Justin Rogers grades Lions vs. Titans

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions' Devin Taylor (98) and Haloti Ngata (92) bring down Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in the second quarter.

Justin Rogers grades the Lions' performance in Sunday's 16-15 loss to the Titans:


Matthew Stafford wasn’t the problem in this contest, but in the clutch, when he’s so often risen to the occasion, he faltered, throwing a game-ending interception after failing to properly read the Titans’ coverage. The pedestrian stat line – 22-40 for 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception – looks worse because of a number of drops and penalties that negated a potential second touchdown on back-to-back plays in the second quarter. Grade: B

Running backs

The Titans shut down Adrian Peterson last week and seemed poised to have their way with the Lions’ ground game, but for the second consecutive week, Detroit’s backs rose to the occasion. Ameer Abdullah looked great, before an injury forced him from the action. In his stead, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington built on the success down the stretch, combining for 68 yards on 15 carries. The only downside is the group didn’t have its typical impact in the passing game. Abdullah wasn’t targeted before exiting in the second quarter, and Riddick was limited to a modest four grabs for 28 yards. Grade: A-

Wide receivers

Drops were plentiful in the defeat, with Anquan Boldin, Marvin Jones and Golden Tate all putting balls they normally catch on the ground. Additionally, the group contributed to the penalty problems with Boldin getting flagged for offensive pass interference and holding and Tate drawing unnecessary roughness and illegal shift calls.  The group avoids a failing mark because of Boldin’s positioning on a 24-yard touchdown grab and an eight-catch, 118-yard effort from Jones. Grade: D+

Tight ends

Prior to Stafford’s interception, Eric Ebron made a game-saving catch, hauling in a pass behind him and turning it into a 29-yard gain to convert a third-and-18. He finished with a respectable four grabs for 53 yards. The problem, as it was for most of the team, was penalties. Ebron’s mistakes – a holding and questionable offensive pass interference – wiped a pair of touchdowns off the board. The Lions still found their way into the end zone on one, but were forced to settle for a field goal on the other. Grade: D+

Offensive line

The run blocking was good, but the pass protection was average. Stafford was sacked four times, and hit on two other plays. Not surprisingly, penalties were an issue with this group as well. Laken Tomlinson and Travis Swanson combined for three holding calls, one of which negated a touchdown pass to Boldin. Grade: C-

Defensive line

For three quarters, the front four did an exceptional job containing Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, particularly on third-down plays. Defensive end Devin Taylor had a strong day, recording 1½ sacks and a safety against running back DeMarco Murray. But the group didn’t get much pressure down the stretch, as Mariota had plenty of time leading the game-winning drive. Against the run, the group held up well, expect for allowing a 67-yard run to Murray in the second quarter. The linemen also added to the penalty tally, with three infractions. Grade: B-


It feels unfair to grade this group harshly, but the next man up is expected to hold his own in game action. The linebackers played a key role in limiting the Titans to three points through three quarters, but when Kyle Van Noy went out with a calf injury, it was as if the last thread holding the unit together came undone. Mariota picked on the patchwork group in the final frame, especially during the game-winning drive. The deciding touchdown came with Tahir Whitehead in coverage. Grade: D+


The Titans’ receivers had little impact in the contest and the Lions’ secondary managed to come up with an interception and three pass breakups, but the corners got hit with three penalties and Nevin Lawson was beat for a 30-yard touchdown to tight end Delanie Walker that kick-started the Titans’ comeback. Grade: D+

Special teams

Sam Martin put together another fine game, pinning the Titans inside the 20-yard line with all five of his punts. Matt Prater also did his part, making all three of his field goal attempts. The return game didn’t do much, but Andre Roberts averaged 11.5 yards bringing back a pair of punts. Grade: A-


Jim Caldwell took the blame for the 17 penalties and said he’ll get it corrected. He needed to correct it during the course of this game. It was clear the officials were calling this one tight from the start, but the Lions never adjusted.

Worse was Caldwell’s conservative approach coming back to haunt the Lions. With the offense moving the ball well in the first half, the coach opted to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Titans’ 39-yard line. That’s an old-school approach, but data has proven that’s a situation you should go for it there every time. Grade: F