Lions grades: Stafford, offensive line share in blame
Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News hands out his grades after the Lions' 24-12 loss to the Broncos.
Quarterback: Eventually, no matter how poorly the offensive line plays, much of the blame has to fall on Matthew Stafford as he's the one who has to read the defense before each snap. He made some excellent throws as he often does, but poor decision making and an apparent fright inside the pocket ruined the Lions' chances. He finished 31-of-45 for 282 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions, a lost fumble and far too many missed opportunities.
Running backs: The backs are too often hit in the backfield, but at some point, they have to make plays and elude contact. The Lions had just 28 rushing yards on 19 carries. Theo Riddick's eight catches for 66 yards, and Ameer Abdullah's 16-yard touchdown catch were nice. Joique Bell had a 1-yard touchdown run, but didn't gain more than 3 yards on any of his 11 touches.
Wide receivers: Calvin Johnson made a couple of the incredible catches that should remind the coaches that he's always open. However, only one of those plays stretched the field as he finished with 77 yards on eight catches. Golden Tate had a nice 33-yard gain, but just 24 yards on his other four catches.
Tight ends: Eric Ebron's impressive start to the season continued as he had four catches for a career-high 61 yards. However, he receives some of the blame for the blocking miscues. He also dropped a potential big gain and made a couple poor reads after the catch.
Offensive line: Averaging 1.5 yards per run, no matter who the back is, is a failure, plain and simple. Considering the line allowed four sacks and nine quarterback hits on Matthew Stafford, there's little good to take away from the performance, even if there were lineup changes.
Defensive line: This was probably the best effort for the defensive line through three games. The Lions hit quarterback Peyton Manning eight times — including two each by Haloti Ngata, Devin Taylor and Ziggy Ansah — but they had just one sack. They also held the Broncos to just 41 rushing yards on 19 carries. Unfortunately, the pass rush wasn't always there when the secondary needed support.
Linebackers: Despite his limited role, Stephen Tulloch made 11 tackles. Josh Bynes had seven tackles and a pass break-up, and the group deserves a lot of credit for the improved run defense. However, the linebackers still haven't made the necessary splash plays.
Secondary: Glover Quin's first-half interception was a highlight. Darius Slay losing one-on-one battles on deep balls to receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were lowlights. Eventually, the Lions have to tackle well enough to ensure the short passes don't beat them each week.
Special teams: TJ Jones looked really good on a 28-yard punt return, which was the best return by either team. However, allowing the Broncos to block an extra point and nearly return it for 2 points overshadows any positives.
Coaches: Once again, opposing players talked about how talented the Lions are after beating them. If the Lions have all this talent, it's on the coaching staff to ensure they utilize it to its maximum potential. The defense struggled at inopportune times, the offense looked lost again and penalties were problematic. Jim Caldwell said after the game he has to make sure the players are understanding the message from coaches. The message probably needs to start changing.