Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Lot of high marks, except for special teams
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance after Sunday night’s 26-10 win over the New England Patriots.
Overall, Matthew Stafford was sharp. He completed 75 percent of his throws for 262 yards and two touchdowns. His one, glaring mistake was an underthrown ball on the opening possession of the second half, a change of possession the Patriots turned into a touchdown. Tight end Luke Willson had gotten over the top of the secondary, but instead of a big play, it was another unnecessary turnover for Stafford. To his credit, he responded with a long touchdown drive, capped by a well-placed deep scoring strike to Marvin Jones, which quickly stopped the bleeding. Grade: B+
They did it. They really did it. The Lions finally had a back run for 100 yards. Impressively, Kerryon Johnson only needed 16 carries to accomplish the feat, as he sliced and diced through New England’s front seven. LeGarrette Blount chipped in 48 yards of his own, plus two receptions, which kept the Patriots defense honest. Theo Riddick didn’t have any carries, but he contributed a huge third-down catch in the fourth quarter that helped salt the victory. Grade: A
Jones, Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay combined for 16 catches, 191 yards and two touchdowns, all without a dropped pass. Golladay continues to be sharp at all levels, earning him additional trust in the red zone. His extra effort at the end of his route allowed him to get the ball across the goal line for the Lions’ first touchdown. Jones was the recipient of the second, running a flawless route to get open against the Patriots’ Cover-1 defensive look. Grade: A
The blocking on the edges was solid and Willson chipped in a 12-yard, first-down catch as part of this two-reception night. He could have made a bigger dent had Stafford found him when he was open deep in the third quarter. Grade: B
When the backs combine to run for 149 yards on 32 carries, a 4.7 average, the line deserves a ton of credit. It did a nice job opening up inside lanes and sealing defenders inside on both the first and second levels on a couple of the team’s outside runs.
As far as pass-rush pressure, Stafford faced very little. He was hit once, when left tackle Taylor Decker lost his man on a long-developing play-action play. Decker also got hit with a holding call, one of three against the unit on the night. Grade: A-
There were a couple early run lanes, but most of the Patriots' bigger ground gains came around the edges. A’Shawn Robinson got the start and recorded three tackles, while Ricky Jean Francois also had three, including a third-down stop behind the line of scrimmage.
Romeo Okwara, starting in place of Ziggy Ansah, also had a tackle for loss. The post-preseason waiver claim did an outstanding job tracking running back Sony Michel out of the backfield, avoiding a cut block along the way, to make the stop on a pass to the flat. Grade: B
The linebackers continue to be responsible for most the team’s pass-rush pressure. Eli Harold sacked Tom Brady twice, while Devon Kennard and Christian Jones combined for three hits on the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Jarrad Davis played his best game, despite recording just five tackles. He even managed a pass breakup, which unfortunately cost defensive back Quandre Diggs a shot at an interception. Grade: B+
Brady wasn’t sharp at times, and his weapons dropped a handful of passes, but the Lions secondary did a bang-up job limiting the quarterback to 133 yards and a touchdown, a scoring pass that was well-covered by Diggs.
Darius Slay came up with a key interception in the fourth quarter and Glover Quin’s positioning was far more reminiscent of the cerebral talent we're used to seeing in the back end of the defense. The secondary also played a role in a good percentage of the pass-rush pressure that got home on Brady. Grade: A
A continual sore spot for the Lions this season, the unit gave up a lengthy kickoff return to start the game and got hit with penalties on two of Jamal Agnew’s punt returns, negating a longer one. Matt Prater was sharp, making all four of his field-goal attempts, but he wasn’t exactly tested, with a long of 38. Grade: D+
Overall, the Lions had a good game plan that they executed well. Plus, Matt Patricia made good use of his challenge flag, turning an incomplete pass into a touchdown after replay review.
I have two qualms on the night. First, even though it didn’t play into the result, it’s tough to argue against going for it on fourth-and-inches deep in opponent territory, especially when you’re running the ball well, but that’s what Patricia did on the Lions' first drive, settling for a short field goal.
Second, I thought the Lions didn’t run the ball enough in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. Again, it didn’t affect the outcome because the defense continued to hold up its end of the bargain, but the Patriots had little answer for Johnson throughout the night and it’s important to milk the clock as much as possible against such a dangerous opponent. Grade: B+