Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Prater saves the day again

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford talks with the officials after a play was whistled dead in the fourth quarter.

Detroit – Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday's 16-13 win over Minnesota Vikings.


Matthew Stafford was sharp on the opening possession and a late drive to tie the game, completing 12-of-14, but was inconsistent throughout the middle portion of the contest, missing on a throw to Marvin Jones in the end zone and a deep ball to Andre Roberts. Stafford did enough to get the job done, and also made some nice plays with his feet, but it was far from his best outing. Grade: B

Running backs

The ground game made a dent this week, particularly early. Theo Riddick and rookie Dwayne Washington combined for 64 yards on 14 carries (4.6 avg.) and never got stopped for no gain or a loss of yardage, which is significant. Zach Zenner can’t say the same, getting stopped short of a first down marker on a 4th-and-1 on his lone carry. Grade: B-

WR Marvin Jones - Jones started off hot, leading the NFL in receiving and big plays after five weeks. But down the stretch, he wasn’t a factor more often than not. His career-high six drops were also troubling. GRADE: B-

Wide receivers

The wide receivers had a bounce-back performance, accounting for 94.4 percent of Detroit’s receiving yards in the victory. Golden Tate had a strong day making tacklers miss on his way to a team-leading 77 yards. Anquan Boldin showed up on third down, with three conversions. He also scored the team’s only touchdown, capping a 75-yard drive in the first quarter. Grade: B+

Tight ends

Eric Ebron has been one of the offense’s top weapons in recent weeks, but the Vikings eliminated him in this one, holding him catch-less. Matthew Mulligan appeared to have a bigger role this week and had some strong blocks, contributing to the ground game’s improvement. Grade: C-

Offensive line

Credit the group from improvement in the run game, but Stafford faced far too much pressure. The quarterback was sacked twice and absorbed another six hits behind the line, which was largely on the hogs up front. Grade: C-

Defensive line

The Vikings offensive line was in shambles, but the Lions couldn’t find a way to generate much pressure. The unit had no sacks and only one quarterback hit until late in the fourth quarter. The run defense was also subpar, allowing the Vikings to gain better than five yards per carry. The grade gets a small bump for a pair of pass deflections in the second quarter, including Haloti Ngata knocking one down on fourth down. Grade: D+

Lions' Tahir Whitehead pushes Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, right, out of bounds in the fourth quarter.


This was the best performance we’ve seen from Detroit’s linebackers this season. Tahir Whitehead and Josh Bynes were particularly sharp on third down. The duo also each registered a tackle for a loss.  Grade: B+


All hail cornerback Darius Slay, who lived up to his Big Play moniker with an interception in the closing minutes to set up the game-winning field goal. That made up for some early game mistakes from the group, namely Slay and Nevin Lawson committing third-down penalties to extend the Vikings’ lone touchdown drive. Grade: B+

Lions kicker Matt Prater sends the game winning field goal, held by punter Sam Martin, to beat the Vikings 16-13 at the end of the fourth quarter.

Special teams

What more can be said about the performance of kicker Matt Prater in the clutch. His 48-yarder tied the game inside of two minutes, then he capped the victory with a boot from 39 yards. In his career, he’s never missed in the fourth quarter or overtime when his kick would tie the game or give his team the lead. Additionally, the Lions did a nice job covering kicks and punts, despite top special teams tackler Don Carey being sidelined.  Grade: A-


The offensive game plan fizzled when the line started struggling, but defensively, the Lions held the conservative Vikings in check. Jim Caldwell challenged two plays, getting one overturned, potentially altering a scoring drive. The other, a spot challenge after an aggressive call to go for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield, failed. So often criticized for his conservative decision-making, you have to appreciate the decision to go for it in that situation, even though it didn’t work out. Grade: B