Lions activating rookie WR Williams and DE Okwara for Jaguars game

Justin Rogers' Lions grades: O-line, secondary shaky in loss

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
The Lions' Darius Slay reacts after a penalty negates a Lions touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Slay was ruled offsides on his block of a field-goal attempt, which was returned for an apparent TD by Nevin Lawson.

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Thursday’s 30-23 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.


Yes, the pass protection wasn’t great, but Matthew Stafford uncharacteristically missed several throws he normally makes. He overthrew Kenny Golladay on the sidelines and Golden Tate in the middle of the field twice, including a third down in the closing minutes where Tate had come free deep down the seam. Stafford also misfired on a screen pass to Theo Riddick, which looked certain to score. Instead, the Lions settled for a field goal on the drive. Grade: D

Running backs

Stafford took the blame for the botched handoff to Ameer Abdullah. That might just be the quarterback being the consummate teammate. Without knowing who truly deserves the blame, we won’t factor it into either Stafford or the running backs’ grade.The ground game was average with limited touches, which is an improvement, while Riddick and Abdullah combined for four catches totaling 39 yards. Although Abdullah did run a bad route that resulted in an incompletion. Grade: C-

Wide receivers

Kenny Golladay kept the Lions alive with an impressive 40-yard reception against tight coverage at the end of the first half. That ultimately led to a touchdown with Marvin Jones catching the 6-yard score. He also had a second, leaping for an improbable grab between two defenders in the fourth quarter to give the Lions a shot to pull off a comeback. Grade: A-

More: Matthew Stafford eclipses Peyton Manning record

Tight ends

Eric Ebron had a nice day, catching all four of the passes thrown in his direction. Darren Fells, on the other hand, won’t have a happy Thanksgiving. He dropped two passes in the end zone. The Lions settled for field goals on both drives and those eight points would have made the difference. Grade: D+

Offensive line

As noted above, Stafford faced too much pressure, giving up three sacks and four additional hits on throws. Left tackle Taylor Decker, in just his third game since returning from injury, wasn’t sharp while trying to bottle up Everson Griffen, one of the NFL’s better rush ends. Plus, a holding call on Decker negated what would have been a 1st-and-goal inside the 5-yard line. Corey Robinson, who came in after Travis Swanson suffered a knee injury, blew a block that led to Stafford’s fourth-quarter injury. Grade: D

Defensive line

The group got some pressure late, helping fuel the comeback. Anthony Zettel led the way with four hits on the quarterback. Unfortunately, he was also burned by a read-option keeper early in the game that ended in the end zone. The run defense had a major lapse to start the second half, as the Vikings ran it four times for 75 yards and a touchdown, but otherwise did a nice job bottling up Minnesota’s backs.  Grade: B-


Tahir Whitehead was all over the field, tallying 13 tackles, but he couldn’t handle tight end Kyle Rudolph in coverage at the end of the first half, giving up a 22-yard touchdown reception. That came on a play after Whitehead got called for an obvious attempt to delay the game and run the clock. As for rookie Jarrad Davis, he had a rebound performance after a rocky stretch of games, routinely fulfilling his assignments. He finished with seven tackles.  Grade: C+


No interceptions, just one pass defensed and Vikings receiver tandem Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielan combined for 13 receptions, mostly against the cornerbacks and safeties. The group wasn’t sharp on third down and safety Tavon Wilson, before leaving the game with an injury, whiffed on a tackle near the line of scrimmage that resulted in a 46-yard gain by running back Latavius Murray.  Grade: D+

Special teams

Matt Prater was perfect again, including a 50-yard field goal. Punter Sam Martin was strong, and TJ Jones and Tate, filling in for Jamal Agnew, did a nice job returning kicks and punts. Additionally, the team blocked a field goal and an extra point. And yes, Darius Slay was offside on what could have been a game-tying block and return, but the situation called for a desperation effort, and that’s what he gave. Grade: A


The defense embarrassed itself again early in the game, unable to come up with a stop, which played a major role in the early deficit. The offensive game plan was decent, and had some good calls that could have worked had there been better execution. As for not challenging of the spot when the Vikings converted a late third down, when Diggs stretched it past the marker, Jim Caldwell said he was standing right there and had a great view. The Lions were also criticized for not rushing the snap after Fells’ overturned touchdown, but Caldwell said the staff was informed by officials that the touchdown had been confirmed, negating any sense of urgency. That’s a quirky, but an understandable situation.  Grade: D

Twitter: @justin_rogers