Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Almost all A's, B's in key road victory
Miami Gardens, Fla. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday’s 32-21 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Matthew Stafford was efficient, completing 18 of his 22 throws for 217 yards. He showed nice touch on deep balls, which helped the Lions dig out of a pair of long-yardage situations after penalties. And both of the quarterback’s touchdown throws were on the money. If there was any downside to the performance, it was a few risky balls he threw into edge defenders sitting on routes, including one nearly intercepted by linebacker Kiko Alonso. Grade: A-
The backs will tell you, life was pretty good on Sunday, with huge running lane after huge running lane, but Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount maximized the holes they were provided. Additionally, each showed some nifty footwork in the open field, making the most of their carries. The duo combined to top 200 yards and needed just 29 carries to do it. Grade: A
Wide receivers/tight ends
Some of the biggest plays in the victory came from tight end Michael Roberts and wide receiver TJ Jones, typically afterthoughts when you talk about Detroit’s passing-game weapons.
Jones fully extended to haul in a 26-yard grab on Detroit’s first possession, setting up Roberts’ 15-yard touchdown. The second-year tight end added a second score late in the third quarter.
Kenny Golladay had a relatively quiet day, with two catches for 37 yards, but did draw a key pass interference late in the contest and also had a 22-yard score erased by a penalty against his offensive line.
Marvin Jones also drew a long pass interference that contributed to points, while Golden Tate chipped in a 30-yard run on an end around and a 22-yard reception on separate scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Grade: A-
As noted above, the line paved the way for the big day on the ground, routinely opening up holes for the backs. They also did an above-average job protecting Stafford, limiting the Dolphins’ rush to two hits and a sack. That sack came on a blown play, what appeared to be an early snap that led to Stafford getting crushed and fumbling the ball. Additionally, Frank Ragnow was called for illegal hands to the face that negated a touchdown pass on a drive where Detroit had to settle for a field goal. Rick Wagner’s chop block knocked the Lions out of the red zone, but didn’t stop the team from scoring a touchdown on the possession. Grade: A-
Ricky Jean Francois turned his game up to 11 in his return home, splitting a double team for an early sack and registering the second two-sack performance of his career. Romeo Okwara, starting in place of Ziggy Ansah once again, also netted a sack that ended the Dolphins’ hopes of getting points at the end of the first half. Grade: B+
Jarrad Davis had one of his best all-around performances for the Lions, particularly in coverage. He gave up some short receptions, but kept everything in front of him and made quick, clean tackles in the open field. He also continued his season-long success as a blitzer, recording his third sack on the campaign. Grade: B+
Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 22 of 31 with six gains of 18 yards or more. The worst was when tight end Mike Gesicki got behind the deep man for 27 yards on 3rd-and-1. It’s also safe to blame the secondary on Kenyan Drake’s 54-yard touchdown run, whether it was Quandre Diggs getting blocked up or Darius Slay taking a bad angle, giving the back his lane. The defensive backs also got flagged for three penalties, with two coming on third down, extending Miami drives. Grade: C-
Matt Prater was excellent, making all four of his field goal attempts, including his first 50-yarder of the year, coming in the closing minutes to seal the win. Sam Martin boomed his only punt 61 yards, and pinned Dolphins return man Jakeem Grant near the sideline, but Martin might have out-kicked his coverage since Grant brought it back 19 yards.
Detroit’s return game didn’t have much of an impact in the first game without Jamal Agnew. Both Tate and TJ Jones did let balls go over their head that the Dolphins were able to down inside the 20. Grade: B+
The Lions’ game plan showed few flaws. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was at his best, scheming to Miami’s weaknesses and taking advantage of the misdirection the successful rushing attack afforded him.
Defensively, giving up the big run remains a concern, but, otherwise, the Lions did a nice job with their open-field tackling, not allowing Miami’s explosive play-makers to do much damage after the catch.
The only questionable decision, which didn’t play into the final result, was Matt Patricia going for two late in the third quarter, with the Lions up 12. Sure, Miami wasn’t moving the ball well, but it’s conceivable an NFL team puts together three scoring drives for 13 points in the final 18 minutes.
You could argue Patricia also made a mistake declining a holding call, giving the Dolphins a 3rd-and-7 instead of second-and-17 before Drake’s scoring run, but given the way Detroit’s defense had been playing, both this game and on the season on third downs, you could consider it a coin-flip call. Grade: A-