The Detroit Lions had an uneven performance against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. There were certainly some good things—like holding the Falcons to just 22 points on the day—but there were some concerning things as well—like allowing the go-ahead score with almost no resistance.
It was obviously just barely enough to come away with the win, and that’s all that essentially matters, but let’s dig a little deeper into Sunday’s performance with our Week 7 report card.
Matthew Stafford played a near-perfect game against the Falcons. He finished the game completing 25-of-36 passes, but that includes four spikes. Here’s what his adjusted stats look like if you take away those plays:
25-of-32 for 340 yards, 10.6 yards per attempt, 121.4 passer rating.
And guess what? The deep ball was back, too. Stafford was phenomenal when given the opportunity to air the ball out more than 10 yards down field:
His footwork was better, his pocket presence was nearly perfect, and his performance on the game-winning play was elite.
Running backs: D
First, let’s start with the positive. Kerryon Johnson may be the most selfless player on the team. His pass protection on third down has been as good as we’ve seen since Theo Riddick, and it may be even better than that.
However, there wasn’t much doing for anyone else in the backfield. Adrian Peterson saw his yards per carry decline for the sixth straight game. D’Andre Swift, despite some early success, finished with just 27 rushing yards on nine carries.
It wasn’t all their fault, but there just wasn’t much to love about the running backs’ performances on Sunday.
Tight ends: B
Let’s start with the bad here. T.J. Hockenson not going out of bounds on the final drive of the game cost the team at least 5-10 valuable seconds. If the Lions don’t pull off a miracle, we’re looking back on that play as one of the main reasons they lost.
But, of course, Hockenson deserves a ton of credit for the game winner, and pulling in five of his six targets. While the rest of the tight end crew didn’t add much to the passing game, they did an alright job at blocking.
Wide receivers: A-
The bad: Danny Amendola. He took a horrible penalty on the game-winning touchdown that caused a dangerously long extra point attempt. He also dropped an easy ball on what would’ve been a third-down conversion on the second drive of the game.
The good: Everything else. Marvin Jones Jr. was back with five catches and 80 yards (told y’all nothing was wrong). And Kenny Golladay had the best performance I’ve ever seen from him. This was as close to a Calvin Johnson game as I’ve seen from anyone not named Calvin Johnson.
Offensive line: D
Run blocking wasn’t great—especially on key short yardage situations where Adrian Peterson just had no shot. The Lions also struggled mightily when the Falcons brought blitzes, which Matthew Stafford straight up admitted they were not prepared for:
“They were sending a bunch of pressures, a bunch of unscouted looks to be honest with you. Some stuff that we hadn’t seen on tape.”
It may have only resulted in two sacks, but if Stafford doesn’t play a perfect game, it probably would’ve been more.
Defensive line: B
It’s time to have a serious conversation about this front four actually being good at stopping the run. Atlanta was held to just 2.5 yards per carry on the day with the longest run being just 13 yards.
I’d like to see a little more pass rush out of this group, but Romeo Okwara made enough plays to cover for the whole group. Oh, and PFF apparently loves what they’re seeing from Detroit’s interior defensive line:
PFF confirms what the eyes saw, Lions defense won with good trench play yesterday. pic.twitter.com/konFEyq7mQ— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) October 26, 2020
The linebackers didn’t make the kind of mistakes we’re used to seeing. There weren’t many missed tackles or poor run fits. But Detroit played a heck of a lot of zone on Sunday (50% of the time, according to ESPN), and it just seems like the linebackers were never in the right place. They either dropped too far or not far enough in coverage.
It was still a better overall day than we’re used to seeing, but they need to be better when dropping into coverage for this defense to take the next step.
Honestly, I didn’t think this was too bad of a game for Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye (PFF vehemently disagrees, for what it’s worth). Again, the zone coverage could’ve been better, but on some of the Falcons’ plays, you just had to give it up for their talented receivers. Oftentimes, we saw the Lions’ corners in the right spot, but Calvin Ridley went up and made a couple ridiculous grabs.
Plus, don’t sleep on these DBs’ plays in the running game. Both Jeff Okudah and Tracy Walker were phenomenal when Todd Gurley tried to bounce it outside on a few occasions.
Special teams: B
Matt Prater missed a field goal, but then made a couple more and a high-presser, extra-long extra point. Jack Fox had one touchback, but that ball traveled 67 yards. His other two punts were dropped nicely inside the 20.
There wasn’t much going for the Lions’ return game, but their coverage teams continue to be very, very good.
First, let me give credit to Matt Patricia for what I thought was a brilliant in-game strategy. On the too-many-men situation, Patricia didn’t initially throw the challenge flag. Instead, he put the punt team out there to simply try to draw the Falcons offsides. Why? Because if he gets them to jump, he doesn’t have to worry about challenging a very close play that could’ve easily cost the team a valuable timeout. When it became clear Atlanta wasn’t going to jump, he challenged. Basically, he doubled Detroit’s chances to convert there.
However, there were, again, some frustrating in-game choices. Whether it be using Adrian Peterson too much, being too predictable on short-yardage plays, or just playing too soft on the Falcons’ final drive of the game, the Lions seem hellbent on making each Sunday as hard as possible on themselves.
Still, I give credit to the Lions for sticking with the defensive gameplan that worked last week (more zone, more blitzes), even if it wasn’t quite as effective against the Falcons. Plus, the Lions offense looked extremely prepared for that one-minute drive, and that’s something that we know Patricia practices a lot.