The Detroit Lions looked a lot better in some aspects of the game during Sunday’s loss to Washington, but they made far too many mistakes against a bad opponent that ultimately sunk the entire team.
Like many games in the NFL, the contest was decided by which team made fewer mistakes, and the Lions certainly were not that team on Sunday.
So let’s dive into their performance and hand out some Week 12 grades.
Jeff Driskel was having himself an okay game for three quarters, but his final quarter was a downright disaster. Playing with a lead for most the quarter, Driskell went just 5-of-11 for 33 yards and two interceptions in the final 15 minutes of the game.
And while Driskel wasn’t helped by a leaky offensive line, he also proved incapable to deal with pressure and held onto the ball far too long. He didn’t see the field very well, and didn’t make as many plays with his feet, despite his 63 rushing yards.
But ultimately, you’re going to be judged by how you perform in high pressure situations. Driskel wasn’t only bad in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, but he was also bad in the red zone and took at least three points off the board with a sack he shouldn’t have taken.
Running backs: B
Bo Scarbrough followed up his NFL debut with another solid performance. He was just two yards shy of hitting the 100-yard mark and averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per carry against Washington. However, he also had a costly fumble that wasted solid field position for Detroit.
The Lions didn’t get much production from anyone else in the backfield, unfortunately. Ty Johnson continues to struggle (four carries, 11 yards) and J.D. McKissic had just three touches on the day.
Wide receivers: C
It was a pretty quiet day from the Lions’ top-tier receivers. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones combined for nine catches and 107 yards, but neither found the end zone and Jones had at least one drop on the day. Going up against a young, untested secondary, you’d expect more production out of that group. That being said, Golladay caught all four of his targets. He just needed the ball thrown his way.
Tight ends: C+
While T.J. Hockenson was a non-factor, both Jesse James and Logan Thomas had key third-down conversions in the receiving game. Thomas also stood out as a solid blocker in the run game.
It’s both encouraging and incredibly discouraging that the Lions are getting the most production out of Thomas—the one tight end they didn’t heavily invest in this offseason.
Offensive line: D
The Lions offensive line has completely inverted from where they were earlier in the year. Now, their pass protection is falling apart, while their run blocking looks downright dominant at times.
Detroit rushed for 175 yards at 5.5 yards per carry, which is arguably their best performance running the ball on the year (186 yards, 5.3 YPC against the Chiefs).
But Driskel was under pressure all game, and the Lions committed some costly holding penalties that ended drives. Detroit looked completely unprepared by some of Washington’s disguised pressures, and it’s the reason they scored only 16 on the day.
Defensive line: C-
It’s no surprise that Detroit couldn’t muster any pressure on three and four-man rushes without Trey Flowers in the lineup. Austin Bryant’s debut turned out to be a quiet one, as he didn’t log a single tackle in mostly third-down snaps.
However, the Lions continue to look much improved stopping the run. Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice combined for 20 carries and just 59 rushing yards (2.95 YPC). A’Shawn Robinson added four tackles and a sack, too.
Jarrad Davis continues to look much improved, especially on run defense. He led the team with eight tackles (six solo) and added a few pressures and a sack, as well. Jahlani Tavai is starting to look more comfortable, too.
Outside of a late drop-off pass to Adrian Peterson that inexplicably went for 22 yards, I didn’t see any lapses in coverage, either. It’s a shame it’s far too late, because it looks like Detroit’s linebacking crew is finally getting it together.
If you were to simply look at the box score of this game, you’d think I was crazy giving Detroit’s defensive backs this low of a grade. Dwayne Haskins was just 13-of-29 for 156 yards and an interception for a passer rating of 47.5.
However, that is almost entirely on Haskins himself. The rookie quarterback missed a couple of wide-open receivers, including fellow rookie Terry McLaurin, who consistently had a step or two on Darius Slay.
And, of course, when the game was on the line, the Lions couldn’t make a play. In the final two drives, Haskins went 6-for-10 for 68 yards, nearly doubling his efforts for the entire game.
But Amani Oruwariye got an interception and that was cool.
Special teams: F
Missed field goal.
Kick return touchdown allowed.
Kick return for 33 yards allowed.
A punt fielded on the 2-yard line.
More special teams penalties.
Yeah, I don’t need to justify this grade any further.
I don’t really know what to say here. The game plan was solid. For the most part, the Lions actually outplayed Washington for much of the day. They heftily outgained them (364-230), they were better on third downs (40% to 29%), they were penalized less, and they dominated the ground game on both sides of the ball.
But they lost.
They lost to a 1-9 team.
Ultimately, that’s all that matters, because wins aren’t just handed out to the team that looks better for most of the game. Detroit made a ton of errors in this game, and you can blame that on the player or you can blame that on the coaching. Since I can’t tell you what exactly caused Jeff Driskel to throw it to the wrong team in the fourth quarter or why Marvin Hall fielded a punt on the goal line or why everyone got juked to hell on the kick return TD, I’ll just throw a big, average C at coaching.
There’s nothing specifically I can point to that the coaching staff did wrong, other than some minor annoyances in clock management at the end of the first half that amounted to nothing.
Unlike some, I’m not chalking up this loss to lowered effort or Patricia losing the locker room, because, frankly, there’s no real evidence of that. I don’t get the sense that the players aren’t trying as hard... they just aren’t very good.