Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Jones electric, defense terrible

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. has to backpedal to make a reception in the end zone for a touchdown after a Packers botched coverage late in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay, Wis. -- Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday's 34-27 loss to the Green Bay Packers:


After a shaky start, with several off-target throws, Matthew Stafford settled down nicely, playing a key role in the comeback effort. He finished with a healthy stat line, connecting on 28 of his 41 throws for 385 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. The pick wasn’t really the quarterback’s fault, but that said, he got away with two throws that should have resulted in turnovers, including one that nearly killed tight end Eric Ebron across the middle. Grade: B

Running backs

Theo Riddick got the start, but couldn’t find any room to operate against the Packers’ stout front, gaining a measly 10 yards on nine carries. And even though he contributed seven receptions, he wasn’t able to make as many tacklers miss in the open field as usual, finishing with 39 yards.  Dwayne Washington provided a little more on the ground, trudging his way to 38 yards on 10 carries, showing he might be worthy of a bigger role going forward. Finally, fullback Michael Burton uncharacteristically blew a couple blocks, leading to lost yardage. Grade: D+

Wide receivers

Marvin Jones had an electric performance, making big play after big play and finishing with a career-high 205 yards to go with two touchdowns. He showed exceptional body control and ball-tracking ability, routinely beating one-on-one coverage near the sidelines. Anquan Boldin and Golden Tate chipped in modest contributions, a combined eight grabs for 82 yards, but all four of Tate’s receptions resulted in first downs with Boldin found the end zone on a fourth-down play. The group had no drops. Grade: A

‘Hot’ Rodgers builds big lead, Lions’ rally falls short

Tight ends

Ebron was clearly in a lot of pain. He came into the contest with a back injury and twice had to leave the game following hits, but still delivered a quality showing, catching five passes for 69 yards. But the performance had its warts. He had one pass ripped from his arms, which was ruled an interception, and shied away from a hit across the middle when Stafford put him in a bad spot, nearly leading a second pick. Cole Wick added one grab for 13 yards, but also badly blew a block, leading to a tackle for a loss in the run game.  Grade: C+

Offensive line

Stafford defended his line after the game, but the unit struggled, particularly the left-side tandem of Taylor Decker and Laken Tomlinson, who were beat far too often, both as run blockers and pass protectors. They also both drew a penalty during a critical fourth-quarter drive, where the Lions were forced to settle for a field goal.  Overall, the run blocking was brutal, especially at the start of the game, causing the offense to sputter. Grade: D

Defensive line

Early in the game, the group couldn’t generate meaningful pressure on Aaron Rodgers, and late in the game, they couldn’t prevent running back Eddie Lacy from getting downhill and running out the clock. The absence of Ziggy Ansah was felt in a big way off the edge as Kerry Hyder and Devin Taylor rarely affected the pocket. The interior push wasn’t much better. Hyder did record a sack, but it came at a relatively meaningless time, the final play of the first half, after the Packers were already up 31-3. Grade: F


The depleted group had little chance against a talent like Rodgers, who attacked mismatches when he had them. The biggest dagger came when Thurston Armbrister got matched up one-on-one in the slot against Jordy Nelson, resulting in a 49-yard gain for the Packers and contributing to Armbrister’s benching. The group also shares culpability in Lacy’s highly efficient 103-yard performance. Grade: F


It’s difficult to assess how much blame a secondary deserves against Rodgers when there’s no pressure from the pass rush. Cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Darius Slay were both individually embarrassed on touchdown passes as Devante Adams shook the nickel on a slant and Nelson used a subtle push off to get the necessary separation from Slay on a fade. And although it might have been a weak call, Nevin Lawson did hook the arm of receiver Trevor Davis, drawing a 66-yard pass interference infraction. Grade: D

Special teams

Matt Prater made two of his three field goals, but missed a makeable 43-yarder in the calm conditions. Sam Martin’s punts were strong, as usual, but he did put a kickoff too close to the sidelines, allowing the Packers return man to catch it out of bounds and give the offense the ball at the 40-yard line. As for the Lions’ return game, it continues to be anemic with Andre Roberts having limited success. Grade: D+


Coach Jim Caldwell put the loss fully on his staff following the game. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin might have been short-staffed, but he didn’t put his guys into position to succeed in the first half, leading to multiple blown assignments. Offensively, you need balance, but against a tough front like Green Bay’s, it’s better to use the pass to set up the run, not the other way around. That’s especially true given the team’s injuries in the secondary, with starting cornerback Sam Shields and safety Morgan Burnett sidelined for the contest. Grade: F