Lions grades: Stafford has A-level bounce-back game
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford admitted he wasn’t perfect Sunday, but he had his best game of the season by far. In finishing 27 of 42 for 405 yards with four touchdowns and one interception, Stafford showed he can still take advantage of opportunities downfield, which the Lions rarely exploited in the first five games. His fourth-quarter interception and late intentional grounding were ugly, but he redeemed himself with a late touchdown in regulation and the long pass that set up the game-winning field goal.
Running backs: Theo Riddick had a career-high seven carries and ran for 28 yards. He also added three catches for 50 yards, including a crucial 34-yarder late in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Ameer Abdullah ignited the run game early and finished with 14 carries for 48 yards, but an arm injury and a fumble led to his benching for much of the second half. As a team, the Lions ran for a season-high 155 yards.
Wide receivers: Finally, Calvin Johnson was back to being Megatron. The star receiver had a season-high 166 yards on six catches, including three gains of 39 yards or longer, and a score. Lance Moore was fantastic, too, with three catches of 20-plus yards and finishing with five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate added six catches for 40 yards and a score.
Tight ends: Tim Wright was the only tight end available, and he had three catches for 17 yards and a touchdown. He was rarely open by much, but considering the circumstances, he mostly did what he needed to do.
Offensive line: With a season-best performance, the men up front deserve a ton of credit. The Lions showed how the offense can open up when the run game is successful as the team ran for 155 yards, more than doubling the season-best total of 69 from Week 1. The Lions gave up eight quarterback hits and two sacks, but for the most part, the quarterback had time to make his reads.
Defensive line: Defensive end Jason Jones missing the second half hurt the unit, and the Lions created minimal pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, sacking him just once and defensive linemen totaling four hits. The defensive line deserves plenty of credit for limiting running back Matt Forte, who averaged just 2.9 yards per carry.
Linebackers: Josh Bynes was the defensive MVP for the Lions Sunday with 10 tackles, two for loss and a pass defensed that forced a field goal. Stephen Tulloch added 13 tackles, Tahir Whitehead had a tackle and a key pass defensed and Brandon Copeland split a sack.
Secondary: The Lions gave up six passes of 20-plus yards, and many of them came on one-on-one failures by the defensive backs. Two of those, as well as a 20-yard pass interference on Darius Slay, came on the final fourth-quarter drive when Chicago forced overtime. The good news was cornerback Rashean Mathis had an interception, Slay broke up four passes and Josh Wilson split a sack. The safeties, though, weren’t impressive.
Special teams: Isa Abdul-Quddus running for 30 yards on a direct-snap fake punt, Sam Martin’s 60-yard punt in overtime and Matt Prater going 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points were the highlights. Unfortunately, those were overshadowed by the Lions giving the ball away twice on punt returns, one muff by TJ Jones and one accidental kick by Corey Fuller.
Coaching: As is always the case, the coaches deserve credit when the team wins, but it’s hard to say Jim Caldwell did everything possible to help the Lions win. His decision to kick a field goal down 7 with 2:50 remaining was far too conservative even if it worked. Corey Fuller has struggled blocking gunners on punt returns all season, so the coaches deserve blame for him being on the field in a spot where he could be involved in a turnover. The best thing the coaches did was stick with the run game, rushing 32 times compared to 42 passes.