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Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Coaches get an 'F'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Lions’ performance in Sunday’s 20-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.


After three straight duds, quarterback Matthew Stafford returned to form against the Steelers, throwing for a season-high 423 yards in the loss. Stafford showed outstanding accuracy on his deep ball, especially along the sidelines. He didn’t have to use his feet too often, but he did scramble for a first down on a 3rd-and-10 and bounced outside the pocket to successfully extend a few plays.

Where Stafford gets docked is his red-zone performance. He completed just 2-of-11 inside the 20 and checked into a questionable run play on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line on the last possession. Grade: B

Running backs

Ameer Abdullah barely got any breathing room, but still showed a bit of sizzle, shaking a couple defenders on limited touches. Theo Riddick barely played in the first half, but was the focal point of a long scoring drive in the second half, racking up 46 yards on the series. Dwayne Washington was a disappointment in his return to the lineup, struggling to convert on multiple short-yard attempts in the red zone. Grade: C+

More: Wojo: Lack of a backfield brute bites Lions

Wide receivers

Marvin Jones and TJ Jones tallied a number of big plays, racking up a combined 216 yards on 10 catches. And Golden Tate fought through some shoulder pain to add 86 yards on seven grabs. But his fourth-quarter fumble, when he coughed it up without being touched, was a devastating blow that cost the Lions at least three points. Grade: B

Tight ends

In what might have been his final game with the Lions, Eric Ebron caught two passes for 58 yards to get the Lions within striking distance to take the lead in the closing minutes. But Ebron, Darren Fells and Michael Roberts all dropped a pass, with Fells’ mistake coming in the end zone. Grade: D+

Offensive line

There were a few penalties up front, and some pressure allowed up the gut, but the patchwork group, which including Brian Mihalik making his first professional start at left tackle, gave Stafford far better pockets than you might have expected against one of the NFL’s top pass-rushing units. The run blocking left plenty to be desired, as per usual, but we’re not sure you could have asked for a much better overall showing out of the blockers. Grade: C+

Defensive line

The pass-rush could have been better, but despite the lack of sacks, there was some pressure put on Ben Roethlisberger on a handful of third-down plays. Where the unit truly shined was bottling up superstar running back Le’Veon Bell, who mustered a mere 76 yards on 25 carries, his lowest per-attempt average of the season. Grade: B+


The linebackers contributed to shutting down Bell, but were subpar in coverage. Jarrad Davis missed a tackle that allowed JuJu Smith-Schuster convert a third down and the group couldn’t corral Antonio Brown on a short crosser he turned into a 13-yard gain on a 3rd-and-12. Tight end Jesse James also managed to get loose for a 32-yard gain. Grade: B


The good was Glover Quin’s interception and Darius Slay’s coverage on Brown, but Quandre Diggs’ blown assignment on Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard touchdown, and Miles Killebrew’s inability to prevent a 40-yard desperation heave to Brown that set up the Steelers’ other touchdown, were the black eyes on the performance. Had the Steelers not dropped one touchdown pass and Roethlisberger not misfired to an open receiver in the end zone, the final score could have looked far worse. Grade: D+

Special teams

Matt Prater was a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals, keeping the Lions in the game all night. Punter Sam Martin returned and looked like his normal self, but did shank one of his efforts that led to a Steelers field goal early in the third quarter. Return man Jamal Agnew, despite not breaking one, came close twice, making quick reads of his blocking and aggressively reacting on a pair of punts. Grade: B+


Five trips to the red zone, including three trips inside the 5-yard line, and you can’t dial up a single play that gets you into the end zone? That’s bad. The decision to go for it on 4th-and-1, down two, wasn’t a terrible choice, but to run it up the gut, after you’ve shown the inability to do so, led to a deserved result. And instead of trying something different in the same situation down eight, the Lions tucked their tail between their legs, conceded they didn’t have it, and kicked a short field goal. Grade: F