Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Offensive line, coaches fail NFC North test
Minneapolis — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in Sunday's 24-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
It's difficult to evaluate the quarterback when his offensive line isn't protecting him, and on the plays they do hold up, his weapons aren't winning against the coverage. Matthew Stafford wasn't able to make lemonade with this bowl of rotten lemons, completing 25 passes for 199 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. That alone could be considered an average performance, a "C" outing if you will, but his decision to rifle a pitch to running back Kerryon Johnson when scrambling away from pressure, leading to a fumble and touchdown return, knocks the mark down a bit. Grade: D+
Again, what's this group supposed to do when the the offensive line isn't opening running lanes? Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount spent plenty of time dodging defenders in the backfield, churning out just 45 yards on 17 carries. The group did combine for 11 receptions, but weren't very efficient, gaining 45 yards. Grade: D+
Wide receivers/tight ends
While I don't have an exact count, a handful of Stafford's sacks were the result of no one getting open. Marvin Jones led the group with six catches for 66 yards, Kenny Golladay chipped in 46 yards, and TJ Jones contributed 13 yards and first down. This group missed Golden Tate and it showed. Grade: D
Not all 10 sacks fall on the shoulders of the offensive line, but more than enough were the direct result of poor blocking and inability to diagnose and handle the Vikings' aggressive defensive front. Taylor Decker and Rick Wagner both struggled on the edges and the inside of the line looked confused on multiple occasions. A false-start penalty in the red zone also contributed to settling for a field goal. For a group that has played pretty well to this point, this performance was a disaster. Grade: F
Looking at the big picture, it wasn't a terrible game for Detroit's front. Ziggy Ansah recorded a sack in his return to the lineup and A'Shawn Robinson recovered a fumble. But one play, one terrible play, negates a lot of the positives. For the fifth time this season, the Lions surrendered a long run, a 70-yard gain by Dalvin Cook, which falls directly on blown gap assignments up front. Other than that one carry, the Vikings' backs averaged 2.6 yards per attempt. Grade: C+
It was a weird game for Jarrad Davis, who was a non-factor and finished with a career-low one tackle. Devon Kennard tallied five stops, but his best play came when he pressured quarterback Kirk Cousins into a rushed throw that cornerback Darius Slay intercepted. Christian Jones, who left last week's game with a knee injury, paced Detroit with six tackles. Grade: C-
Slay recorded the interception, just the team's third of the season, but he also gave up some completions to inferior receivers and was bailed out when Aldrick Robinson dropped a deep ball inside the 5. On the opposite side, Teez Tabor and Nevin Lawson continued to struggle, committing three penalties, giving up multiple third-down (and one fourth-down) conversions and a second-quarter touchdown to Adam Thielen. Grade: D
Matt Prater made all three of his field goals, but the long was just 37 yards. Meanwhile, the team committed three more penalties on special teams, including two on returns. Plus, a bad punt by Sam Martin at the end of the first half, led to a 24-yard return, helping the Vikings take on three more points before the break.
The Lions did successfully execute a fake punt, with safety Tavon Wilson taking a direct snap and running for the first down. Grade: D+
The offense was in no way prepared to compensate for the loss of Tate, who was traded away last week. The passing routes were predictable enough that the Vikings were able to take them away most of the game. And Detroit had no answer for the overload blitz looks Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer threw their way.
Defensively, the Lions gave up 17 points, which isn't terrible, but the coaching staff's inability to correct giving up game-altering chunk plays continues to confound. Grade: F