed this week from the practice squad, I had joked that he’d likely either be inactive or play nearly every down. I saw him way more than I realistically expected to.

Sam Martin, P: Four punts with great hang time, with two being downed inside the 20, the team may stop looking at punters to sign (They’ve worked out at least four in recent weeks).

Romeo Okwara, DE: A dumb penalty kinda sucks, but Okwara also got his first sack out of it, so there’s that. He hasn’t been great despite a high PFF grade last week, but he’s serviceable.

Matt Prater, K: Three games later, whatever had Prater shook to start the year seems passed. The team did work out some kickers in recent weeks, but he seems safe.

Glover Quin, FS: After looking slow and sluggish, Quin almost made the play of the game late. He undercut a Dak Prescott pass late and tipped it into the air, but the team was unable to capitalize.

Frank Ragnow, OG: Ragnow appears to be over his shaky start to the season and has been playing well.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB: He only notched two tackles, but it seemed to me that JRM played a lot more this week than he has been.

Darius Slay, CB: Worthy of a write up on his own, Slay was fabulous. Great in coverage and excellent when asked to help in the run game.

Matthew Stafford, QB: Stafford played a nearly flawless game, and seems to have settled in. He still gets jittery to start games, but once he’s settled, he’s money.

Teez Tabor, CB: Tabor only had one snap that I saw on defense when Slay left injured, and it was a run play, but he didn’t do anything wrong.

Levine Toilolo, TE: Toilolo caught only two passes for 12 yards, but it looks like he’s Cooter’s new go-to slow guy screen player, so he’ll get a bunch of short dump offs as the year goes on.

Hakeem Valles, TE: Valles grabbed a pass for positive yards then went down. It’s not much, but it’s more than he’s seen lately.

Tracy Walker, SS: Walker is likely to see more time with Tavon Wilson and Quandre Diggs ailing.

Charles Washington, SS: Washington wasn’t a disaster on teams, so he’s trending in the right direction.

Luke WiIlson, TE: Holy cow, three tight ends caught passes in this one! Willson was mostly a ghost, but I’m going to put him up here so I can pretend the tight ends were a factor for one week.

Stock Down

Ameer Abdullah, RB: I think we can safely say that Abdullah is unlikely to see the field at any point this season without an injury happening first.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE: The longer he misses games, the smaller his free agency guarantees are going to be when he leaves Detroit after the season.

Nick Bellore, FB: I’m putting him down here only because I never even saw him play. Did he? Let me know if you saw him anywhere.

LeGarrette Blount, RB: I gave it four games. Is it time to start talking about how bad of a runner Blount has been? We’ve seen a line making holes and a RB making plays, just not Blount.

Joe Dahl, OG: Despite T.J. Lang having known injury issues, Joe Dahl was inactive against the Cowboys. If he is again next week after another Lang injury, it’s bad news.

Jarrad Davis, LB: Davis actually played quite well this week for much of the game. But the game came down to 40 lined up in coverage on 21, and it led to a loss.

Quandre Diggs, SS: Another penalty, this one less questionable than his last one, and an injury is not how Diggs wanted his day to end I’m sure.

Marquis Flowers, LB: I’m sure he is still on the roster, and he wasn’t inactive, but I’d appreciate you all telling me where he was in this one.

Eli Harold, LB: Coming off a two-sack game, you would have liked to see more than just an offsides penalty for his day.

Kerry Hyder, DE: Another game on the inactive list for Hyder and the Lions signed another pass rusher this week rather than activating Hyder. Clearly on the outs.

Ricky Jean Francois, DT: RJF’s career as a reserve defensive lineman rather than a starter is beginning to show now that he’s been used in extended action.

TJ Jones, WR: I promise you, he’s still active on game days. Just not useful on game days.

Miles Killebrew, SS: You know what would have came in handy against the Cowboys? A hard-hitting safety that plays like a linebacker. Could really use one.

T.J. Lang, OG: Lang was concussed early in the game and it looks to be a serious one. I’d be surprised if his absence isn’t an extended one.

Nevin Lawson, CB: Lawson made one play in this game in the end zone that was worthy of even a rotational corner, but he’s a starter and everything else he did was terrible.

Don Muhlbach, LS: Muhlbach was fine in this one, but the Lions have worked out several long snappers in season this year. Why?

Brandon Powell, WR: As we feared when he made the roster, he’s not likely to see an active game day until someone gets hurt.

Theo Riddick, WR: With Johnson playing well and Blount seemingly getting every rush, Riddick saw a downtick in usage this week.

Michael Roberts, TE: No word on how serious his knee injury is, but Roberts was inactive once again while nursing it.

A’Shawn Robinson, DT: While watching the train wreck that was Sylvester Williams in the middle, I unfortunately had to see some of Robinson as well. It was better by comparison, but so would have been anyone else.

DeShawn Shead, CB: After being active last week and playing well, Shead was inactive so the Lions could trot out Nevin Lawson some more.

Dee Virgin, CB: Virgin is a special teamer, so he doesn’t get much work. His only notable play was in trying to knock the ball out of the end zone where he touched the line, losing the team about 19 yards of field position.

Rick Wagner, OT: He didn’t give up all 3.0 sacks to Lawrence, but it wasn’t a great game from Wagner nonetheless. He’s going to lose a LOT of support with Lang out.

Tavon Wilson, SS: Wilson was once again hurt. It didn’t look like the IR variety just yet, but any time an oft injured player goes down you worry about the worst.

Coaches

Matt Patricia, Head Coach: Stock Down

Had the Lions won, Patricia still would have gotten this ranking from me. Patricia clearly focused all of his efforts on the team’s defense this week and in this game—barely even watching the field during offensive series—but his defense kept giving up stupid penalties, big plays, and making bone-headed mistakes.

His decision to once again go light on the defensive line and do absolutely nothing when Williams and Jones were playing like they’ve cashed out their chips already brings up not only concerns about depth, but also about quality of that depth even if the coaches were right to not bring them in. The third quarter continues to be maddeningly bad from the squad and Patricia keeps trotting out replacement-level defensive lineman hoping they can stop rushers like Ezekiel Elliott (25 carries for 152 yards, 88 yards receiving).

Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down

The Lions are clearly going with a running back by committee approach and I can respect that, but there is no excuse for pulling your running back after every good play. There’s no excuse for designing an excellent passing play with both Johnson and Riddick in the backfield and then using that alignment exactly zero times after that. There’s no damn excuse for running a tight end screen with your slowest offensive player, a “trick” we’ve seen in three consecutive years, for crying out loud, and it has never worked and is more idiotic than the repeated Tate trick plays that seems mandatory in Cooter’s playbook.

Cooter actually used new alignments and plays in this game, but it was obvious all offensive calls were his to make (Patricia was often working with the defense on offensive series, so it’s all JBC’s show), and they were often numbingly stupid. The offense was efficient, Stafford only missed on six passes and most were early in the game, but the team only managed 24 points. With Sean Lee out, the plan should have been to run down their throats or attack the middle of the field and the offense did neither.

Paul Pasqualoni, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Down

I’ve never made it a secret that this signing was my least favorite (and I’ll continue to mention it until he’s either fired or doesn’t suck), but what a horror show of a game plan. Your nose tackle couldn’t shed a block to save his life, so you decide to do nothing about it? On one Cowboys drive that ended in a field goal by some miracle, he dropped Ricky Jean Francois into coverage and it was only a terrible pass that saved it from being a touchdown.

If you’re a weekly fantasy guy, take whichever running back is facing the Lions every week and hope your opponent doesn’t catch wind of that plan before you. And hey, maybe don’t put a guy like Jarrad Davis, who has struggled in coverage, manned up on Ezekiel Elliott in the fourth quarter while leading by a point, and then have that idiotic surprised look on your face with your glasses pushed down your nose when he gives up a catch.

Joe Marciano, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Up

Finally! The coverage allowed no long returns, there were no mind-bogglingly bad penalties to make wisecracks about (despite a flag-happy day from the refs), and the coverage was mostly excellent. A good day all around that was still unable to keep the team from a loss. Still, it’s progress, and I’ll take that any day.

Wrap Up

The Lions/Cowboys game was the most exciting and fun to watch as a football fan of any of the team’s games this year. Yes, the Patriots game was the best overall game for the Lions by far, but if you take fandom out of it, you had it all in this game. Great running, great passing games, occasional splash plays by both teams, several lead changes, and it all came down to a last-second field goal. Losing the game sucks as Lions fans, though, but I’m still curious about your thoughts from the game. Let me know which takes you agree with, which ones you don’t, and of course any just general praise of Kenny Golladay, Darius Slay, and Kerryon Johnson will earn instant brownie points here. Head on over to the comments and let ‘em rip!