Lions grades: Stafford dazzles in encore performance

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Quarterback: Matthew Stafford's string of impressive games continued Sunday as he efficiently and effectively carried the Lions' offense for much of the game. He finished 29-of-37 for 301 yards with two touchdowns and a 118.6 passer rating. His first touchdown pass, a 29-yarder to receiver TJ Jones, was a beauty between two defenders, and Stafford avoided costly turnovers once again. Grade: A

Running backs: Theo Riddick helps elevate this grade in a mostly lackluster rushing performance. Riddick was stellar as a receiver with seven catches for 63 yards and a handful of 49ers defenders left in his dust. He also had 20 rushing yards, but needed seven carries to gain them. Ameer Abdullah led the team with 39 yards on eight carries, Joique Bell had seven carries for 13 yards and a touchdown and the Lions averaged just 3.1 yards per attempt. Grade: B+

Wide receivers: After two games with just one catch, Calvin Johnson proved he can still lead the Lions as he had six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he also dropped a long pass when he was open. Golden Tate added four catches for 59 yards, including converting a critical third-quarter third down after making defenders miss. TJ Jones added a 29-yard touchdown between two defenders, the first score of his career. Grade: A-

Tight ends: Eric Ebron played solidly with four catches for 49 yards, and three of his receptions converted first downs for the Lions. He was the only tight end with a target in the pass game, but Bear Pascoe contributed as a blocker. Grade: B

Offensive line: It wasn't quite as good of a performance as last week, but the protection was solid for most of the game. The Lions allowed five quarterback hits and two sacks, one of which came on a well-designed overload blitz. A better rushing performance would've raised the grade, but the line deserves some credit for staying grounded as the 49ers consistently jumped offside. Grade: B+

Defensive line: The Lions lost badly up front early in the game, but recovered well in a second-half shutout. The defensive front played a key role in the 49ers finishing the second half with minus-1 rushing yards. The pass rush wasn't great as the Lions hit quarterback Blaine Gabbert just three times, including just two by the line. Devin Taylor and Haloti Ngata played well. Grade: B-

Linebackers: The 122 rushing yards the Lions allowed in the first half, along with some lapses covering tight end Vance McDonald fall on the linebackers and particularly Kyle Van Noy with regard to McDonald. But, Josh Bynes' half sack and forced fumble, along with Tahir Whitehead's recovery, was one of the most important plays of the game for the Lions. Brandon Copeland, who played some defensive end, played well with four tackles, too. Grade: B

Secondary: This was probably Darius Slay's worst game of the second half as he allowed a 38-yard completion to Bruce Ellington and had a pass interference against Anquan Boldin. Glover Quin missed a couple tackles, and Nevin Lawson struggled at times in coverage. But, for the most part, the secondary kept plays in front of them well enough to win. Grade: C

Special teams: A successful fake punt always helps the grade, and Isa Abdul-Quddus helped the Lions convert another one, running for 4 yards on a direct snap. Matt Prater made all four of his field goals, and two of Sam Martin's punts landed inside the 20. Ameer Abdullah added a 46-yard kickoff return, too, while the Lions limited 49ers return man Bruce Ellington. Grade: A

Coaching: Credit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin for making adjustments after the Lions defense started sluggish. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had a good game plan, too, and mixing up the cadence on the snap helped significantly. Coach Jim Caldwell made a good challenge on a Golden Tate catch that converted a third down. But, the Lions had to call a time out in the first quarter after having 10 men on the field for a defensive first-and-goal. Grade: B+