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Detroit Lions Week 3 report card: Defensive line finally lives up to billing

It may not have been enough, but there was progress.

NFL: SEP 26 Ravens at Lions Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions lost a wild game against the Baltimore Ravens, and while the end result were familiar and heartbreaking, there were plenty of positives to take away. Here’s my Week 3 report card for the Lions’ loss to the Ravens.

Quarterback: D+

Once again, it was a tale of two halves for Jared Goff. He was inaccurate, uncomfortable in the pocket, and just could not find any rhythm on offense. In the second half, it was the exact opposite. Everything seemed to work, Goff managed the pressure better, and he throws were on point. Just look at his first and second half split:

First half: 8-of-15, 57 yards, 62.4 passer rating
Second half: 14-of-15, 160 yards, 111.1 passer rating

Now much of Goff’s production in the second half was via yards after the catch, and it’s not like he was out there making plays on his own. Still, it was a nice bounceback half after a really ugly start.

Running backs: B

D’Andre Swift continues to get more touches, yet it feels like it’s still not enough. Seven targets, seven catches for 60 yards. He had to have broken at least a half-dozen tackles in this game, likely many more.

Meanwhile, Jamaal Williams continues to run efficiently and strongly. He also remains fantastic in pass protection, which proved helpful at times against the Ravens’ dynamic blitz packages.

Tight ends: D+

T.J. Hockenson was essentially shut down in this game, but it did open up some opportunities for Darren Fells, who caught two passes for 35 yards. Unfortunately, Fells’ solid day was marred by a false start on a fourth-and-1 that ended Detroit’s drive early.

Wide receivers: D

There continues to be little-to-no chemistry between Goff and the receiving corps. Kalif Raymond did have six catches, including two huge plays on the Lions’ final offensive drive.

However, everyone else was a ghost. KhaDarel Hodge, Quintez Cephus and Amon-Ra St. Brown each had just one catch and none were for more than 9 yards.

Their struggles are not surprising, but it’s limiting this offense, and that’s starting to catch up with this team.

Offensive line: C

Penei Sewell had an untimely false start. Jonah Jackson got called for a holding and a personal foul on back-to-back plays. Additionally, the Ravens’ blitz caused several miscommunications on the offensive line.

That being said, the Lions still ran the ball pretty effectively, especially early in the game. And while pass protection wasn’t great, it also wasn’t a glaring issue in this game, either. It was a step back from this unit, but they still played well enough to win.

Defensive line: A-

We finally found out what this defensive line can do when they’re allowed to pin their ears back and pass rush. All game, Detroit did a phenomenal job keeping Lamar Jackson in the pocket, and several times they collapsed around them for big-time sacks. The Lions walked away with four sacks on the day, but they probably should have had at least a couple more.

The last drive of the game, the Lions defensive line did everything in their power to win that ballgame. Charles Harris sacked Jackson on first down. Julian Okwara plowed over the right guard and provided a pressure that forced a second down incompletion. His brother, Romeo Okwara, picked up a huge third-down sack... then the Lions rushed three on fourth down.

Additionally, the Lions held the Ravens to just 116 rushing yards, which is a huge accomplishment considering Baltimore has now rushed for over 100 yards in 42 straight games.

Linebackers: C

Linebacker play is admittedly a little hard to judge on live viewing, but here’s what I know. Immediately, the run defense looked better with Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Alex Anzalone both making big, early plays. Derrick Barnes was all over the field, as well.

But I dropped this grade to a C because Lamar Jackson was able to pick apart the Lions’ mostly-zone coverage in this game. There were a lot of wide-open receivers in the middle of the field, and it appeared the linebackers were often the closest defender. Case in point: Ravens tight end Mark Andrews caught five of seven targets for 109 yards.

Secondary: D

Let’s start with the good: AJ Parker continues to be wildly impressive as an undrafted rookie, especially in run defense. Additionally, the Lions picked up their first interception of the year with Amani Oruwariye snagging a jump ball from Jackson. At times, Jackson appeared to have to go to his second, third and fourth reads.

But at times, this was ugly. Detroit’s secondary often lost track of receivers and got beat deep. If it weren’t for three horrible Marquise Brown drops, this game may not have even been close. Then, of course, there’s the backbreaking fourth-and-19, where there was an apparent miscommunication in the secondary that caused Sammy Watkins to slip behind Will Harris.

The Ravens had six passing plays of 20+ yards. That’s about four too many.

Special teams: D

Jack Fox pinned one inside the 5-yard line, then shanked one. Detroit was handed a gift when the Ravens fumbled a punt return, but Jerry Jacobs was rightfully called for a penalty when he, as the gunner, just ran out of bounds trying to avoid a blocker. Then on the re-kick, the Ravens returned it for 29 yards.

Would’ve been nice to block a 66-yard line driver, too.

Coaching: C

I’ve already griped about the in-game play calls at the end of the game. If you just read that, you’d think I’d give the coaching staff an F.

However, the game plan here was absolutely solid. Defensively, the Lions were able to stop the run, contain Jackson and force him to beat them with his arm. That strategy undoubtedly worked. Giving up just 19 points should win you games more often than not.

And while the offense struggled off the bat, scoring zero points in the first half, they actually made adjustments that worked. They got Swift more involved in the game and made a ton of very good playcalls against the Ravens’ overaggressive defense. Detroit’s offense had three second half possession: touchdown, touchdown, field goal. And they very well could have had three straight touchdown possessions had they not taken the foot off the gas.

But the biggest feather in this coaching staff’s cap is that they are punching above their weight class. Their talent is undoubtedly worse than most in the NFL, and the staff has got them going toe-to-toe with some of the best in the league. That’s promising.

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