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Detroit Lions Week 3 report card: Secondary comes up huge late vs. Eagles

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A look at our positional grades for Week 3.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at my grades for the Detroit Lions after their 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Quarterback: B

Matthew Stafford wasn’t at his most accurate on Sunday, but he made some gutsy throws at some crucial times. Often facing an unblocked defender, Stafford showed the poise of a veteran by standing tall and delivering passes while absorbing a big hit or two.

As PFF’s Brett Whitefield points out, an underrated part of Stafford’s game (and his growth) is his fantastic pocket presence. He always seems to know when to climb the pocket and can find open rushing lanes when his first few reads aren’t open.

Aside from one careless throw over the middle of the field, I thought Stafford’s decision making was the best we’ve seen all season, and his zero turnovers are a testament to that.

Running backs: C+

The Lions’ lack of running game is far from the backs’ fault, but aside from J.D. McKissic’s 44-yard reverse, there were just no splash plays from the backfield against the Eagles.

Both Kerryon and Ty Johnson averaged under 2.0 yards per carry. Backs combined for three catches and just 17 yards (10 of which came from the fullback).

But credit goes to Kerryon Johnson for some fantastic pass blocking in this game. We know the Eagles like to send free blitzers, and on several occasions Johnson picked them up with ease. That played a big part in keeping Stafford clean all game.

Tight ends: D

The Lions got one huge catch from both Logan Thomas and Jesse James, but that’s where the good news ends. T.J. Hockenson has not made much of an impact since his Week 1 record-setting performance. He couldn’t hold onto a potential touchdown pass late in the third quarter.

But most concerning, the Lions tight ends have not been the two-way players as advertised. There still seems to be way too many miscommunications or blown blocks on the edge—especially in the running game. If the Lions ever hope to find a running game, that’s going to need to change.

Wide receivers: B+

It was Marvin Jones Jr.’s day to be heavily featured and his 100-yard performance was his seventh as a Detroit Lion. Jones pulled in the game-winning catch and looked like the sure-handed receiver that the Lions relied upon so heavily in 2016 and 2017.

Danny Amendola continues to be a clutch chain mover. He had catches of 15 and 22 yards—both of which occured when the Lions were in a 10+ yards to go situation.

It was a down day for Kenny Golladay, who couldn’t pull in a couple of jump balls and had a few instances in which his field awareness (out of bounds, short of sticks) cost Detroit.

Still, it was an above average day for the Lions receivers.

Offensive line: C+

This is a situation in which the line deserves an A for pass blocking and an F for run blocking.

Taylor Decker had a bounceback game in a big way, as Brandon Graham was limited to just three tackles on the day. The rest of the offensive line followed suit, allowing just three quarterback hits (often on blitzes in which the Lions were simply outnumbered) and zero sacks.

But the run blocking needs a solution. Take away McKissic’s reverse, and you’re left with 27 carries for 42 yards or 1.6 yards per carry. Kerryon Johnson doesn’t even have a 50-yard game this season, let alone another 100-yard game. For a guy as talented as him, you know the issues are on the offensive front.

Defensive line: C

On a day in which the Lions run defense looked bad and the team couldn’t generate a ton of pressure, I know it looks like I’m being generous with the defensive line. But when I look at the individual performances, I come away pretty happy, honestly. Trey Flowers was very, very good in run defense and even provided a couple pressures. Damon Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson still appear to be playing pretty well. And Devon Kennard—sorry, I still consider him a defensive lineman—has arguably been Detroit’s best defender through three weeks.

Are they playing up to their offseason billing? Of course not. But I thought this was at least a solid performance from the front four. The penalties were a big issue, but I think the main defensive issues came from the...

Linebackers: D

Jarrad Davis’ return to the game wasn’t exactly a pretty one. The former first-round pick was a little hesitant out there and failed to make a positive impact. He had one personal foul penalty, and for all the praise he was getting as a pass rusher last year, he wasn’t credited with a single quarterback hit on Sunday.

Additionally, the linebackers weren’t anywhere to be found at the second level of the defense on running plays, and Jahlani Tavai had a quiet day after seeing his playing time dip significantly (27 snaps, 36% of plays).

Secondary: A-

Though there were a few breakdowns in coverage at times and tackling was a bit of a struggle, the Lions defensive backs managed to hold Carson Wentz to a mere 52.8 completion percentage. Justin Coleman notched three passes defended, while Mike Ford and Tavon Wilson added one each of their own.

Most importantly, the Lions DBs stiffened up when they needed to: at the end of both halves. They forced Philly into a two-and-out to end the first half, and in the final two drives of the game, Wentz went just two-of-seven for 7 yards.

The Lions’ secondary is quite literally why the Detroit Lions won this game. No unit performed better in the biggest situations.

Special teams: B

First off, congratulations to the Detroit Lions special teams unit. Only one penalty on Sunday! And the one penalty they called—offsides on a kickoff—wasn’t even the right call.

But the story here was redemption for Jamal Agnew. He’s currently the only NFL player with a kick return touchdown this season and it came at the perfect time for Agnew, who was just barely clinging to the job. He added a 24-yard punt return and looks to be playing with confidence again.

Sam Martin was just okay against the Eagles. He had two nicely pinned punts early in the game, but he had two fourth quarter touchbacks punting from the Eagles’ side of the field.

Oh, and then there was that whole blocked field goal that very nearly cost the Lions the game. Yeah, this unit still has plenty of work to do.

Coaching: C

It’s hard for me to create an overall grade here, because there were a lot of things I liked, and a lot of things I didn’t like. So here’s a pro/con list.

Pro: The Lions effectively shut down Zach Ertz in the second half, making sure he was doubled and limiting him to just a single catch in the final two quarters.

Con: The Lions were more concerned about running clock at the end of the first half then they were scoring a touchdown over a field goal.

Pro: The Lions had faith and patience with Jamal Agnew and it paid off big time.

Con: Their fourth quarter offensive game plan was horrible and nearly cost them a second blown lead.

Pro: I actually liked the challenge of the pass interference. I thought it was a borderline call, and it would have resulted in at least 30 yards. Worth it.

Con: Too many penalties and undisciplined play that gave the Eagles at least three free third-down conversions.

Pro: I was okay with Patricia’s decision not to call a timeout after the Eagles gave up in the first half. Detroit’s defense wasn’t playing particularly well at that point, so no reason to give Philly a chance on third-and-13.