Detroit fell to 2-1 with a heartbreaking loss to Atlanta. We also hit on Caldwell's extension and the NFL's anthem protests.
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Lions' performance in Sunday’s 30-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
There were a handful of passes forced into coverage, but Matthew Stafford largely made the most with what he had to work with in the defeat. The one thing that impresses you the most is the ever-improving touch Stafford has been putting on his throws, including perfectly placed balls to Ameer Abdullah, TJ Jones and Golden Tate, each for sizeable gains. Stafford expressed regret that his game-ending throw wasn’t a little higher, so it wouldn’t have forced Tate to go low and get stopped short. Grade: B+
The backs still had to deal with too many defenders in the backfield, but Abdullah had a relatively productive day, gaining 86 yards from scrimmage. He played a key role on the team’s touchdown drive in the third quarter, racking up 30 yards on five touches. Theo Riddick chipped in four receptions for 38 yards. Zach Zenner, in his season debut, was a non-factor, tallying 5 yards with three carries. Grade: B-
The workload was spread out across the group, and for the most part, the receivers made plays on the balls thrown their way. TJ Jones led the way, with his three grabs, on three targets, going for 63 yards. Marvin Jones, facing the stiffest matchup, consistently lined up against Desmond Trufant, started hot, but struggled to get separation on some deep throws as the game progressed. He also plus drew an offensive pass interference call. Grade: B
Eric Ebron had a day he’d like to forget, dropping a pair of passes and seeming to be out of place on two other looks his direction. He finished with two catches for 9 yards, despite being targeted seven times. Darren Fells caught the one pass thrown his way, and was solid as a blocker, as usual, but Ebron’s struggles marred the unit’s afternoon. Grade: F
The makeshift group, which included Zac Kerin making his Lions debut at left guard, got off to a slow start and had some lapses, but ultimately held up well, given the circumstances. Oddly enough, it was the big-money, veteran additions making some of the worst mistakes. T.J. Lang got penalized for unnecessary roughness after a late hit, and Rick Wagner got assessed for an ugly hold (even if he mostly whiffed on his grab) on a screen pass to Ebron, negating a nice gain. Grade: C
After two stellar outings to open the year, the defensive line didn’t get the job done against the Falcons. The unit didn’t generate enough pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan, and fell far short of their top priority, stopping the run. Facing little resistance on the edges, the Falcons racked up 151 yards on the ground. Grade: D
The angles and tackling were poor from a group missing Jarrad Davis, contributing to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman’s big days, 227 combined yards from scrimmage. Coverage was also a problem, showing up early, with Tahir Whitehead getting beat by Freeman in the middle of the field to convert a third-and-16 and set up the team’s first touchdown. Grade: D
Three interceptions, against a guy like Ryan, who doesn’t make many mistakes, is impressive. Glover Quin’s pick-six was the intersection of preparation meeting opportunity, while Darius Slay’s two interceptions were more the result of being in the right place at the right time with two dropped passes deflecting his direction.
The bad plays included a bad pass interference by Nevin Lawson, playing the body not the ball on third down, and a blown angle by Quandre Diggs leading to a 40-yard touchdown on a receiver screen. Grade: B-
Matt Prater was outstanding, making all four of his field goal attempts, including two from 55 yards and beyond. The coverage units had some struggles, though, allowing a 38-yard kickoff and 27-yard punt return and drawing a 15-yard penalty for fair catch interference. Grade: B+
The Lions weren’t working with a full toolbox, and it showed, especially on defense. Teryl Austin has struggled to scheme around injuries in the past, and even the Lions were going up against arguably the NFL’s best offense, it should have been better.
I don’t have an issue with the Lions not having a timeout at the end of the game. They used them to give Stafford enough time to drive the length of the field, and that was successful. Three cracks at the end zone is more than enough. Should the team have run the ball in the closing seconds? Tough to advocate for that given the power running success this season, but the play designs on the three stabs sure didn’t feel like Detroit’s best offerings. Grade: C-