Like any year, Week 17 is often a player’s last chance to put on a performance for their current team before finding somewhere else to play the next year. That is especially true of the 2020 Detroit Lions, as they have 18 players set to become unrestricted free agents and will be sporting a new head coach and general manager in 2021.
For some of the players that may not be back next season, Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings proved to be quite the finale, leaving Lions fans with fond memories of their time in Detroit.
Here’s our Week 17 report card for the Lions.
Matthew Stafford threw an interception at a critical time, and probably threw one or two passes that could have been picked off as well, but outside from those few plays, he was phenomenal. At the halfway point in this game he was rocking a perfect passer rating, dropping dime after dime.
His best pass of the day may have happened when he rolled to his left, threw a 50+ yard bomb off-balance right into the waiting arms of Mohamed Sanu in double coverage. It was incomplete, but it was a legendary throw.
Also, can we give the dude props for scrambling for two first downs on a bum ankle, with rib cartilage damage and torn ligaments in his hand?
If that was truly the end of Matthew Stafford’s Detroit career, it was quite a finish for the 12-year vet.
Week 13: 84.9 QBR (third among weekly leaders)
Week 14: 72.1 QBR (13th)
Week 15: 91.8 QBR (sixth)
Week 17: 84.4 QBR (seventh)
Running backs: B
It took a while for D’Andre Swift to get going in this game, but he eventually finished with a respectable 54 yards on 12 carries (4.5). Adrian Peterson even showed a little shiftiness in what may have been his final game in Detroit. Peterson found the fountain of youth on this play, setting a season high with this 38-yard run from the veteran running back:
Tight ends: C
It was a bit of a quiet end to the season for T.J. Hockenson, who caught all three of his targets on Sunday for just 25 yards. He still has fall-down-too-quick syndrome, but it’s hard to complain about a 723-yard, six-touchdown season.
Jesse James had a catch for two yards. LOL.
Wide receivers: A-
Marvin Jones Jr. had the second-best game of his entire NFL career, hauling in eight catches for 180 yards and two scores. In reality, he should have set a career high, but the NFL officials had other plans. Regardless, his career in Detroit seems likely over, and he’ll go out on a very high note.
Additionally, Quintez Cephus had a nice little game, catching passes of 20 and 31 yards, including a touchdown.
Offensive line: A-
It took some time to get the running game going, but look at these final stats from the offensive line: 1 sack allowed, 1 quarterback hit allowed, 5.9 yards per carry. It’s hard to ask for much more than that, especially considering they lost Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Jonah Jackson to injuries in the middle of this game.
Defensive line: C-
The Lions defensive line struggled in the run game, as expected. The shorthanded unit allowed 125 rushing yards on the day with Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone combining for 4.8 yards per carry.
However, give the unit credit for making Kirk Cousins’ job hard for most of the day. They tallied three sacks and five quarterback hits on the day, well above the team’s average. Both Kevin Strong and Romeo Okwara each notched a sack and two QB hits on the day.
Jahlani Tavai finished with 12 tackles, but it was another game filled with awful coverage and missed tackles. That Alexander Mattison receiving touchdown was a clinic on how not to play defense...
Alexander Mattison— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) January 3, 2021
His name is Alexander Mattison pic.twitter.com/wZeG0HcHFw
...speaking of clinics on how to not play defense, I give you the most emblematic play of the Lions 2020 defense:
How did you celebrate this 40-yard last-second score by Chad Beebe? pic.twitter.com/dqpBs3MJHk— Minnesota Vikings UK (@UKVikings) January 4, 2021
This embarrassing play aside, it wasn’t Detroit’s typical god-awful performance from the secondary. Duron Harmon, Darryl Roberts and Will Harris all notched passes defended. Tracy Walker notched
two one sack, including a huge fourth-down goal-line stop. They made a handful of plays on Sunday, which is more than their usual zero.
Special teams: B
Jamal Agnew fumbled a punt return that didn’t result in any points given up, but probably should have. He quickly made amends, however, by taking a kickoff 75 yards later in the game. Matt Prater nailed a 54-yard field goal, setting an NFL record. However, he also missed another extra point. Jack Fox was good, and the Lions coverage units were fine. Overall, an above average day.
There’s not really much to talk about in terms of coaching this week. Detroit didn’t face many critical in-game decisions, and there weren’t really any controversial play calls. It’s clear, though, that Darrell Bevell had this team motivated to play on Sunday, judging by how emotional players were in the face of bad officiating luck.