Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: O-line, coaches fall flat
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Matthew Stafford padded his stats in the fourth quarter. Taking advantage of soft coverage, he found open receivers underneath and let them pick up yards after the catch. There’s no question he took a beating through the second half, but even when he had time early in the game, the throws weren’t precise. He rightfully shouldered blame for those blunders after the game. Grade: D+
There wasn’t a lot of opportunity, but the group did an OK job with what they had to work with. Zach Zenner got the job done on two of three short-yardage opportunities, including a touchdown run in the second quarter. Theo Riddick also reasserted himself as one of the game’s most-elusive options out of the backfield with a 21-yard reception where he made two tacklers miss, including star linebacker Luke Kuechly. Grade: B
Golden Tate dropped a tough, but catchable pass on a third down early in the game, but the Lions receivers were otherwise efficient. Marvin Jones paced the team with six receptions for workmanlike 54 yards on eight targets and TJ Jones and Jared Abbrederis combined for four grabs, while the former also drew a pass interference in the end zone, setting up the Lions first touchdown. Grade: B
Darren Fells caught two passes, both for touchdowns, in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t the tightest coverage, but he found space and made the plays. He also admitted to blowing the block on a 4th-and-1 that got stuffed earlier in the quarter. As for Eric Ebron, the former first-rounder is mired in a slump right now and his two drops, including one in the end zone, drew loud boos from the home crowd. Grade: D
As mentioned, Stafford took a beating. For the second week in a row, he was sacked at least six times. That’s far beyond the parameters of acceptable. Additionally, the group’s run blocking started off strong, with a 16-yarder for Abdullah, then dried up. Four of the back’s remaining nine carries lost yardage. Throw in a pair of holding penalties and you complete the putrid performance from the line. Grade: F
The Lions did a great job with their primary goal of stopping the run, but when it came to pressuring the passer, the front four fell flat. Ziggy Ansah and Haloti Ngata had sacks, but those were the only two times the line put a hand on Cam Newton. Grade: C-
Jarrad Davis brought some intensity in his return to the lineup, making eight tackles, including a pair behind the line, while breaking up a pass. Still, the rookie is leaving too many plays on the field by missing tackles due to subpar angles. Grade: C-
Safety Tavon Wilson had 10 tackles, including three for a loss, but badly blew one in the first quarter, letting tight end Ed Dickson break free for a 64-yard gain. On third down, the Lions defensive backs weren’t good enough. Darius Slay lost his man in the end zone, giving up a touchdown. He was beat for a second when Kelvin Benjamin ran by him for a 31-yard score on a deep pass down the sideline. And with the game on the line, the Lions let Benjamin beat them on a post to convert a 3rd-and-9. Grade: D
Matt Prater made his only field-goal attempt, a chip shot from 30 yards, Jeff Locke’s punting was subpar and the return game didn’t offer much in limited opportunities. The Lions’ special teams simply weren’t a factor in this game. Grade: D+
Stafford refused to criticize the game plan, but the offensive play-calling lacked creativity and risk. The Lions tried to dink and dunk their way to victory from the start, but when the defensive plan focused on stopping the run opened the door for gouging passes up the middle, everything came undone.
Down big in the second half, the Panthers teed off on Stafford and now the quarterback is banged up heading into next week’s matchup against the Saints. There has to be a better way to scheme up some protection for Stafford after watching the quarterback get crushed two weeks in a row. Grade: F