It was an ugly day all around for the Detroit Lions in their Week 4 matchup against the Chicago Bears. Once again, the offense showed promise, but they couldn’t perform for an entire four quarters and they made some critical errors in key moments. The defense lost another key piece of the roster, and they simply do not have enough talent to hang in the NFL right now, even when it’s against one of the worst offenses in the league.
Coaching took center stage late in the game, but Dan Campbell’s decisions were the least of Detroit’s worries on Sunday. Here are my Week 4 positional grades for the Lions.
It’s another week in which box-score scavengers would believe Jared Goff had an excellent day against a good Bears defense. 24-of-38 for 299 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 105 passer rating!
Unfortunately, that is not representative of the day Goff actually had. The Lions quarterback overthrew his receivers far too often in this game and in the contest’s most critical moments. He overthrew Kalif Raymond down the seam on a play that would’ve resulted in an early touchdown—and likely would have changed the trajectory of the first half. Worst of all, on a critical fourth-and-1 late in the game, he overthrew Amon-Ra St. Brown on an almost identical play as the one on fourth-and-1 against the Packers.
As always, we need to put this performance in context. His receivers are rarely getting open, St. Brown hesitated at the beginning of his route, and his offensive line play was not good in this game. But Goff still had his chances and he missed on far too many of them.
Running backs: C
Jamaal Williams was likely the best player on offense for the Lions on Sunday. He ran with authority and decisiveness, almost always finding the designed hole on the play. He battled out some tough yardage, too. Unfortunately, the game script called to move away from him and he finished with just 14 rushes and 66 yards.
Unfortunately, his good performance was erased by D’Andre Swift’s struggles against the Bears. Swift had eight carries that went for just 16 yards, and he continues to struggle—in the run game—at creating any extra yards after contract. He was a little better in the receiving game (four catches, 33 yards), but this is a team that is relying on Swift to be a centerpiece of the offense, 49 total yards ain’t going to cut it. Also, Swift really struggled in pass protection and allowed at least one sack.
Wide receivers: C-
In the first half, the Lions receiving corps was invisible. Again, they were really struggling to find any separation from Chicago’s secondary, and Goff was forced time and time again to try and extend the play and to create time for this receiving corps to get open. In the first half, Goff completed a total of four passes to receivers.
However, things changed in the second half and we saw some life out of the receiving corps. Now, some of that undoubtedly had to do with the Bears playing off a little more after going up 21-0 in this game. Still, it was nice to see Quintez Cephus set a career-high with 83 receiving yards, and Amon-Ra St. Brown finally get involved with 70 yards of his own.
Tight ends: D
For the second straight game, T.J. Hockenson was held below 50 yards receiving, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Goff completed just four of eight passes to Hockenson, as the Lions' tight end joined the crowd in struggling to find separation. Worse yet, he had his worst blocking day of the season, causing at least one pressure in pass protection and allowing a tackle for loss in the run game.
Offensive line: D+
It was another rough game for rookie
right left tackle Penei Sewell. He had a tough time dealing with Robert Quinn’s speed, which resulted in one of the Lions’ many turnovers in the red zone when Quinn slipped by him for a strip sack. Matt Nelson didn’t look a whole lot better opposite Khalil Mack, who notched a sack and two quarterback hits.
However, Detroit did still manage to create rushing lanes in the first half, which would have kept them in games had the Lions finished those early drives into the red zone.
Defensive line: F
Grading on a curve here, because the Bears' offensive line came into this game hailed as one of the worst units in the league. Granted they had shown flashed of being able to run the ball, but considering Detroit was coming off a game in which they successfully stop the Ravens rushing attack, their performance on Sunday was unacceptable.
Detroit was gashed on the ground to the tune of 188 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, and three touchdowns.
The Lions also failed to generate much of any pressure on Justin Fields with their defensive front, although they didn’t seem to ever get themselves into favorable down and distances to really come at Chicago with pressure. It also doesn’t help when you’re missing your two best edge defenders in Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara.
The good news: the Lions linebackers were not exposed in coverage like they had been in the first three games of the season. Tight end Cole Kmet caught just one pass for 6 yards, while running back Damien Williams had just two catches for 15 yards. In fact, Jalen Reeves-Maybin tipped a Justin Fields pass that led to an Amani Oruwariye interception. So there was significant progress in the passing game.
The bad news: tackling was bad. Run fits were bad. And because the linebackers struggled so badly in the run game, it allowed the Bears to pretty much do whatever they wanted all game.
The only reason this isn’t an F is because of the interception—and that had more to do with the linebacking crew.
It’s hard to blame a secondary that is so bereft of talent because of injury, but these defensive backs are just killing the team right now. Don’t take my word for it, here’s Dan Campbell after the game:
“This is what we can’t allow anymore. I said this before, but we need these young guys to grow at a drastic rate, you know. And as long as you’re not making the same mistakes and not playing scared, but the same mistakes are showing up now a little bit. We’ve got to find a way or we’ve got to find somebody else that can do them. And whether that’s in the building, which we’ve got a couple other guys, or — you know, you go from there. But it’s not from lack of effort. It’s not from want to. It’s none of those things. But we just — they’re hurting us a little bit right now.”
Bobby Price is supposed to be a special teamer. Jerry Jacobs is probably best used on the practice squad right now. But these guys are being forced into starting roles right now, because of the Lions’ situation, and the results speak for themselves. Broken coverages, wide-open receivers, and career days for quarterbacks.
Detroit has played around with different players at safety already, but based on Campbell’s comments it sounds like more changes could be coming.
Special teams: C+
Nothing too notable from the Lions’ special teams group. Jack Fox continues to be pretty darn good. Detroit’s kick coverage teams were fine, but they haven’t really gotten any spark out of their own returners yet.
I spoke at length on Dan Campbell’s in-game aggressive here, but let me quickly summarize here.
Decision 1: Go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 5.
This was the more questionable of the two decisions simply because it was so early in the game. However, I get where Campbell is coming from when he said at that point in the game—with the Bears having scored touchdowns on both of their two drives—it looked like field goals weren’t going to win this one.
“I just think in a game like that where they get up a couple scores, kicking field goals may not be the game,” Campbell said. “Whereas last week it could’ve been a little more of that game. You take it as it comes.”
Fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line, however, is a low-percentage play. You can’t really run the ball from there, and there is not a lot of room for the receivers to work with. So I could’ve gone either way on this one. But given how bad this team is right now, you’ve got to take some risks, so tie goes to the aggressor, in my opinion.
Decision 2: Go for it on fourth-and-inches instead of kicking a field goal down 10 points with four minutes remaining
I have no problem with this decision. None. At some point, you’re going to have to get a touchdown, and you’ve got a pretty damn good shot at it when you’re already at the Bears 8-yard line with a favorable down-and-distance. Fourth-and-inches is heavily in the offense’s favor, and the play was there. Goff just missed the throw.
Now, there are plenty of reasons to blame the coaching staff for execution there. Instead of taking their time to call a good play and convert on this critical play, the Lions hurried to the line, snapped the ball quickly, and didn’t even appear to consider running the ball.
That’s a choice that deserves real criticism. But the good news here is that Campbell admitted that error and will hopefully learn from that mistake.
“That’s on me,” Campbell said. “I just think we need to huddle and give them a play call that’s a little more fourth-down oriented, fourth-and-short, fourth-and-a-yard.”
Outside of those decisions, I think Campbell made the right call in challenging a deep pass to Allen Robinson. Although the replay eventually showed a clear catch, FOX didn’t provide a good angle in time before Chicago’s snap, and it was a big enough play that it was worth the blind risk.
Additionally, I thought Detroit’s offensive game plan worked, yet again. Anthony Lynn found creative ways to utilize Kalif Raymond’s speed, they’re using a ton of pre-snap motion that is working. Execution was simply the issue on Sunday.
Defensively, I don’t know how it’s possible to fairly grade Aaron Glenn in this game. The roster is just a disaster with injury after injury.