Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Stafford, offense get their act together
Detroit – Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday’s 38-24 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Matthew Stafford made one egregious error. Attempting to throw a pass into the ground, he put it right into the chest of Cleveland linebacker Jamie Collins. That turnover resulted in seven points. Otherwise, Detroit’s quarterback was sharp, completing 68 percent of his remaining throws for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He showed nice touch on deep passes to Kenny Golladay and Eric Ebron, plus read the defense perfectly, checking into a call that resulted in Golden Tate’s 40-yard touchdown to seal the victory. Grade: B+
When provided an edge, Detroit’s backs exploded for multiple big gains on outside runs, averaging an impressive 5.8 yards per carry against the NFL’s best run defense coming into the game. Theo Riddick chipped in three receptions, including an 8-yard score, while Dwayne Washington made a defender miss to convert a critical third down, extending the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter. Grade: A-
Tate continues to deliver big plays. He snagged a low pass from Stafford for a 35-yard gain, setting up the team’s first touchdown, then weaved through traffic 40 yards for the Lions’ final score. Marvin Jones had a nice 22-yard gain, making multiple Browns miss, but he also dropped a big gain over the middle and picked up a block in the back penalty prior to Stafford’s interception. Kenny Golladay’s role was limited after a five-week absence, but his 50-yard catch down the sideline led to second-half touchdown. Grade: A-
Eric Ebron had a drive-killing hold early in the game, but more than made up for it, tracking a deep pass down the sideline and hauling it in for a 29-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The group’s blocking also helped in the ground game, with most of the team’s yards gained on outside carries. Grade: B+
Stafford was sacked four times, and under pressure another handful of dropbacks, against one of NFL’s worst pass rushes. Of course, the Browns are much better when Myles Garrett is in the lineup. The run blocking, while far from consistent, did enough to lead to some big gains. The group also paved the way, with authority, on Abdullah’s 8-yard touchdown run off left guard. Grade: B-
Three sacks against a rookie quarterback is good, not great, and the line didn’t do a great job preventing DeShone Kizer from escaping the pocket, allowing him to pick up 57 yards with his feet. The front also got blown off the ball too often against the run, allowing Isiaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson to gain 144 yards on 26 carries, much of it right up the gut. Grade: C+
Tahir Whitehead paced the Lions with eight tackles, including one behind the line. He also got a pop in on the quarterback while coming on a blitz. Rookie Jarrad Davis was less effective, tallying just three stops, although one blew up a third-down screen to Johnson and forced a punt. Davis chipped in a pass breakup, but also netted a 19-yard pass interference call. Grade: C
What a weird game for cornerback Nevin Lawson. He started the day getting burned for 38 yards on a deep ball, then blew a tackle that resulted in a 19-yard touchdown, but got redemption with a forced fumble that he recovered and returned 44 yards for a touchdown. On the opposite side, Darius Slay wasn’t his best, but still pretty good. He gave up a couple short throws, drew a pass interference, but sealed the game with his team-leading fourth interception. Tavon Wilson chipped in a sack and Quandre Diggs’ hit on Kizer at the end of the third quarter knocked the quarterback from the game for two series, essentially killing Cleveland’s offensive rhythm. Grade: B
Matt Prater made his only field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, while punter Sam Martin averaged 44.0 yards on his four boots, even after one trickled into the end zone for a touchback. Return man Jamal Agnew continues to breathe life into the team late in games, with a pair of big punt returns, although one was called back because of a penalty on Lawson. Grade: B
Jim Caldwell’s first-quarter challenge of the spot of the ball following a fourth-down conversion was a bad decision and one the coach owned after the game. At least he didn’t try a QB sneak with no timeouts, wasting a scoring opportunity at the end of the half like Cleveland did.
Detroit’s overall performance was troubling at times. Even though no one would admit it, they seemed to take the Browns lightly, and even though the aggression was dialed up on defense, they had trouble rattling Kizer, who came into the game laboring through his rookie campaign.
Offensively, the Lions did good work. There’s little to complain about 31 points from the offense against a good Browns defense. Grade: C-