Justin Rogers and John Niyo of The Detroit News break down the Lions' 17-3 victory over the Cardinals, snapping a 25-year drought without a win in the state of Arizona. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Glendale, Ariz. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in their 17-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
It's tough to grade Matthew Stafford in a game where he rarely had anywhere to throw. The Cardinals played outstanding coverage on Detroit's depleted pass-game arsenal, leaving the quarterback to resort to check-down throws much of the night.
Stafford put the ball in the air 23 times, completing 15, for a measly 101 yards. The best part about the performance is he didn't turn the ball over, which played a critical role in grinding out the close victory. Grade: C+
The run lanes weren't consistent, but the backs made the most of what they had to work with throughout the game. Combined with their contributions in the passing game, Detroit's backfield trio combined for nearly three-quarters of the offensive production.
Give Zach Zenner the game ball, coming in late in the game and carrying it seven consecutive plays (not counting a pass interference call) on a game-clinching touchdown drive. Grade: B+
Wide receivers/tight ends
For the second straight week, Levine Toilolo led the charge. But instead of the 90 yards he racked up a week ago, he finished with two grabs for 26. Bruce Ellington led the receivers with four receptions for 17 yards, before exiting with a hamstring injury. The group couldn't get anything going, in terms of separation. Grade: D
Stafford stayed upright most of the day, getting sacked once and absorbing two more hits. There was some other pressure, but a respectable amount given the poor job the receivers were doing getting open and the fact right tackle Rick Wagner left the game in the second quarter.
As noted above, the run lanes were inconsistent but were opened for Zenner when it mattered on the game-sealing drive in the fourth quarter. The group also got flagged for holding three times. Grade: C-
Despite losing Ziggy Ansah and Da'Shawn Hand early, the line did a stellar job against the run, limiting David Johnson to 3.3 yards per carry and netting three tackles behind the line. On the pass-rush, the front four was impactful, recording a pair of sacks and seven hits on quarterback Josh Rosen. Grade: A-
Jarrad Davis was outstanding, playing one of his best games with the Lions. He finished with eight tackles, a sack, another tackle behind the line and a pass breakup. He navigated through traffic well, taking good angles while flying to the ball and finishing. Christian Jones added three stops and a deflection at the line of scrimmage. Grade: A
It doesn't matter if the Cardinals came into the game the league's lowest-scoring offense, you hold them to three points and you did a good job. The Lions eliminated Larry Fitzgerald as an option for Rosen much of the day, holding the future Hall of Famer without a catch until late in the third quarter.
Cornerback Darius Slay delivered a much-needed vintage performance, making a play on three throws, including his game-changing interception he returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter. Grade: A
It was a good day for Sam Martin and the punt coverage unit. He averaged better than 45 yards per boot, while the coverage did a nice job containing the always-dangerous Patrick Peterson, while drawing a couple penalties in the process. Matt Prater converted his only field goal attempt, but the Lions continued to get minimal contributions from their return game, outside of a blocking penalty. Grade: B
I'm empathetic with Jim Bob Cooter's plight at this point in the year, but still, you would expect a few more route concepts capable of generating separation from his patchwork personnel. The offense was stagnant for nearly the entire game, until Zenner got going during the closing stretch.
The defensive game plan and execution proved masterful, especially since the Lions overcame multiple major injuries that required adjustments. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois had an interesting comment in the locker room after the contest about coach Matt Patricia trusting the players more within the system. Maybe the group is truly starting to turn a corner after laboring through the first three-quarters of the year. Grade: B