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Detroit Lions Week 7 report card: Improvements everywhere, but still winless

It’s hard to take another moral victory, but there is progress being made.

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions lost yet another tough game in which they appeared to be punching up above their weight class. On one hand, it really does appear the Lions are making actual progress and improving in critical areas. On the other hand, it’s hard to feel great about Moral Victory No. 4. At some point, the Lions need to make that one extra play to secure a victory or it’s all for not.

That being said, there were clear improvements almost across the board on Sunday, and if the Lions can carry most of that over to next week against a much inferior opponent, maybe they can get off the schneid.

For now, here is the Lions’ Week 7 report card for their 28-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Quarterback: C+

In my opinion, this was Jared Goff’s best game of the season. In the pocket, he showed a lot of patience, often going to his second and third reads before finding an open receiver. He even threw a couple of downfield passes, like his beautiful seam throw on the two-minute drill to Kalif Raymond.

Of course, Goff will ultimately be remembered for a couple of key mistakes he made late in the game. He missed D’Andre Swift on a third-down play that likely would’ve gone for a touchdown. It appeared to be a miscommunication, although Swift took the blame for it during the postgame. Then there was the red zone interception. Goff was under duress and T.J. Hockenson simply didn’t win his route. That being said, on a second-down, down six points in the red zone, you simply can’t take that risk when it’s not there. I understand he’s trying to give the Lions’ best player a chance to make a play, but that wasn’t the time or place.

Still, I thought this was a significant step in the right direction for Goff.

Running backs: A

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me bellyache about the Lions’ running backs not being able to create any yardage on their own. They’ve basically only taken what the offensive line was giving them.

That was not the case on Sunday. D’Andre Swift was an absolute weapon against the Rams, fighting for every single yard, including a third-and-11 conversion on a draw play and the 63-yard screen pass that opened the scoring on the day.

Jamaal Williams continues to find every crease and finished the day with a respectable 4.8 yards per carry.

PFF credited the Lions running backs with six missed tackles forced, and that much was obvious to anyone watching.

Wide receivers: D

Kalif Raymond: Six catches, 115 yards
Everyone else: 1 catch, 3 yards

Heck of a game for Raymond, who made the aforementioned diving catch on Goff’s seam throw. But the Lions desperately need to find someone to step up here. Geronimo Allison’s promotion to the 53-man roster resulted in zero catches on two targets. Amon-Ra St. Brown didn’t see a single ball thrown his way.

You can tell this is killing them because the Lions faced several third-and-longs in this game and they refused to throw downfield on any of them.

Tight ends: C-

Hockenson was targeted nine times in this game, but only came down with six of them and turned those catches into 48 yards. He also picked up a holding penalty. You’d definitely like to see more out of him, but it’s hard when the Rams are throwing Jalen Ramsey at him.

That being said, the Lions also utilized Darren Fells and Brock Wright a lot in pass protection sets, and it helped keep Goff clean for most of the game.

Offensive line: B+

Speaking of which, the Lions kept Goff clean for most of the game. The Rams were credited with two sacks and four QB hits on the day, while Aaron Donald only touched Goff once all game.

They were just as good in the running game, opening up lanes for both backs. They did struggle a bit during the third quarter, and obviously, the pressure on Goff’s interception proved to be a huge game-changer, but it was overall a positive day from the offensive line, who continues to be hampered with injuries.

Defensive line: D+

The Lions didn’t generate nearly enough pressure from their front four, often relying on defensive backs and linebackers to make Matthew Stafford uncomfortable. Any time the Lions rushed three or four, it seemed like Stafford would have plenty of time to pick them apart. Detroit generated one sack and QB pressure on the day, courtesy of Julian Okwara.

Speaking of Okwara, though, he also had a brilliant pass breakup on fourth down, giving the Lions' offense the ball back at midfield.

That said, the Lions were stout in the run game, allowing Darrell Henderson to rush for just 45 yards on 15 carries (3.0 YPC).

Linebackers; B+

I thought it was an excellent day from the Lions’ linebacking crew in every phase of the game. They looked better in coverage than last week, they were able to put pressure on Stafford with well-timed blitzes, and they were key in stopping the run on Sunday, as well. In PFF’s early review of the game, they pointed out Alex Anzalone specifically with an excellent game:

Anzalone earned an 81.7 coverage grade after allowing only two receptions on four targets for six yards and zero first downs. Anzalone finished with an 82.5 overall grade

Defensive backs: D

Tracy Walker made a couple good plays, including another bone-crushing hit. AJ Parker and Jerry Jacobs both notched passes defended, but for the most part, Stafford was picking apart this secondary all day. Any time Stafford had time, he found the receiver who had beaten the Lions defensive back in their one-on-ones, and it seemed like there was at least one on every play.

Unfortunately for Detroit, when Parker left with an injury, they were just out of bodies to compete. Daryl Worley stepped in four just seven coverage snaps and gave up 64 yards and a touchdown.

Special teams: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Not only did the Lions pull off a successful surprise onside kick and two fake punts, but their coverage units were also fantastic. The Ram’s kick returner averaged just 17.5 yards per kickoff, and the Lions forced the Rams to start within their 20-yard line on four different occasions. Throw in another perfect day from Austin Seibert—including a 47 yarder, and we can forgive the Punt God for his flub on the sole punt of the day.

Coaching: A-

Dan Campbell went down swinging and I respect the hell out of him for that. He knew it was going to take some theatrics and near-perfect execution to hang with a Super Bowl contender on the road.

When it comes to coaching, I want someone who is going to give the Lions the best chance to win. And when it comes down to it, this was the only way the Lions were going to even keep it close, and he nearly executed it to perfection. He admirably took the blame for the play design on the interception and the hasty fourth-down run that was stopped late in the game, but I don’t think he has much to regret in this game. The Lions needed to do everything they could to score as many points as they can, and they nearly did it.

Minor complaint, though: When the Rams had the ball at the end of the first half, the Lions failed to call a timeout before LA scored, costing them about 20-25 seconds that could have proved useful in their two-minute drill attempt.