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Detroit Lions Week 8 report card: Defensive line lone bright spot in bad loss to Colts

Otherwise... it was an ugly game.

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Indianapolis Colts v Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There were moments in Sunday’s game in which the Detroit Lions and the Indianapolis Colts looked like they were going to stalemate in Week 8. Early on, both teams were swapping punts like they were negotiating their Halloween candy haul. Even in the third quarter, it looked like Detroit was beginning to mount a comeback to make this a game, down six and with the ball deep in Colts territory.

Then two series of plays sank Detroit, and sunk them hard. As a result, the final score looks like a blowout. While I don’t think that is necessarily a good symbol of how this game played out, there were certainly some major issues with the Lions’ performance on Sunday.

Let’s take a closer look with our Week 8 report card.

Quarterback: D+

If you only glance at Stafford box score, it actually looks like a pretty successful day against a good defense: 336 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT and a passer rating of 96.9.

Though I think Stafford had a better day than most are giving him credit for, his mistakes certainly outweigh the positives. Early in the game—when the defense was holding up—he was missing easy targets. Late in the game, he turned the ball over on back-to-back plays. The first took at least three points off the board when Detroit was only down six. The second ended any realistic chance at a comeback when the game was certainly in hand.

Running backs: D

At this point, I’m not even mad about Adrian Peterson. This is actually kind of amazing.

Meanwhile, D’Andre Swift had an even worse statistical day on the ground, rushing for a single yard on six carries. Most frustrating of all is that Swift continues to be underutilized in the passing game. His three catches for 22 yards is pretty much on par with his season average.

The Lions’ best running back of the game was Kerryon Johnson, who continues to play well in pass protection and caught a nice touchdown in the second half that got Detroit temporarily back in the game.

Tight ends: B

No complaints about this crew today. T.J. Hockenson led the team with seven catches and turned that into a healthy 65 yards. Jesse James had a big play on the day, too. I’m going to go ahead and assume their blocking probably won’t look quite as impressive upon replay, but overall this group did what they needed to do against the Colts.

Wide receivers: C

Kenny Golladay was targeted four times before his injury but didn’t pull in a single catch, including at least one blatant third-down drop.

However, I thought the supporting cast did an adequate job replacing him. Marvin Hall pulled in a 73-yard bomb and three other catches to keep the Lions offense humming in the second half. Marvin Jones Jr. had a couple of touchdowns, and Danny Amendola had a very Danny Amendola kind of game: three catches, 54 yards.

Nothing phenomenal from this group, but considering the No. 1 receiver was lost early in this game, I thought they held their head above water just fine.

Offensive line: F

I wish I had something positive to say about this group. Wait, here we go: the offensive line didn’t commit a single penalty in this game. Good job, fellas.

Other than that, it was a complete disaster from the Lions’ front five. Absolutely no rushing lanes for the running back. Pass protection was consistently getting beat by a four-man rush. When the Colts decided to rush five or six, forget about it. Stafford was toast. In total, Stafford was sacked five times and hit seven times.

Maybe the offensive line should’ve thought about holding more often.

Defensive line: B+

For the third straight week, the Lions defensive line was absolutely stout in the run game. Going against one of the best offensive lines in the game, Detroit completely stopped the Colts rushing attack in their tracks until very late in the game—when they had been on the field for nearly 40 minutes of the entire game. Even with a fourth quarter that was successful on the ground for the Colts (15 rushes, 63 yards), the Lions still only allowed 3.1 yards per carry for the entire game.

The pass rush was a bit disappointing considering the recent improvement, but it wasn’t completely absent, either. Detroit got two sacks and four total quarterback hits. However, this unit gets dinged for Danny Shelton’s extremely costly penalty, even if it was a confusing call.

Linebackers: D

While Jamie Collins Sr. continues to be the Lions’ best defender out there, his supporting cast continues to look terribly lost. Jahlani Tavai continues to struggle with basic tackling, Jarrad Davis didn’t provide much of a pass rush and when he was forced to do anything else (i.e. drop into coverage) the results were bad.

At first, it seemed like a good idea to play more zone in this defense because the secondary was really struggling in man-to-man situations. But having to rely on this linebacking corps to drop into coverage is just as big of a liability, and it showed on Sunday.

Secondary: F

Philip Rivers statline is really all you need to know here:

23-of-33, 262 yards, 7.9 yards per attempt, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 123.5 passer rating

Jeff Okudah was a step behind. Amani Oruwariye was a step behind. Tracy Walker gave up two huge touchdowns in man-to-man coverage on a running back. Justin Coleman was called for a 41-yard pass interference on a third-and-14.

33 pass attempts from Rivers: 0 passes defended from the Lions.

Special teams: C+

The good: Detroit’s first punt block since 2007. Jack Fox continuing to be Jack Fox despite some poor snaps from Don Muhlbach. Kick/punt coverages continue to be perfectly fine.

The bad: Jamal Agnew’s fumble (even if he recovered it). Another missed field goal from Matt Prater. A costly 15-yard penalty on Tony McRae.

Still, with a blocked punt that almost immediately turned into seven points, you have to give this until a bump above average.

Coaching: D

Prior to going into two-minute drill mode at the end of the first half, here’s a look at the Lions’ first down plays in Quarters 1 and 2:

  1. Adrian Peterson run (1 yard)
  2. Adrian Peterson run (7 yards)
  3. D’Andre Swift run (-5 yards)
  4. Matthew Stafford pass
  5. Matthew Stafford pass
  6. Adrian Peterson run (-3 yards)

Detroit was absolutely insistent on establishing the run in this game despite the fact that it was a huge mismatch this week. I get wanting to slow the game down and hopefully give your defense some time to rest, but this had the opposite effect on Sunday. Way too many negative plays on the ground caused quick three-and-out possessions. Detroit ran just 15 offensive plays in the first 29 minutes of this game.

By the time the Lions had mostly abandoned the run game, the Colts had already adjusted and pinned their ears back. Stafford didn’t help the Lions’ cause, but by the time the coaches finally put the ball in his hands, he was doomed.

Simply put, the personnel on offense is way too good for this coaching staff to continually get them to underperform on a weekly basis. This article by The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner really just nails all of my own frustrations with the offense’s lack of creativity.

Defensively speaking, I don’t have a ton of issues with coaching. The talent just isn’t there. You play too much man, your secondary gets burned. You play too much zone, your linebackers are going to get exposed. At least the run defense is still sticking together.