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Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Pass catchers snatch stellar marks

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Phoenix — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance from the team's 27-27 tie with the Arizona Cardinals. 


In many ways, this was the prototypical Matthew Stafford outing. Big yards, some big completions, paired with some off-target throws and one disasterous throw where the quarterback was bailed out by the defensive back's inability to finish an interception. 

Stafford threw the ball a lot. Too much. But it's what the game flow dictated down the stretch. He completed 27 of those 45 tosses for 385 yards, his most since October 2017. He faced more pressure than you like to see, suffering three sacks, resulting in two fumbles, on which the Cardinals recovered. 

His night ended on a sour note, when he took a meaningless chance at the end of overtime, that if picked, could have allowed the Cardinals to kick a game-winning field goal. Grade: B

More: Niyo: Don't trust the Lions, trust history

Running backs

In reality, the backs probably did what they could with the run lanes provided. There just wasn't much breathing room for Kerryon Johnson and C.J. Anderson. The latter of the backfield tandem even got stuffed on a pair of third-and-short runs, leading to punts. 

The group combined for  six catches, but no big gains. Johnson had a nice blitz pickup that resulted in a big receiving game early in the game, while Anderson drew a holding call.  Grade: C- 

Wide receivers/tight ends

Lions' T.J. Hockenson is upended by Cardinals' D.J. Swearinger Sr. after a long run in the second quarter.

Rookie T.J. Hockenson was outstanding, finding space against the secondary and making several big plays during his record-breaking performance. His blocking was also solid, particularly on a tough assignment across the formation, where he got just enough of the charging defensive end to keep them off Stafford, who connected with Danny Amendola on a long touchdown in the second quarter. 

It was a stellar Lions debut for Amendola, who went over 100 yards with the score, while Kenny Golladay found the end zone and Marvin Jones came up with two clutch grabs in overtime that helped the Lions salvage the tie.  Grade: A-

Offensive line

Stafford faced far too much pressure, including several unblocked rushers. It would be difficult to find a worst performance in Taylor Decker's career. He was beat twice for sacks, got flagged for two holds and committed two false starts deep in Cardinals territory.  Grade: D

Defensive line

The Lions depth at defensive line was apparent with a smooth rotation of the talent. And for three quarters that paid off. The Cardinals had little room in the ground game and quarterback Kyler Murray was flushed from the pocket on several occasions. But that pressure dried up in the fourth quarter, helping fuel the Cardinals' comeback. Grade: B


Devon Kennard, who spends most of his time at the line of scrimmage, showed exceptional closing speed early in the contest, flying to the ball and racking up two sacks and a critical tackle for loss on one of Murray's designed runs deep in the red zone. Rookie Jahlani Tavai also had a stellar debut, recording a sack and a tackle for a loss.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin also got some time, and was solid, except when he lost his footing in coverage, giving up a long touchdown to running back David Johnson. Grade: B+


For the first three quarters, the Cardinals receivers had no room to breathe. Detroit racked up some serious pass breakups, with newcomer Rashaan Melvin fighting through a knee injury to get his hands on three balls. Tracy Walker came up with an interception in the first quarter and Justin Coleman had a breakup in the end zone, forcing a field goal. 

Things came unraveled late as the Cardinals started to rack up big plays downfield. Walker gave up one to Larry Fitzgerald and was also beat by Christian Kirk for the game-tying 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. That only came after Coleman gave up a touchdown to Fitzgerald.  Grade: B

Special teams

It was a wildly up-and-down performance on special teams. Matt Prater was perfect on the day, including an impressive 55-yarder that might have been good from 65. And punter Sam Martin was solid, not allowing any return yards until late in the game, thanks in part to some excellent work by his coverage units, namely Reeves-Maybin. 

On the flip side, Detroit's return game was disastrous.Jamal Agnew couldn't find any room and had a bad muff at the end of the first half, leading to the Cardinals' first points. And Martin's good day was ruined when his blocking betrayed him, resulting in a partially blocked punt in the fourth quarterback that set up the game-winning drive.  Grade: C-


Whatever worked for the Lions defense the first three quarters seemed to be abandoned in favor on a less-aggressive approach while sitting on a lead. That obviously backfired. Offensively, in Darrell Bevell's debut, there was predictably some good and some bad. If anything, the Lions probably didn't do enough to attack Arizona's weakness at cornerback. 

And Lions fans are going to have a tough time forgiving the staff for calling a timeout on a play that looked like it might have gone for a touchdown when running back J.D. McKissic slipped out of the backfield uncovered.  Grade: C-


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers