Lions grades: Offensive line neglected to protect Stafford
Matthew Stafford explained that the score forced the Lions to pass a lot in the second half. Perhaps, some more efficiency by Stafford would have kept the game closer. The offensive line gave Stafford little time to throw, but considering he calls the protection assignment, he has to take some of the blame. Going 32-for-53 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and one interception isn’t a horrible line, but his lack of aggression harmed the Lions from start to finish.
The running backs finished with 18 yards on 12 carries. They ran the ball four times in the second half, and lackluster results forced the Lions to throw more. Joique Bell had two catches for 16 yards, Theo Riddick had two for 13 and Ameer Abdullah had a 9-yarder. Any bonus the backs provided in the pass game, though, was nullified by Riddick’s fumble.
It’s difficult to assign blame to the receivers, but clearly, if they were open more and quicker in plays, the offense would have been more effective. Calvin Johnson had 10 catches for 83 yards on 17 targets. He had one bad drop, but his toe-dragging touchdown catch was a beauty. Golden Tate had six catches for 80 yards, and Lance Moore had 14 yards on three catches, one of which he fumbled.
Eric Ebron, while not perfect, continued playing well to open the season, finishing with five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. Tim Wright’s most notable contribution was a holding penalty.
Matthew Stafford was hit eight times, and though the Lions allowed one sack, there were several opportunities for the Vikings to have more. Stafford’s four carries for 20 yards also were plays that broke down, and the overall inability to run — 16 carries for 38 yards — falls primarily on the line. RT Cornelius Lucas seemed especially exposed by DE Brian Robison.
DE Ziggy Ansah probably was the best player with seven tackles, three for loss and a sack. That sack was the only hit the Lions had on QB Teddy Bridgewater, though, and considering many of RB Adrian Peterson’s 134 rushing yards came when the line lost containment on the edge, it was an overall poor performance.
The linebackers were exposed without DeAndre Levy. Even though the Lions limited TE Kyle Rudolph to 30 yards on five catches, little else improved from last week. The linebackers missed tackles and gave QB Teddy Bridgewater — 21 yards on six carries — too much running room.
S James Ihedigbo led the Lions with nine tackles and had a forced fumble. The Lions limited the deep opportunities for the Vikings and held Mike Wallace to 38 yards on three catches. But, untimely lapses as well as some tackling issues extended to the backend, too.
The Vikings had by far the best special teams play on Marcus Sherels’ 31-yard punt return. The Lions, meanwhile, didn’t do much well in the return game. P Sam Martin had a 37-yard punt that overshadows an otherwise average day.
The Lions should have known the Vikings would give the ball to Adrian Peterson a lot, and by not stopping the run, they allowed Minnesota to control the game. Like last week, an early dismissal of the run game by offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi led to some issues. And at the end, clock management was a major problem as the Lions had an 18-play scoring drive that used 4:32 of the final 6:20 when they trailed by 16.