Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Stafford close to flawless

Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambles out of the pocket and down the field on a run in the third quarter.

Detroit – Justin Rogers grades the Lions' performance in Sunday's 31-28 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford was close to flawless in the victory, completing 23-of-31 throws for 270 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. That’s with four dropped passes. His 139.8 passer rating was the second best of his career. Grade: A

Running backs

Zach Zenner shined as the lead back in a depleted backfield, carrying the ball 14 times for 58 yards, including a critical fourth-down conversion on the game’s opening drive. He also added a pair of receptions for 19 yards. Justin Forsett, serving as the complement, had a forgettable Lions debut, gaining just five yards on five carries behind less than ideal blocking. He also dropped his only target in the passing game. Grade: B

Wide receivers

Golden Tate had a huge outing, making big plays at all depths and finishing with a career-high 165 yards. Anquan Boldin also helped move the chains throughout the afternoon, hauling in eight of his nine targets for 60 yards and a touchdown. Marvin Jones had a quiet day with coverage shifted his way, but one of his two receptions went for a score. The biggest mark against the group was three drops, including two by Tate. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Even without Larry Warford, the young offensive line adapted and kept the Rams’ dangerous defensive line in check, allowing one sack and three quarterback hits. Riley Reiff came up with a big block to spring Tate early in the game, setting the tone up front. Penalties were a bit of an issue as the unit racked up three false starts and a holding call. Grade: B

Defensive line

Even with Ziggy Ansah back in the lineup, the group failed to generate much pressure on Rams quarterback Case Keenum. The one time they did get home, the unit couldn’t recover the fumble forced by defensive end Devin Taylor. The run defense was subpar, but credit goes to defensive tackles Tyrunn Walker and Stefan Charles for bursting through the line and making a critical fourth-down stop at the end of the first half. Grade: D

Linebackers

The group was shredded by Keenum as the Rams offense moved the backers out of position with a steady stream of misdirection. Running back Todd Gurley caught four passes and tight end Lance Kendricks chipped in five, including a 15-yard score. Grade: F

Secondary

Detroit’s back end also had no answer for Keenum, who connected with receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick 12 times for 197 yards and two scores. There were multiple missed tackles, leading to unnecessary yards after the catch, plus cornerback Nevin Lawson and safety Glover Quin committed big penalties, helping extend drives.

The group did manage to close strong, with Darius Slay breaking up a third-down pass, forcing the punt that set up the Lions’ game-winning drive. On the Rams’ final possession, safety Rafael Bush sealed the victory with an interception. Grade: D

Special teams

Sam Martin continued his strong campaign, averaging over 50 yards with his net punting once again. Matt Prater only had one field goal attempt, but knocked down the 34-yard game winner. And Andre Roberts gets some credit for making better decisions, taking a knee in the end zone every chance he got. Grade: B+

Coaches

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter devised a strong game plan in the face of key injuries to his unit, while coach Jim Caldwell gets credit for his aggressiveness, twice going for it on fourth down, once in his own territory and again in the red zone. The Lions converted both times and each drive ended in a touchdown.

The defensive game plan was troubling. Keenum is one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks and he picked the Lions apart, threatening the NFL record with 19 straight completions. The performance of opposing quarterbacks this season continues to be the team’s biggest issue. Grade: B-