Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Run game only bright spot
Arlington, Texas — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in Monday’s 42-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Matthew Stafford turned it over twice, badly underthrowing an interception and losing a fumble in the red zone when the game was already out of reach. It could have been worse. He had two other passes that were nearly picked. He finished 26-for-46, his second-worst completion percentage of the year. Grade: D+
Zach Zenner ran like a man possessed in the first half, identifying his run lanes and plowing through with conviction, finding the end zone twice. The Lions surprisingly went away from him in the second half, turning to rookie Dwayne Washington, who was less effective and dropped a pass. He was also stuffed on a third-and-goal from the 1. Grade: B+
Golden Tate brought down all six passes thrown his direction for 58 yards. The rest of the group came up with a handful of catches, but there weren’t any explosive gains. Marvin Jones continues to disappear too often. He finished with one grab for 16 yards, despite being targeted seven times. Grade: D+
Eric Ebron led the Lions, setting career highs with eight receptions for 93 yards. He also put two catchable balls on the ground, taking some of the shine off his performance. Grade: C-
The run blocking has been a recurring issue, but the line rose to the occasion, opening some impressive run lanes early in the game. The pass protection was less consistent and really fell apart down the stretch when the Cowboys racked up four sacks in the second half. One of those indirectly led to Stafford’s desperation heave that was intercepted early in the third quarter. Grade: C+
After it allowed two long touchdown drives to start the game, Ezekiel Ansah’s sack helped force a three-and-out on Dallas’ third possession. The athletic defensive end had a nice day on the stat sheet, tallying seven tackles, including two behind the line, but the rest of the front couldn’t muster a single hit on Dallas QB Dak Prescott. Grade: D
The tackle numbers for the group were down and Tahir Whitehead appeared to be out of his gap on Ezekiel Elliott’s 55-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter. The linebackers didn’t generate any negative plays and share a significant part of the blame for the Cowboys averaging 5.5 yards on the ground. Grade: D
The unit badly missed Darius Slay on the outside. Cornerbacks Nevin Lawson and Johnson Bademosi were abused by Dez Bryant, who caught two long touchdown passes against man coverage and drew a pass interference setting up a third score. Prescott had his way, completing 75 percent of his passes in the win. Grade: F
Matt Prater had made 19 consecutive field goals, but missed his lone attempt against the Cowboys, sending a 47-yard effort wide left. Punter Sam Martin did an adequate job, despite fighting through a minor leg injury, while return man Andre Roberts took advantage of limited opportunities, bringing a kickoff back 42 yards and a punt 23. Grade: C
The Cowboys defense had no answer for the Lions’ initial offensive attack, centered around an efficient run game and no-huddle pacing. But the team abandoned what was working in the second half, in part due to undisciplined penalties.
The defensive plan was rough from start to finish. The Cowboys did whatever they wanted much of the game, whether it was running the ball with Elliott, attacking the edges out of play-action or working the ball to Bryant deep against man coverage.