Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Defense battled, offense rattled
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance from Sunday's 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
With all due respect to the hand he's being dealt at this stage in the season, Matthew Stafford's own errors are playing a role in the offense's struggles. Forget the interception in the closing seconds when the game was essentially decided. The quarterback's inability to hold on to the ball, coughing up an game-altering fumble in the fourth quarter, was the most damaging play of the afternoon. Stafford missed a couple other throws, including short-arming a double-pass, trick play and firing wide on a third-down throw to Bruce Ellington. Grade: D
LeGarrette Blount ran hard and had some chunk gains, but too often on Sunday he showed a disappointing lack of vision, running directly into the back of one of his blockers. Theo Riddick was better but had fewer meaningful touches. He was also limited to just three catches, although two resulted in first downs. Grade: D+
Wide receivers/tight ends
Levine Toilolo came out of nowhere as a field-stretcher in the middle of the field. He caught two long passes and finished the day with a career-high 90 yards. Kenny Golladay chipped in three grabs for 50 yards and also drew a long pass interference call. TJ Jones had one catch for 25 yards, but that was overshadowed by his blatant push-off that cost the Lions a touchdown. Grade: C
Not that it was unexpected, but Detroit's interior had no answer for Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who finished the day with a pair of sacks and a couple more tackles for loss. For the day, the Rams tackled the Lions behind the line nine times, while hitting Stafford on 11 snaps.
The front did get an occasional push in the ground game, but it certainly wasn't consistent. Still, there's no way we can fail a group when left tackle Taylor Decker perfectly executed a trick play, catching an 11-yard touchdown in the second half. Grade: D
Detroit's run defense fell apart late in the fourth quarter, but while the game was close, Damon Harrison and A'Shawn Robinson were making life rough for the Rams' ground game. Harrison also came up with a huge strip sack and recovery in the third quarter, ending a scoring threat. Romeo Okwara chipped in two batted passes, one of which he should have intercepted. Grade: B+
Before he went out with a hip injury, Devon Kennard was a menace as a pass-rusher, generating pressure on three snaps in the first half that resulted in a trio of incompletions. Eli Harold did an admirable job filling in during the second half, recording a third-down sack and batting a pass down at the line.
In the second level, Jarrad Davis tallied five tackles and a QB hit, but also took a bad angle on one Todd Gurley run and missed the tackle. Grade: B
Quandre Diggs was all over the place, delivering big hits in the secondary and coming up with his second interception of the season by tracking an errant deep pass across the field like a Gold Glove center fielder. The rest of the secondary had a rough day, with Darius Slay giving up multiple receptions, including Robert Woods' touchdown in the first half. Grade: C+
Matt Prater was perfect, although he wasn't tested. His longest field goal came from 35 yards out. The punt team did an excellent job, with Sam Martin booming the ball all afternoon and the coverage units minimizing returns.
The overall performance is docked because of Martin's badly botched execution of a surprise onside kick in the third quarter, which didn't go the necessary 10 yards. Grade: B
From a talent perspective, the Lions are completely outclassed by the Rams, but the game plan was good enough to make it a close game late and give Detroit the opportunity to pull out the upset.
On offense, the Lions tried to control the tempo of the ground to varying degrees of success. And when the short-handed passing attack wasn't cutting it, coordinator Jim Bob Cooter got creative with a number of unique calls on a touchdown series. It was a shame he couldn't do more of that throughout the contest. Once again, red-zone woes plagued the offense. The team scored just one touchdown on five trips inside the 20.
Some will criticize Detroit's first onside kick, but I liked the call. You have to be bold to pull off that kind of upset, and the setup was right. You have to trust Martin to execute there and he didn't. The second onside kick, with three minutes remaining and three timeouts, didn't show enough faith in a defense that gave you a chance to win. Grade: B-