Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Plenty of As to go around
Minneapolis — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in Sunday’s 14-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
It feels weird to kill Matthew Stafford after a win, especially in a game where he faced so much pressure, but let’s be reasonable, he wasn’t sharp. He had a few passes he forced into coverage that easily could have resulted in interceptions. He just got lucky the Vikings dropped them. And his fumble late in the third quarter, when he tried to double-clutch, could have been devastating had running back Zach Zenner not jumped on the loose ball. Grade: D+
This was was the best we’ve seen Ameer Abdullah. He had a big gainer on an outside run, which is always nice, but he did a lot of damage between the tackles against one of the NFL’s best run defenses. His touchdown run was a work of art, making something out of nothing, capped by the wherewithal to extend the ball across the goal line before his knee hit the ground. Unfortunately, a late-game injury robbed him of his first 100-yard game. Grade: A-
The receivers were the third option in the offense, and their impact was further limited by Minnesota’s effectiveness getting to Stafford. Marvin Jones made a twisting, leaping grab on a deep ball down the sideline to convert a 3rd-and-17, and TJ Jones showed excellent concentration on a pass into a tight window to help set up a field goal. Jones also ran a precise route to convert a 2-point conversion. Grade: B
Darren Fells was the team’s best offensive weapon in the first half, catching four passes for 40 yards, while Eric Ebron chipped in a pair of first-down grabs by picking up some nice yards after the catch. Even rookie Michael Roberts got in on the action, snagging a 15-yard reception in the red zone that set up a Lions touchdown. The tight ends also get some of the credit for Abdullah’s big day, with the team running plenty of two-tight-end sets to help overpower Minnesota up front. Grade: A-
The pass protection was lousy with Stafford suffering six sacks and quite a bit more pressure. Graded only on that, you could argue a failing grade. But the run blocking, against a Vikings defense that had been stingy to start the season, was a significant factor in the victory. Grade: C-
It’s time to recognize Anthony Zettel is the real deal. He’s been a consistent factor all four games and recorded two sacks and two more hits in this one, bringing down Vikings quarterback Case Keenum for a 11-yard loss in the red zone on a critical third down late in the fourth quarter. The unit held the Vikings under 100 yards rushing, but wasn't winning up front before Dalvin Cook’s third-quarter injury. Grade: B+
Jarrad Davis didn’t play, and Paul Worrilow went out early, but this patchwork group held it together. It certainly wasn’t perfect, and Tahir Whitehead got beat in coverage twice by tight end Kyle Rudolph in the closing minutes, but the unit tackled well and Whitehead pounced on two fumbles. Grade: B
Minnesota’s big-play threats Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen got loose for a handful of chunk plays, but the defensive backs won the overall battle. Darius Slay and Miles Killebrew, despite a dropped interception, stood out in coverage, and the entire group was active in run support. Glover Quin’s forced fumble to seal the win was a perfectly executed punch out. Grade: A-
Matt Prater couldn’t convert from 59 yards out at the end of the first half, but he knocked down his other two attempts. Punter Jeff Locke, in his return to Minnesota, did a stellar job with a net punting average of 44.1, pinning the Vikings deep multiple times without a touchback. The coverage units were missing Don Carey, and it showed at times, but even though the Vikings nearly broke a couple returns, someone always managed to step up with a saving tackle. Grade: B+
The Lions came into Minnesota with a plan to grind it out against the Vikings and worked the plan to perfection. The offense controlled the pace on the ground and with its tight ends in the passing game, and the defense didn’t allow any backbreaking big plays.
And while it’s reasonable to think the Lions could have gained a yard on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Jim Caldwell made the right decision to challenge the spot, resulting in a touchdown. Grade: A-