Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Plenty of honor-roll performances

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford gets dragged down hard by Eagles' Jordan Hicks but hangs onto the ball after scrambling out of trouble on the Lions go-ahead offensive drive in the fourth quarter.

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday's 24-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Quarterback

With better protection in the first half, Matthew Stafford was efficient, leading the Lions to three scoring drives, each capped with a touchdown pass against a defense that previously hadn’t allowed one this season. And with the offense sputtering in the second half, he delivered a strike to Golden Tate to put the team in position for the game-winning field goal. The biggest red mark is for an awful fumble, deep in Lions’ territory, where he lost his grip on the ball attempting to tuck it. Grade: B+

Running backs

Theo Riddick was a spark plug, catching two touchdown passes and serving as an adequate option on the ground, gaining 49 yards on 11 carries. While his best work came on the edges, Riddick’s most impressive carry came on a fourth-and-1, where he hesitated then powered through the line on a second effort to convert. Zach Zenner offered little as a change-of-pace option, losing yards on three of his nine carries, but did have a 19-yard reception. Grade: B+

Wide receivers

The group made the most of limited opportunities. Tate had a unique day, spending a portion of the afternoon coming out of the backfield. But getting open for his 27-yard catch on the game-winning drive was the key offensive play in the victory. Anquan Boldin and Marvin Jones combined for eight grabs, 85 yards and touchdown on nine targets. Boldin converted two key third downs on scoring drives, but also drew an unnecessary unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Grade: B+

Tight ends

With Eric Ebron out of the lineup, the Lions spent a lot of time working offensive tackle Corey Robinson into the mix and the young lineman did a nice job blocking on some edge assignments. The group, which included new addition Clay Harbor, wasn’t targeted in the passing game. Grade: Incomplete

Offensive line

The first half was better than the second. Stafford had time in the pocket and the running game had lanes. But overall, there was too much pressure and far too many negative plays. The Lions lost yardage on nearly 20 percent of their 56 offensive snaps. Rookie Graham Glasgow, getting some work at left guard, failed to make the switch on a stunt, allowing the pressure that ultimately resulted in Stafford’s fumble. Grade: C-

Lions' Tyrunn Walker recovers a fumble caused by teammate Darius Slay on Eagles' Ryan Mathews late in the fourth quarter.

Defensive line

The group got off to a great start, forcing the Eagles to punt on their opening possession when newcomer Armonty Bryant dropped quarterback Carson Wentz behind the line of scrimmage. It was one of three sacks for the group, but the overall performance was inconsistent. There were no other quarterback hits, no other tackles for loss and minimal pass-rush pressure. The Eagles also gained 5.5 yards per carry, easily converting multiple short-yardage situations on the ground. Grade: C-

Linebackers

Tahir Whitehead stuffed the stat sheet with 12 tackles and two pass breakups. He also missed a tackle on a touchdown drive. So did Thurston Armbrister. Kyle Van Noy recorded just three tackles, but whiffed on a sack. Wentz took advantage of that mistake, finding his receiver on the sideline for a first down. Grade: B-

Lions' Darius Slay slams into Eagles running back Ryan Mathews, causing the fumble with Detroit's Tyrunn Walker recovering late in the fourth quarter.

Secondary

It wasn’t a great day for the secondary, which deserves its share of blame for Wentz completing 75.8 percent of his passes. But in crunch time, cornerback Darius Slay put the team on his back, forcing a fumble late in the fourth quarter, putting the Lions in position to re-take the lead. Then, on the ensuring drive, he intercepted Wentz to seal the victory. Grade: B+

Special teams

It wasn’t a long kick, but Matt Prater shrugged off the pressure and knocked down the 29-yard game-winning field goal. Punter Sam Martin was outstanding again, and almost had a perfect day, but gunner Don Carey just missed downing a well-placed punt at the 1-yard line, resulting in a touchback. On returns, Andre Roberts continues to struggle, getting dropped before the 20 on both kickoffs he fielded. Grade: B

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell welcomes the offense back to the sidelines after scoring in the first quarter.

Coaches

The Eagles came into town with one of the league’s best defenses, allowing 27 points through three games. The Lions’ offense had an outstanding plan to attack it, driving for touchdowns each of their first three possessions and creatively using Tate to get him out of his mental funk and compensate for the team’s short-handed backfield.

Jim Caldwell deserves credit for being aggressive, twice going for it on fourth down, including once in his own territory. The offense rewarded him with a touchdown on that drive. He was a little more conservative at the end of the game, primarily focusing on getting the Eagles to use all their timeouts as opposed to taking shots at the end zone. That could have backfired had Slay not come up with the pick.

Grade: B+