The Detroit Lions’ season is lost and the team has become incredibly predictable. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott and company just absolutely decimated the Lions defense to the tune of over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.2 yards per play.
Offensively, the Lions were actually able to keep pace for much of the day, but they never really stood a chance with so many struggles on the other side of the ball. Still, let’s take a look at the overall team performance with our Week 11 grades.
Jeff Driskel looked even more comfortable on Sunday, given a full week of preparation to start—unlike last week.
With a game-plan more tailored to his strengths, the Lions offense was actually quite potent for most of the day. Driksel had three touchdowns of his own (two passing, one rushing) and one a couple of them, he made plays with his feet. On this touchdown play, Driskel expertly evaded pressure and made a perfect throw to Marvin Jones Jr.
But Driskel also left a lot of plays out there on the field. His vision when out of the pocket can be a little too laser focused, he doesn’t appear to always go through his full progressions and he’s still feeling out his receivers.
All that should come with time, but this was definitely a small improvement from last week’s commendable debut.
Wide receivers: C
It took a little time for the Lions’ top two receivers to get involved in the game. In fact, at halftime Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. combined for exactly one catch and five yards.
However, the two made some big plays in the second half and gave the Lions a shot to win at the end of the game. Still, given how dynamic this duo has been all year, Sunday’s performance was definitely a step down from where we expect them to perform.
Tight ends: D
One catch for 6 yards. That’s all this unit was responsible for against the Cowboys, and any help they provided in pass protection was unnoticeable.
There weren’t any horrible plays or drive-ending penalties, but I can’t point to any specific good plays, either.
Running backs: A-
In his NFL debut, Bo Scarbrough made a solid case for Detroit’s starting running back for the rest of the season. He ran with power and a good amount of speed, too. He earned his first NFL rushing touchdown and just the third for the Lions this season—and from all the way back at the 5-yard line. At the very least, Scarbrough proved he could be a short-yardage back this offense has been missing.
J.D. McKissic looked solid, once again, both as a rusher (three rushes, 13 yards) and as a receiver (three catches, 40 yards).
Considering the Lions are down to their third and fourth options at running back, this was a spectacular game from that crew.
Offensive line: D+
There’s a tough dichotomy here, because as a run-blocking group, this was actually a day of huge improvement. There were plenty of rushing lanes all game, and some vicious blocks from the interior of the offensive line.
However, in pass protection, Sunday was nothing short of a disaster. The Lions allowed three sacks, and probably would’ve allowed more had it not been for Driskel’s mobility. The unit was also called for five penalties on the day.
Defensive line: D
Much like the offensive line, it was a mixed bag along the defensive front. On one hand, they absolutely stuffed Ezekiel Elliott and Dallas’ running game. Elliott’s 45 rushing yards was the second fewest total of the year, and his 2.8 yards per carry was his third-worst output of 2019.
However, their pass rush was, again, atrocious. Don’t take it from me, take it from Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott:
The Lions pass rush in 2019:— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 18, 2019
“There’s a couple times I literally went through the progression two or three times,” Cowboys QB Dak Prescott said Sunday. pic.twitter.com/7gvQcfkSaG
I understand this is an impressive Cowboys offensive line, but this was supposed to be a pretty good defensive line, too.
For the second straight week, the Lions linebackers were inoffensive, which is a huge step in the right direction. Jarrad Davis had seven tackles and a fumble recovery. Devon Kennard had the team’s only sack and added another QB hit to his statline, and there weren’t any glaring gaffes, other than Davis’ missed tackle on a potential sack.
This unit isn’t playing out of its mind or anything, but on a defense that is bleeding yards and points, they seem to be the least culpable over the past two weeks.
It’s not completely their fault. Being asked to cover a solid set of Cowboys receivers for five or six seconds is asking way too much of this group. And, hell, I would say Darius Slay had himself a very good game, tallying three passes defended and holding Amari Cooper to just three catches for 38 yards.
However, everyone else wasn’t up for the task. Randall Cobb had 115 yards and was seemingly wide open all day. Michael Gallup had nine catches for 148, highlighting Rashaan Melvin’s weaknesses. Any time an opposing quarterback throws for 444 yards and averages nearly 10 yards per attempt, the secondary is rightfully going to catch some heat.
Special teams: B+
The coverage units are still spectacular and Detroit even finally got some good returns from Jamal Agnew. However, two special teams penalties on C.J. Moore drags this grade down a bit, as they proved very costly in field position.
I don’t have any problems with the in-game decisions by Matt Patricia and company. As I stated on Sunday, going for two—although unconventional to many—made a lot of sense from a probability standpoint. Also, I certainly don’t fault them for punting on fourth-and-26 at the end of the game. That’s a near-impossible down and distance, and while I had zero confidence the Lions defense would get a three-and-out, this was a lose-lose proposition for Patricia.
However, this defense is only getting worse. They’re stubbornly sending three-man rushes way more often than they should be. They had to burn a timeout because they only had 10 players on the field. Their situational offensive play-calling (see: two-point conversion attempt) is still relatively poor.
Matt Patricia likes to say that September is for bad football. Teams are still getting their footing and adjusting their pad level, and yada yada yada. But the Lions are deep into November now, and the bad football is still there. Penalties, missed tackles, miscommunications. It’s all there, and it’s why the Lions are 3-6-1.