Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Special teams, secondary, coaching fall below sea level

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Running back LeGarrette Blount was ejected in the fourth quarter.

Santa Clara, Calif. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday's 30-27 loss to the San Francisco 49ers


If you strictly go by the box score, Matthew Stafford’s final stat line looks pretty good. The Lions' passer bounced back from his disastrous four-interception performance last Monday, completing 34 of his 53 throws for 347 yards and three touchdowns.

But it should have been much better. Stafford misfired long on several deep balls, despite his receivers getting open beyond the coverage. He also lost a fumble after he held on to the ball too long and didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to throw it away. That led to 49ers’ field goal, which happened to be the difference in the game. Grade: C-

Running backs

Don’t look now, but the Lions’ running backs averaged 5.1 yards per carry. LeGarrette Blount ran hard, powering through tacklers on multiple occasions before his boneheaded ejection in the fourth quarter for leaving the bench to defend Stafford. Rookie Kerryon Johnson, playing a bigger role in his second game, had a 21-yard romp and finished with 66 yards from scrimmage on eight carries and five catches. Theo Riddick added nine grabs on 12 targets. Grade: B+

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Wide receivers

It was another good game for Kenny Golladay, with 89 yards and a touchdown. He made some tough catches on fastballs from Stafford, including a diving grab in the first half. Golden Tate led the team with 109 yards, largely thanks to a 67-yard catch-and-run that set up a fourth-quarter Marvin Jones’ touchdown. Jones only caught four passes for 54 yards, but regularly got open deep, even though Stafford struggled to connect. Grade: B+

Tight ends

The blocking on the outside was better, and although they weren’t a big part of the passing game, Michael Roberts ran a slick corner route for Detroit’s final touchdown, a 15-yard effort.  Grade: C

Offensive line

The run blocking was much improved. There were lanes, both inside and out, playing a big role in the success of the ground game. Stafford’s pocket was decent. He took a couple hits and was also sacked twice. Rookie guard Frank Ragnow had some issues there, especially in the first half. The group was also hit with three holding calls, including two on consecutive plays, which turned a first-and-10 in the red zone into first-and-30. Grade: B-

Defensive line

The good came in the form of a pass rush. Officially, the defensive linemen didn’t record any of the team’s six sacks, but the unit works collectively to generate heat on the pocket. Rookie Da’Shawn Hand had a productive day, recording five tackles, including a third-down stop in the backfield. 

But Hand's tackle was a rare bright spot for the run defense. For the second straight week, the Lions got burned by a touchdown run longer than 60 yards right up the gut. They have to correct the gap fits. Grade: C+


The group had a great day getting after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, dropping him six times. Devon Kennard and Jarrad Davis each had two, while Eli Harold and Christian Jones, on a delayed blitz, had the remaining. As run defenders, there’s some culpability in the second level, especially for Davis, who continues to be a fraction of a second slow on some of his key reads. Grade: B+


When Garoppolo had time, he was efficient working against Detroit's secondary. The team gave up six passes of 15 yards or more and the struggled with penalties. The holding call on Quandre Diggs that negated a late interception was borderline, at best, but the group was hit with three others in the first half. And Teez Tabor, making his first start of the season, appeared to blow his zone assignment on a first-half touchdown. Grade: D+

Special teams

The Lions got bit by a big return for the second week in a row, a kickoff brought back 101 yards (but was marked at the 26 because of a face mask penalty on the returner). Detroit’s Jamal Agnew had a good day, returning a kickoff 45 yards and a punt 73, but the latter was wiped out by two penalties.

Matt Prater was perfect on his two field goal attempts and Sam Martin was decent punting the ball, managing to the pin the 49ers at their 3 on one effort. But the good on special teams was anchored by the two big blunders. Grade: D+


The defense managed to manufacture a pass rush, even without Ziggy Ansah, but the team still hasn’t figured out its run fits, which is killing the unit’s overall efficiency.

The offense also showed improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, with coordinator Jim Bob Cooter dialing up some good plays that were inconsistently executed.

The team’s attention to detail and discipline (10 penalties for 105 yards) leaves plenty to be desired and Matt Patricia’s clock management at the end of the first half, letting 30 seconds tick off before a punt instead of using one of his three timeouts, was questionable. Lions got a field goal, but were robbed of a couple extra shots in the end zone. Grade: D+