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Lions grades: Plenty of blame to spread in loss

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Quarterback: No matter how you look at it, Matthew Stafford was outplayed by Drew Stanton Sunday, a scary thought for anyone involved with the Lions the last eight years. Stafford's average season has been boosted by the comeback wins the past three games, but he had no such luck Sunday, finishing 18 of 30 for 183 yards with an interception. Stafford targeted Golden Tate just twice, showing a surprising lack of trust in the offense's second-best playmaker. Stafford was under heavy pressure most of the game, but Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers also dropped a pick-6 in the second quarter.

Grade: D

Running backs: Joique Bell had one of the Lions' best rushing performances of the year with 14 carries for 85 yards. He added three catches for 30 yards. Theo Riddick had three catches for 24 yards, but had a drop. He gained just 2 yards on two carries and allowed a sack in pass protection.

Grade: B

Wide receivers: The Cardinals' secondary stepped up to the challenge and completely shut down the Lions' star duo of Calvin Johnson (five catches for 59 yards) and Golden Tate (two catches for 41 yards). Jeremy Ross' 7-yard catch was the only other contribution by a receiver.

Grade: D

Tight ends: Eric Ebron caught all four of his targets for 22 yards, but was brutal as a blocker, forcing at least one rushed throw and missing an opportunity to spring Theo Riddick for a big gain. His game would've looked better had the refs given him a better spot on his third-down catch late in the second quarter. Kellen Davis blocked OK, and Joseph Fauria hardly played, which coach Jim Caldwell will have to explain Monday.

Grade: D

Offensive line: Communication has been a problem up front all season and was again Sunday as the line allowed four sacks. Dominic Raiola snapped a ball before Matthew Stafford was ready, forcing a fumble on what would ultimately be the offense's final play. However, the front did finally show some promise with its run blocking.

Grade: C

Defensive line: The Lions had zero sacks for the first time this season, and Drew Stanton had plenty of time to take several shots down the field. Ndamukong Suh was neutralized for the first time in a long time, and Andre Fluellen was the best lineman statistically with three tackles, two for loss. Ezekiel Ansah had some nice hits on Stanton, but other than holding the Cardinals to 46 yards on 26 carries, there wasn't much that stood out.

Grade: C-

Linebackers: DeAndre Levy might have had his worst game of the season, missing multiple tackles and taking bad angles. He finished with 10 tackles. Josh Bynes had an interception and rookie Kyle Van Noy had a tackle for loss, but otherwise nobody really made an impression. The Lions gave up 146 yards to running backs and tight ends, much of which falls on the second level.

Grade: D

Secondary: Cornerbacks Cassius Vaughn and Darius Slay gave up touchdowns way too easily on Arizona's first two drives. Vaughn made up for it slightly with an interception that led to a field goal. But John Brown was open downfield a few times and Larry Fitzgerald caught the game-sealing 11-yard pass against a secondary that struggled to stop Drew Stanton.

Grade: D

Special teams: This would be better if Jeremy Ross' heads-up punt return in the fourth quarter counted. Instead, Ross had an uninspiring game with a 26-yard kickoff return and an 8-yard average on two punt returns. Sam Martin had three of six punts go inside the 20, and his 40.8-yard net average was fine. Matt Prater made both of his field goals, but needed a bounce off the left post for his 50-yarder.

Grade: B

Coaches: The Lions were not prepared for a game of this magnitude as the Cardinals immediately had a 14-0 lead. Joe Lombardi's play-calling was terrible from start to finish, particularly on third down, and many plays were highly predictable. Jim Caldwell's lack of aggression made little sense with the Lions trailing as they punted twice in Arizona territory and punted again on their final drive with 2:42 remaining and two time outs left, clearly hoping for a miracle. Some of the undisciplined play falls on the staff, too.

Grade: D

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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