Lions grades: Golden sparkles before Calvin takes over

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Golden Tate fakes out the Eagles' Walter Thurmond and then goes into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford had an immaculate performance Thursday, finishing with five touchdowns and a 137.8 passer rating in the Lions' 45-14 blowout against the Eagles. He made several impressive passes, and some of his best were actually dropped, meaning his performance — 27-of-38 for 337 yards — could've been even better. Grade: A

Running backs: The Lions are still waiting for their breakout performance in the run game, but the backs made several nice plays. Ameer Abdullah led the team with 63 yards on 16 carries, including a 23-yard gain in the first quarter. Theo Riddick continued to impress in the passing game with five catches for 62 yards. Joique Bell did a little of everything with seven carries for 25 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 57 yards, though he dropped what would have been a long gain. Grade: B

Wide receivers: For most of the first half, it looked like Golden Tate was heading toward a stellar performance. Then, Calvin Johnson took over. Even without a catch in the first quarter, Johnson finished with 93 yards on eight catches and scored three touchdowns, tying a career high. For most of the second and third quarters, the Eagles simply couldn't cover Johnson. Tate finished with seven catches for 50 yards and a touchdown, and Lance Moore had a 14-yard catch before leaving with an ankle injury. Grade: A

Tight ends: This position has produced minimally under new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, but Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew contributed a few nice plays. Ebron gained 28 yards on his two catches, which came on consecutive plays. Pettigrew added a 21-yard catch, but should've caught a first-quarter touchdown. Grade: B-

Offensive line: The Lions allowed just three quarterback hits and two sacks to an Eagles defense that can create pressure from a number of places. After so many poor performances early in the year, the offensive line had its best game of the year to help the offense thrive. Grade: A

Defensive line: Ezekiel Ansah looked like a bona fide star, but his fellow linemen played well, too, as the Lions held the Eagles to just 68 rushing yards. Ansah had a career-high 3.5 sacks and leaped into a tie with J.J. Watt for the most sacks in the NFL (11.5), and he had two tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Devin Taylor had four tackles and a half sack, and Haloti Ngata consistently moved people off their marks inside. Grade: A

Linebackers: Tahir Whitehead continued to flourish in his increased role, tying for a team lead with six tackles, including one for loss. He also broke up two passes. Stephen Tulloch had five tackles, one for loss, and his first sack of the year. The entire group deserves credit for limiting the Eagles running backs in the run and pass games. Grade: A

Secondary: There were a few breakdowns, but for the most past, the Lions cover men smothered the Eagles receivers. The group deserves credit for playing well despite free safety Glover Quin (ankle) missing most of the game. Cornerback Nevin Lawson tied the team lead with six tackles, and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus had a thunderous hit to break up a pass. And teams continue to throw away from Darius Slay. Grade: A-

Special teams: Matt Prater remained perfect on field goals this season, hitting a 48-yarder to improve to 14-of-14. Sam Martin continued punting well with a 45.3-yard net on his four punts. There weren't any notable returns by either team, but Corey Fuller had a holding penalty on a punt return. Grade: B

Coaching: Teryl Austin's defense continues to smother teams as the Lions held the Eagles to just 227 yards. Meanwhile, Jim Bob Cooter probably had his best day as a play caller, finding the right mix of creativity and trusting his best player (Calvin Johnson) to exploit his matchups. Jim Caldwell deserves credit for having the team ready to win a blowout despite all the recent turmoil. Grade: A