The Detroit Lions didn’t exactly come out and look like an entirely different team on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, but they got the job done against a team that is likely more talented than they are, and they were certainly more desperate for a win. That’s a heck of a notch on Darrell Bevell’s belt in his first career game as interim head coach.
Of course, like any weekly performance, it was far from flawless. There was some good. There was some bad. And there was a lot of in between. Here are my grades for the Detroit Lions’ Week 13 performance against the Bears.
At the top of the fourth quarter, I was thinking to myself that this was one of Matthew Stafford’s cleanest games in terms of his comfort level, his overall accuracy, and his ability to execute the game plan. He threw an interception to a nose tackle on the very next play.
Those kind of late-game mistakes have been far too common for Stafford this season, but a few minutes later he completely redeemed himself with a flawless seven-play, 96-yard drive that brought the Lions within a score and took just 2:15 off the clock.
Stafford wasn’t perfect, but he was comfortable, and that’s something I haven’t seen all season from No. 9. This probably had a lot to do with why Stafford was so calm-looking out there:
By my count, that's 17 passes at least 15 yards down field. pic.twitter.com/KkddGaLF6Y— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) December 6, 2020
They finally let Stafford cook.
Running backs: B-
Adrian Peterson deserves some credit after all the derision we doled out to him for the past couple months of play. Peterson has been a legitimate red zone weapon for an offense that was experiencing some goal line issues earlier in the season.
Peterson now has back-to-back two rushing touchdown games, and that’s literally the first time that’s happened in Peterson’s illustrious career. I don’t know how that’s true, but the internet says it’s true:
In Weeks 12-13 of his 14th #NFL season, @Lions RB @AdrianPeterson rushed for multiple TDs in consecutive games for the first time of his career.— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) December 6, 2020
At 35 years & 260 days, he becomes the oldest player in #NFL history to ever rush for multiple TDs in consecutive games.#OnePride pic.twitter.com/DWXskwV4SZ
It wasn’t a stellar day from the running backs—Peterson and Kerryon Johnson combined for 3.2 yards per carry—but it was enough to get the job done and the offensive line didn’t do them any favors.
Tight ends: A-
For the first time in his young career, T.J. Hockenson now has back-to-back games with 80+ receiving yards. Against the Bears, he turned nine targets into seven catches and 84 yards. Even Jesse James showed up with a 9-yard touchdown catch.
As for all the pre-game Hunter Bryant hype, he was kept off the statsheet completely.
Wide receivers: B+
No Kenny Golladay. Marvin hall got sent packing. And out of nowhere Marvin Jones Jr., Quintez Cephus, Danny Amendola, and Mohamed Sanu combined for 15 catches, 277 yards and two touchdowns.
Cephus’ touchdown was especially impressive, as he was up against Chicago’s best cornerback—Kyle Fuller—and expertly created some last-second distance without drawing a flag.
However, this entire group takes a big hit because of the play from Jamal Agnew. That failed fourth-down conversion was a HUGE early mistake in the game, and entirely on him. Had Detroit not pulled off a comeback, we’d be looking at that play as an early pivotal point.
Offensive line: C+
The Lions pass protections was quite impressive in this game, especially when you consider they lost Tyrell Crosby early in the game, and had converted defensive lineman Matt Nelson playing right tackle in his place. Stafford was sacked only twice (for just 2 yards) and Detroit ceded just three quarterback hits. Khalil Mack was kept off the box score entirely. Also, Frank Ragnow did this to freakin’ Akiem Hicks of all people:
However, run blocking for this team, in general, was very bad in this game. You’ll still take this kind of performance against a good Bears defense, but Detroit has room for improvement next week.
Defensive line: C-
This is another difficult one to grade. On one hand, the Lions defensive line was dominated for nearly the entire game against a Bears offensive line that isn’t very good. The Bears, who have one of the worst running games, tallied 140 rushing yards and 4.5 yards per carry. Mitchell Trubisky was clean for almost the entire game.
On the other hand, the Lions defensive line was also responsible for three of the biggest plays of the entire game. Romeo Okwara’s strip sack put the Lions in prime position to take their first lead of the game. And Kevin Strong’s single-handed effort stopped the Bears on fourth-and-1 and won the game for Detroit. Even Everson Griffen picked up a key fourth-quarter sack on a third down.
It was an up and down game for Jamie Collins Sr., who burst into the backfield a few times, but also struggled to tackle—just like everyone in the back seven of this defense.
One pass defended on the entire day against Trubisky. Tackling was absolutely horrible. And just like the linebackers, defensive backs were biting on play action on the regular.
That being said, I think this was a huge bounceback game for Amani Oruwariye, who kept Allen Robinson II mostly in check (six catches, 75 yards), especially in the second half (one catch, 4 yards).
Special teams: D+
The Lions did get a blocked extra point in this game, but it was an uncharacteristically bad day for special teams. They allowed a 45-yard kickoff return, averaged just 14.2 kickoff return yards, and Matt Prater missed an extra point. Heck, even Jack Fox looked off his game, even if his final statline was more than acceptable.
I can’t tell you how refreshing it was that the Lions let Staff cook. And this wasn’t just a coincidence, look at the things Darrell Bevell said after the game.
Bevell on Stafford: “We kind of let him play today, and he just responded in a big way.”
Bevell on big plays: “I think we just probably had a little bit more focus on them this week, and Matthew responded in a good way.”
In terms of in-game decisions, I absolutely loved him going for it on first down on the very first drive of the game. I thought it was a fine play call, too. Agnew just didn’t execute. I didn’t think it was the right decision to forego the onside kick late in the game, as in either scenario the Lions needed a three-and-out to win, so why not increase your small chances of winning by adding a potential onside kick conversion. Obviously, the results turned out fine, so I’m nitpicking here.
Finally, I think we have to point out the defensive improvement in the second half. It’s hard to say if there were any true defensive adjustments that were made, but look at these splits:
Bears rushing offense:
First half: 19 rushes, 106 yards, 3 TDs
Second half: 12 rushes, 34 yards
Overall, the Lions were aggressive on offense, showed improvement out of the second half, and Bevell made mostly sound in-game decisions in his first game as head coach. Can’t ask for much more than that.