Lions grades: Kenny Golladay shines, special teams stumble
Orchard Park, N.Y. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in their 14-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Matthew Stafford was playing with a bad back, and it showed with each grimace made while pulling himself off the turf, but he managed to keep it together well enough to complete 22-of-29 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. He got away with a couple of interceptable throws and had a big miss downfield on a throw to TJ Jones on a third down, limiting the quarterback's overall effectiveness. Grade: C
It would be far from appropriate to call Detroit's backfield a three-headed monster, but the trio of Zach Zenner, LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick managed to churn out 101 yards with 25 carries. Zenner, getting the unexpected start, was particularly effective, with 45 yards on 10 carries. That output included a second-quarter touchdown plunge from a yard out. Grade: B+
Wide receivers/tight ends
This grade is almost strictly based on Kenny Golladay's Herculean effort. The second-year standout carried the Lions offense with a series of big plays. He saved Stafford from an interception by ripping the ball away from the defensive back who jumped the route and added gains of 20, 31 and 40 yards.
Golladay finished with 146 yards, catching seven of his eight targets. Everyone else combined for 15 catches and 62 yards, including Andy Jones' 4-yard touchdown, the first of his career. Grade: A-
The patchwork group, missing the starting right side, limited the Bills' pass rush to a handful of pressures, four quarterback hits and no sacks. Not bad. The same could be said for the run blocking. The team averaged a respectable 4.0 yards per carry. Grade: B
The Bills ran the ball a lot, but not necessarily effectively. The opposition had 37 carries, but only mustered 3.2 yards per pop. The pass-rush was far from consistent, with quarterback Josh Allen often having plenty of time to survey the scene, but A'Shawn Robinson forcing Allen to fumble in the red zone on fourth down was one of the game's biggest plays. Grade: B+
Jarrad Davis was all over the field making plays from start to finish, but had two costly blunders: first losing Allen on a blitz, leading to a touchdown scramble, and later jumping offside on a third down, helping extend the Bills' game-sealing drive.
Devon Kennard's impact isn't fully shown in the box score, with four tackles and a quarterback hit. He also had generated some good pressure, leading to incompletions. Grade: B
The Lions got hit with a long pass interference penalties on each of the Bills' two touchdown drives, one against rookie Mike Ford and another against Darius Slay. Ford also got beat for a couple of big completions, none more impactful than Robert Foster's 42-yard game-winning touchdown. Nevin Lawson's strong day in coverage lost some of its luster when he couldn't hold on to an interception late in the fourth quarter that would have put the Lions in business to potentially retake the lead. Grade: C-
After a string of strong performances from the special teams groups, Sunday's loss was filled with some critical errors. The team missed an early extra point because of a bad snap, Lawson got flagged for holding, negating a long return, and Matt Prater missed a go-ahead field goal from 48 yards out with six minutes remaining. Grade: F
The defensive game plan was strong, particularly using a spy to bottle up Allen's dangerous ability to make plays with his feet. Offensively, the Lions once again were too conservative, especially with the route designs on some third-down throws.
I liked the challenge on a Foster catch near the sideline, even though it stood after a replay review. It was close enough that it could just have easily been overturned. I found it unusual Matt Patricia didn't challenge a near-interception by Glover Quin, in front of the Lions bench early in the contest. Sure, it was going to be fourth down regardless, but 40 yards of field position matters with these impotent offenses. It was worth trying to get the call on the field overturned. Grade: B-