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Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Running backs fail

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

East Rutherford, N.J. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in Sunday’s 17-6 loss to the New York Giants.

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford did what he could given the rainy conditions, his injured finger and leaky pass protection. He was a hair off on some throws, which proved costly. He hung a sure touchdown in the air a little long, leading to a pass breakup, and on his long completion to Golden Tate, it didn’t hit the receiver in stride, leading to Tate getting tackled short of the end zone. Stafford did do a nice job avoiding sacks with good footwork and pocket presence. Grade: B

Running backs

The day started off promising with rookie Dwayne Washington bursting through the line for a 12-yard gain on his first touch. After that, 13 carries, 19 yards. Zach Zenner was a little better with his limited totes, but his lost fumble just short of the goal line was a devastating blow. Grade: F

Wide receivers

Tate had a nice outing thanks to consistent separation, finishing with eight catches for 122 yards. If he had better spatial awareness near the sideline, where he reeled in two just out of bounds, it would have been a monster day. Marvin Jones chipped in three grabs for 41 yards, including one for 21 yards off his shoe top to convert a third down, despite blanket coverage. Grade: B

Tight ends

Eric Ebron caught four passes for 36 yards, including an explosive gain of 21. He also dropped a critical pass on third down, forcing to team to settle for a field goal instead of a potential touchdown. Grade: D

Offensive line

Stafford was sacked once, but he was under pressure more than the box score would lead you to believe. And the run blocking was even worse. The unit either couldn’t open or sustain consistent running lanes for the backs. Grade: D-

Defensive line

Ziggy Ansah finally got a tally in the sack column, and rookie Anthony Zettel got the first of his career as well, but there wasn’t much pass-rush pressure beyond those two plays. The run defense was more concerning. The Giants entered the game as the worst rushing team in football, but churned out yards on the ground from start to finish, finishing with 114. Grade: C-

Linebackers

Tahir Whitehead was flying around, especially early in the game when he came up with two third-down stops to force punts, including a rare tackle behind line for the starting middle linebacker. DeAndre Levy

was limited again as he gets his legs back after a three-month layoff, but he still managed to register eight tackles. Grade: B

Secondary

Nickel corner Asa Jackson had a rough afternoon, getting beat for an early touchdown and giving up a couple third-down conversions on quick throws. He can’t be blamed for Odell Beckham’s touchdown late in the game, though. It was a designed coverage switch, but safety Glover Quin was unexpectedly blocked out of the play. Otherwise, the group played decently, especially with Darius Slay missing most of the game with a hamstring injury. Grade: B-

Special teams

Despite the conditions, Matt Prater made both his field goals and punter Sam Martin finished with quality line despite a couple mishit boots. Return man Andre Roberts didn’t have a big impact, but showed outstanding awareness to touch a kickoff while straddling the sideline, giving the Lions the ball at the 40 to start the second half. Finally, Brandon Copeland got his hand on a punt, giving the offense good field position. He can’t help that they wasted it.

Grade: A-

Coaches

The offense game plan was too conservative and didn’t do an effective job attacking the weaknesses in the Giants defense, especially after cornerback Janoris Jenkins was lost to an injury. The Lions stuck with an ineffective ground game too long and didn’t attack downfield enough after Stafford proved capable of making the throws with the injured finger.

Jim Caldwell made two questionable decisions that hurt the team. First, he didn’t challenge a completion that clearly hit the ground, deeming the four-yard gain not worth trying to overturn. The Giants scored a touchdown on the drive.

Caldwell also opted to punt on fourth-and-6 from the 40 late in the first half. It’s a risk, but given the limited scoring opportunities the Giants defense affords, it seemed worth it.

Grade: D+