Let’s hand out some grades for the Lions’ 29-22 loss on Thanksgiving.
Jared Goff wasn’t helped by his offensive line (more on that later), but he had his opportunities to turn this game around and couldn’t. He had a critical miss to Sam LaPorta on a third-and-2, he missed Amon-Ra St. Brown on a third-and-4, and, of course, he had three fumbles on the day.
During Goff’s strong streak over the past year, one of his better traits was his ability to avoid negative plays and limit damage on bad ones. Over the past two weeks, every mistake this offense has made has been exacerbated by Goff’s recklessness with the football.
Running backs: B
Without a ton of holes to work with, the running backs still seem to be creating as much yardage as possible. On a day which the Lions offense had no rhythm, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs still combined for 125 rushing yards on 26 carries (4.8 YPC)—much of which came after first contact. The two weren’t as effective in the receiving game, with Gibbs contributing all 19 yards on four catches of his own—most of which came at the end of the game.
Tight ends: B
LaPorta had a big impact early in the game, catching two passes for 38 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but for whatever reason, the Lions seemed to go away from him in the final two quarters. He would end up catching just three passes for 9 yards in the second half, but he would add a late two-point conversion, as well.
Wide receivers: B+
Outside of a late drop from Josh Reynolds, this group did their best to keep the Lions in the game. Jameson Williams came up with a couple of huge plays, including a 38-yard play and a big third-down conversion. Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown found room over the middle of the field for a combined 14 catches and 185 yards.
Offensive line: F
12 QB hits, three sacks, a run game that produced just 3.3 yards per carry in the first half. It was by the far the worst game from this offensive line this season. It wasn’t just the sack, too, because pressure was a big problem on a couple of fourth down failures:
The disappointing part is that the breakdowns came from the most trusted players on this team. Penei Sewell gave up two critical pressures on fourth down that led to incomplete passes:
And Taylor Decker could not keep Rashan Gary (three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery) in check.
Defensive line: F
Simply put, the Lions are incapable of generating pressure with a four-man rush right now. For the fourth time in 11 games, they were held without a sack, and of the team’s four quarterback hits generated vs. Green Bay, only one came from the defensive line (unsurprisingly, Aidan Hutchinson).
Maybe that would be acceptable if they were plugging holes in the run game, but they weren’t even doing that. The Packers rushed for 109 yards and 5.0 per carry—although that number is significant skewed by a late 37-yard read option from Love. Still, in the first half when the game was still in question, the Packers were running the ball efficiently (13 carries, 58 yards, 4.5 YPC).
Nothing egregiously bad or notably good from the Lions linebacking corps in this game. Alex Anzalone is still playing decently and was probably underused as a pass rusher in this game (one QB hit). But where the Lions were getting more out of Derrick Barnes and Jack Campbell early in the season, they are not creating that same kind of production as of late. The two combined for nine tackles, but none for loss, and coverage continues to be a bit of an issue for anyone not named Anzalone.
A lack of a pass rush certainly didn’t help the defensive backs, as they often had to hold coverage for unreasonable amounts of time. And when the defense was largely in zone, it’s damn-near impossible to hold up in coverage.
But even in the rare instances of man coverage, the Lions defensive backs simply were not disruptive enough. Love was on point for a lot of the game, but Lions corners had their chances to make plays on the ball, and they simply didn’t. Detroit finished with just a single pass breakup on the day—via Brian Branch, who continues to look like the only defensive back capable of making plays right now.
Love’s final statline: 22-of-32, 268 yards (8.4 Y/A), 3 TDs, and a 125.5 passer rating—the second-highest rating of his starting career.
Special teams: D
It didn’t end up mattering, but there was a frustrating missed extra point from Riley Patterson in this game. The Lions were also out-punted in this game, with Packers’ Daniel Whelan dropping all four of his punts inside the 20 (two inside the 10), while Jack Fox dropped one of two inside the 20, but even that felt like a missed opportunity, as it was fair caught at the 14-yard line.
Also, that fake punt did not come even close to working. They’re going to have to come up with something better than that—and I’m not all that certain Jalen Reeves-Maybin is really the guy for that role anyways.
The coordinators just didn’t have it in this one. Offensively, the Lions didn’t look like they had a Plan B after the running game struggled to develop any rhythm early. On top of that, the Lions went 1-for-5 on fourth down on the day, and many of those plays did not even come close to a success. Typically when the Lions are in a gotta-have-it situation, Ben Johnson has been excellent at dialing up the right play at the right time, but that wasn’t the case today.
Defensively, the Lions just looked lifeless. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn didn’t send any additional pressure to make Love uncomfortable until the fourth quarter (and it worked then!), which left the secondary vulnerable to getting picked apart in their mostly-zone coverage.
There were certainly some questionable decisions from Dan Campbell, as well. The fake punt was probably an unnecessary risk given the yards to go (four) and line of scrimmage (own 23). Earlier in the game, Campbell opted to punt on fourth-and-2 from their own 48-yard line, down 14 in the first half. That seemed like a more appropriate time for some calculated risk.
Overall, this team is trending in the wrong direction right now with two sloppy performances against inferior opponents. That has to change and change quickly.