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Lions Week 2 report card: Coaching, defense sink Detroit vs. Seahawks

Handing out grades for the Detroit Lions after a strong offensive performance against the Seattle Seahawks that was spoiled by big mistakes, poor defense, and questionable coaching.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks was undoubtedly a letdown for the Detroit Lions after their big opening win last week. The Seahawks are a good team, but with a raucous Ford Field crowd and a relatively healthy roster (comparatively speaking), there was a lot of optimism that Detroit would parlay last week’s win with revenge against a Seahawks team that has now downed the Lions in three straight years.

Let’s take a more individualized look at the game with our Week 2 report card.

Quarterback: A-

Jared Goff continues to play outstanding football for the Lions. His poise in the pocket is almost unrecognizable from his first year in Detroit, and he threw some absolute lasers on Sunday. His touchdown pass up the seam to Josh Reynolds was absolute fire.

Goff finished 28-of-35 for 323 yards (9.2 yards per attempt), three touchdowns, an interception, and a 121.8 passer rating.

The pick six was killer, but as you can see from the end zone replay, Goff’s arm was hit on the play and it clearly impacted the throw.

As it stands, this was Goff’s 11th-best game of his career by passer rating, and it would’ve been his sixth-best without the pick.

Running backs: C+

A very stark mix of good and bad from the running back crew. David Montgomery continues to be the heart of the offense, and his ability to break tackles is turning 3-4 yard gains into 6-8 yard gains. That’s quite literally exactly what the Lions brought him in for. But to start the second half with a fumble on the very first play of the second half—when the team was in control of the game and playing with a lead—was devastating.

As for Jahmyr Gibbs, it wasn’t the best day for the rookie back. He was completely ineffective running the ball, including a failed conversion on a third-and-short. He was more effective in the passing game, but he also had a crucial drop at the end of the first half that spoiled a two-minute drill.

Tight ends: B-

Like the running backs, it was a lot of up and down for the tight ends. Sam LaPorta was an absolute force in the receiving game, hauling in five of six targets for 63 yards. His conversion on third-and-12 was not only wildly impressive, but he followed it up with this a few plays later:

LaPorta also had an essential block on Montgomery’s touchdown run. However, he also blew the block on Montgomery’s fumble:

Brock Wright also had a noticeably rough game as a blocker.

Wide receivers: A-

Josh Reynolds continues to show that he’s one of the most underrated players on the team. Here’s a nice breakdown of the route he runs on the aforementioned seam touchdown, but don’t sleep on his fearlessness to absorb the huge hit over the middle from Quandre Diggs.

Amon-Ra St. Brown quietly added 102 yards on six catches (although 39 of that was on the weird hail mary), and Kalif Raymond hit on the explosive flea-flicker. Overall, the receiver group continues to punch above their weight class.

Offensive line: B

Aside from the allowed pressure by Matt Nelson on the Goff interception, it was a pretty clean day from the offensive line. That’s good news, considering the Lions were missing Taylor Decker and lost Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the second half.

Goff did absorb six quarterback hits in total and two sacks, but for the most part, he had a decent amount of time to operate, and the run game continues to produce consistent holes for their backs.

Defensive line: D

Let’s start with the positive. The Lions continue to plug the middle of the line when it comes to the run game. Despite breaking what felt like 50 tackles on the day, Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker averaged just 2.5 yards per carry on 17 rushes. Detroit is playing extremely disciplined ball in the run game.

Unfortunately, the pass rush was beyond dismal. Up until 2:11 left in regulation, the Lions were held without a single quarterback hit. Yes, the Lions’ game plan was to prioritize containment of Geno Smith over attacking him, but at some point that collapsing of the pocket has to get home, and it never really even came close to doing so.

Linebackers: C+

Derrick Barnes may be the best run defender on the team right now, and his ascent continues in a real way. Alex Anzalone’s sack of Smith was absolutely huge and showcased his underappreciated athleticism. That sack alone dropped Seattle’s win probability from 67.5 to just 62 percent.

However, tackling was an issue with this group, and coverage was an even bigger problem. Too often, the Lions bit on play action and allowed the Seahawks tight ends and receivers to get behind them. Tight ends Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson combined for six catches and 97 yards, and that largely falls on the linebackers.

Secondary: F

I don’t have many nice things to say about the secondary in this game. This was their first big test against a seriously talented group of receivers, and they failed miserably. Jerry Jacobs was picked on for most of the game, but no one else in the secondary made much of an impact. C.J. Gardner-Johnson made a play or two in the run game, but his boneheaded personal foul penalty immediately erased one of those. Kerby Joseph did nearly have a pick on a nice play, but that was pretty much it from the defensive backs on Sunday.

They certainly weren’t helped by a lack of pass rush, but when the opposing quarterback completes 78 percent of his passes, the DBs aren’t doing their jobs well enough.

Special teams: B+

Riley Patterson made all five of his kicks, including a high-pressure 38-yarder to send it to overtime. The Lions didn’t return a kickoff, and their coverage teams were fine. Kalif Raymond got destroyed on one of his punt returns, but his 17-yarder at the end of regulation helped put the Lions in position to win. A fine day from Detroit’s most consistent unit.

Coaching: D

Let’s start with the in-game decisions from Dan Campbell. I didn’t have much of a problem with any of his fourth-down decisions. Let’s break them down quickly:

  • Fourth-and-4 from Seahawks’ 31-yard line: It was a 7-7- ballgame, and I have a little more confidence in the offense than I do of Patterson from 49 yards. To me, this is a toss-up, but I’ll never be mad for erring on the side of aggression.
  • Fourth-and-3 from Seahawks’ 11-yard line. Seattle had just tied the game after Montgomery’s football, and the Lions were clearly concerned about the game tipping in their favor. The Lions converted here and it led to a touchdown. That was a huge four-point decision right there.
  • Fourth-and-2 from Lions’ 45-yard line. Again, this is on the aggressive side. Detroit was playing with a lead here, and given that they were on their own side of the field, I wouldn’t have been mad at a punt. Still, fourth-and-2 is a very manageable down. That said, with Montgomery out of the game due to injury, maybe a punt would’ve been smarter here.

Campbell’s biggest in-game question was how he finished the game in regulation on offense. Per Campbell himself, the Lions’ main objective was to leave the Seahawks with no time to rebuttal.

“Here’s what I knew, they had two timeouts and I did not want to give that ball back, that was number one, do not give this ball back,” Campbell said.

While I think that’s a bit misguided, I get it. I don’t mind the Lions burning all the clock. Campbell believes they had plenty of time to score had they converted on third down, which I mostly agree with.

What I do mind, however, is the conservative play calling on offense. The Lions picked up 12 yards on the first play and 11 yards on the second play. Then, 27 yards away from winning the game, they just dinked and dunked on the next three plays. No shots downfield. No keeping the pressure on the defense.

Finally, we have to talk about the defensive game plan. Personally, I’m just not a fan of this team’s philosophy when it comes to mobile quarterbacks. As Campbell explained after the game, they were focused on staying disciplined in their rushing lanes and collapsing the pocket rather than getting Smith on the move.

“We’ve got to stay true to the rush plan itself,” Campbell said. “One more time, just close the pocket in on him, alright, don’t give him anywhere to go and somebody’s going to get one here. But we can’t rush high and let him run through uninvaded, and it’s just discipline one more time.”

I get that Smith is dangerous out of the pocket—hell, his game-winning touchdown was because he got out of the pocket (thanks to a hold, but I digress). But the Rams beat the Seahawks because Smith was constantly under pressure and on the move.

Will he beat you every now and then if you deploy a more attacking defense? Sure, but you’re also far more likely to generate game-changing plays defensively.

The Lions did send more blitzes this week than last, but Detroit has not been a very effective blitzing team under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. They aren’t particularly disguised well, and oftentimes the delay is so much with the blitzes that they never even have a chance to get home.

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