The Detroit Lions appeared to be on their way to a surprising divisional upset led by a third-string quarterback, but the second half played out like many before it. Detroit couldn’t hold onto their weekly lead because the offense didn’t make enough plays to keep the ball away from Chicago. And when the Bears had the ball, the defense offered little resistance in crunch time.
But let’s look at the team’s performance by unit and hand out some Thanksgiving grades you can consume with your leftover turkey.
Some will think I’m being too harsh—and maybe I am—but I don’t think David Blough’s debut was quite as good as the final statline suggests. He went long periods on Thursday providing little spark to the offense, missing open receivers or just failing to throw the ball at all.
Let’s play my favorite game: take out a player’s best single play and look at the rest of the game. Take away Blough’s 75-yard touchdown pass and here’s his final statline: 21-of-37 for 205 yards (5.5 Y/A), 1 TD, 1 INT, 70.2 passer rating.
But let’s be fair, too. That final interception was a desperation heave and not really his fault. So let’s take that out, too. 21-of-36 for 205 yards (5.7 Y/A), 1 TD, 83.7 passer rating.
That seems like a fair representation of his entire game. A lot of check downs, not a ton of yards, but also squarely in “game manager” mode. For a third-string undrafted rookie in his first career start out of a short week, I’ll take that.
Running back: C
Bo Scarbrough continues to run with determination and consistency. His vision isn’t always the best and his lack of burst prevents 8-yard runs from turning into 20-yard runs, but he’s almost always producing positive yardage and has been damn close to having back-to-back 100-yard games.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Lions backfield continues to underwhelm. J.D. McKissic’s failure to cut upfield on a third-and-1 cost the Lions an opportunity at a touchdown. They settled for three and lost by four. You do the math.
Tight ends: D
Unfortunately, we may have seen the end of T.J. Hockenson for the year, as he suffered a late leg injury after a quiet six-catch, 18-yard performance. Jesse James continues to be a mirage out there, and we didn’t get any Logan Thomas catches (or passes) this week. This continues to be an extremely underwhelming unit, and it probably won’t get any better with Hockenson likely out.
Wide receivers: C+
It was a tale of two different receivers on Thursday. Kenny Golladay continued his ascent with a beautiful route on his 75-yard score. He also added another 83 yards on his other three catches of the day. He was responsible for over 56 percent of Detroit’s receiving yards.
Marvin Jones Jr., however, had a couple of bad drops on the day, including one on the final drive of the game. He did pick up a touchdown, and Danny Amendola added a few key catches, but drops loom large when you’re trying to help a third-stringer in his first bit of NFL action.
Offensive line: B
Though they gave up two sacks on the day, Detroit, once again, kept Khalil Mack at bay (2 tackles). Blough enjoyed a fair amount of time in the pocket, and Scarbrough had decent rushing lanes against a good Bears defensive front.
That being said, there were a couple of drive-ending penalties from this unit, and that was a big reason for Detroit's’ scoring drought in the second half.
Defensive line: F
Outside of Trey Flowers’ sack in the fourth quarter, I can’t think of another good play from this front four. Da’Shawn Hand’s return was completely silent. Mike Daniels continues to make no difference in the team’s flaccid pass rush. And without Damon Harrison Sr. clogging up the middle, the Lions’ run defense took a clear step back from their improvement over the past few weeks.
If you’re looking for the biggest scapegoat of this game, it’s the complete and abject failure of the front line.
We saw both good and bad Jarrad Davis on Thursday. For the most part, however, his tackling was sound and his coverage was noticeable (in a good way). That same goes for the rest of the unit.
Basically, on another day of huge defensive struggles, the linebackers were the least to blame for the ugliness out there.
I’m not going to give a full F when the team pulls out a key interception in the second half, but Darius Slay’s play is the only thing keeping this from a huge failure. Justin Coleman was worked by Anthony Miller—especially on the game-winning drive. Rookie safety Will Harris continues to struggle as a rookie, and Tavon Wilson, Amani Oruwariye, Tracy Walker combined for zero passes defended.
Thus far, Mitchell Trubisky has been downright awful in nine of 12 games. Two of those three good games have come against the Detroit Lions. That is no coincidence.
Special teams: D
For the second straight week, the Lions kick coverage units struggled. Cordarrelle Patterson averaged 45.0 yards per kick return before the Lions just tried to blast it in the end zone the rest of the game.
Detroit also had a few special team penalties on the day, and I don’t really want to give them too much credit for an accidental onside recovery. Sure, it was a heads up play, but it was truly more luck than anything.
I don’t have a ton of in-game decision making that I have problems with. Sure, the Lions could have gone for it on fourth-and-2 late instead of going up by three. And, sure, Detroit could have challenged the deep ball to Anthony Miller on the game-winning score, but I can also see the reasoning for not doing so either. Detroit isn’t particularly good at short-yardage situations, and there was no clear replay on the Miller catch—and timeouts could have been very important at the time.
But this unit still gets an F simply because this game was completely reminiscent of most of the Lions’ losses. They cannot play with a lead, neither on offense nor defense. They get penalties at the most inopportune times. The defense can’t get a stop on third down because Detroit still can’t come up with a method that involves getting to the quarterback. And their situational play on key offensive downs is severely lacking.
If this team is continuing to lose football games in the exact same manner, it has to be a coaching issue. There’s really no other way around it.