Josh Katzenstein grades the Lions in loss to Packers
Josh Katzenstein grades the Lions in their 30-20 loss to the Packers on Sunday:
The three touchdowns make it easier to overlook what was an otherwise off-target game for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who finished 20-of-41 for 217 yards. The Lions did have some drops, but his overthrow of Golden Tate on a second-quarter fourth down was the defining play for him as his struggles against good road teams continued. Stafford also was credited for the fumble on a botched handoff to Joique Bell and gave the Packers a safety with an intentional grounding
Joique Bell's fumble, which the Lions recovered, and the one they didn't that was credited to Matthew Stafford marred what had been an otherwise solid game for him. He had 11 carries for 58 yards in the first half, but just two for 2 yards in the second half. Reggie Bush had a good 14-yard run, but he gained just 5 yards on his other four carries and was out of sync with Stafford in the passing game. Theo Riddick added five catches for 34 yards and a late touchdown.
The offensive line was better than expected, but the receivers were just not getting open early or often enough. Calvin Johnson had four catches for 39 yards and two touchdowns, Golden Tate had three for 45 and Jeremy Ross had two for 33. But nobody was consistent enough.
Eric Ebron had one ugly drop, but otherwise had a solid game with two catches for 38 yards, including a season-long 22-yard gain. He also had one devastating block to give Matthew Stafford enough time for a pass to Golden Tate. Brandon Pettigrew and Kellen Davis didn't have a target, and Davis struggled as a blocker.
Travis Swanson played well in his first start at center. Losing Larry Warford in the second quarter hurt, but Garrett Reynolds was OK at right guard. The Lions only gave up two sacks, one of which should've been a throwaway, and the tailbacks averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
The Lions should've blitzed more with Aaron Rodgers hobbled, but the defensive line had its worst game of the season either way. The Lions had just one sack and it came on one of Matt Flynn's four plays, and they missed a lot of assignments in the run game that allowed the Packers to run for 152 yards.
DeAndre Levy was among the players who missed tackles on Eddie Lacy, but he did finish with 10 tackles. Tahir Whitehead struggled in coverage as Packers tight ends made timely plays.
The Lions weren't ready for the quick-pass attack the Packers used, and it showed. Green Bay spread the ball around easily, and not a single defensive back had a pass defensed. Strong safety James Ihedigbo also missed enough tackles in the first half to be benched in the second half.
Once again, the third phase proved costly for the Lions as they gave up a 55-yard punt return touchdown to Micah Hyde in the first quarter. Jeremy Ross did have a 41-yard kickoff return, but averaged just 21.3 yards on the other kickoffs as the Lions had an average starting field position of their own 23. Isa Abdul-Quddus blocking a field goal, and Cassius Vaughn recovering Sam Martin's free kick prevented this from being an F.
Jim Caldwell's challenge was nonsensical, and he appeared to go with the logic of it being a big enough play that a lucky reversal would've been worth the risk. It wasn't. Plus, the playcalling on both sides made little sense as the Lions needed to run more in the second half and blitz a hobbled Aaron Rodgers. Caldwell's defense of everything that happened in the game only added to the poor day.