Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Prater delivers, D-line flunks
Chicago — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday’s 27-24 win over Chicago Bears.
Matthew Stafford made significantly more good plays than bad, and rarely missed his open receivers, including showing nice touch on a deep touchdown down the sidelines to Marvin Jones. On the few throws Stafford did misfire, the Bears weren’t able to capitalize on the mistakes. The quarterback did hold on to it a little long at times, absorbing a handful of unnecessary hits. His ball security issues also returned with a lost fumble on the Lions’ opening possession. Grade: B
The final running numbers were ugly once again, but so was the blocking. Ameer Abdullah caught a touchdown pass, his third straight game with a score, and Theo Riddick was surprisingly effective down the stretch, gaining 25 yards on six second-half carries. He also had a quality carry in the red zone in the first half, spinning past an edge defender to gain four yards against a stacked box, setting up Abdullah’s score. Grade: C+
Marvin Jones paced the Lions with four catches for 85 yards, including the 28-yard touchdown in the first half. TJ Jones was also effective, snagging four balls for 55 yards, twice bailing the Lions out of bad situations. Kenny Golladay delivered the biggest play of the day, a 40-yard grab, but also got hit with an offensive pass interference penalty and dropped an important pass late in the game. Golden Tate was surprisingly quiet, but made the most of his limited opportunities. Grade: B
Eric Ebron came down with four receptions for 49 yards. He had a key catch in the red zone against tight coverage, setting up a touchdown near the end of the first half. He also had a 26-yard gain downfield on Detroit’s game-winning drive when his defender fell down. Grade: B-
The run blocking is still a mess and the pass protection left plenty to be desired with Stafford absorbing seven hits behind the line and forced to scramble three other times. The right side struggled with tackle Rick Wagner having a couple noticeable breakdowns and guard T.J. Lang getting beat for a sack in the red zone. Flags against Lang and Taylor Decker also proved to be drive killers. Grade: D
For the second consecutive game, the Lions had no answer for the opposing ground game. Jordan Howard needed just 15 carries to rack up 125 yards, while Tarik Cohen gained 44 on nine carries, including a 15-yard touchdown where no one set the edge. The pass rush was pathetic, not recording a sack until the closing seconds, when rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky panicked. To make matters worse, defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga got flagged for a low hit on the quarterback during Chicago’s touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter that tied it at 24. Grade: F
There’s second-level culpability with the struggles stopping the run. Tahir Whitehead led the Lions with nine tackles, but was called for a defensive holding in the red zone, giving the Bears an automatic first down on a series that ended in a touchdown. Rookie Jarrad Davis was essentially a non-factor, finishing with four tackles, while Paul Worrilow was beat by tight end Adam Shaheen for a short touchdown. Grade: D
Cornerback Darius Slay was sticky in coverage, as usual, but dropped what could have been a game-ending interception. Safety Tavon Wilson’s day was a mixed bag. He gave up a long completion to Shaheen in man coverage, got chewed up by a blocker on Howard's 12-yard touchdown run, but also made seven stops, including one for an 8-yard loss. Cornerback D.J. Hayden made one of the game’s biggest plays, scooping up a botched snap and returning it 27 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Grade: B-
Jamal Agnew continued to have an impact as a return man, but did put a kickoff and punt on the ground. He recovered both, minimizing the damage, but ball security issues are always a concern. Sam Martin punted well, including one that pinned the Bears inside their 5-yard line. And what more can be said about Matt Prater? Swirling winds, near-freezing temperatures and he calmly knocks down the winning kick from 52 yards. He’s as clutch as they come. Grade: A-
Defensively, for the second consecutive week, the Lions didn’t look prepared. They didn’t throw anything at Trubisky that rattled the rookie. Plus, there was a concerning lack of adjustment to stop the run after last week, although some halftime tweaks did make a difference in the third quarter.
Offensively, the Lions still need to figure out how to run more effectively, but coordinator Jim Bob Cooter schemed up some nice calls to attack the Bears coverage looks. The Abdullah touchdown was a design that worked to perfection and Cooter utilized Agnew well in the mix, first as a decoy to get Golladay open for a big gain, and later on a pitch play that netted a first down. Grade: C-