Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Stafford gets passing mark despite interceptions
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance following the team's 13-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
This might seem like a favorable review of Matthew Stafford's outing, given the two interceptions, but only one was egregious and there were only a handful of mistakes beyond the turnovers. Plus, the giveaways didn't put the defense in a bind because of poor field position.
On the day, Stafford completed 22 of his 30 throws, despite missing his starting left tackle. He made quick and efficient decisions, as well as several tight-window throws.
And with the game on the line, Stafford was at his best, connecting in a tight window to convert a fourth down, putting a good ball on Kenny Golladay for the winning score and commanding a quick snap and third-down conversion in the closing seconds to seal the game. Grade: B+
The production on the ground was modest, but there weren't many lanes for the backs to utilize. The best run came from rookie Ty Johnson, who kept low pad level on a weaving outside carry that gained 17 yards early in the second half.
Kerryon Johnson delivered his biggest plays as a pass-catcher, scoring on a long screen pass after initially bobbling the ball and making three tacklers miss to pick up a first down on the game-winning drive. Grade: B
Wide receivers/tight ends
It was an efficient day for Stafford's top targets. Golladay hauled in eight of the 10 throws his direction for 117 yards and a score. The two incompletions were a throwaway and an interception. The receiver made an effort to bat the errant pass to the ground, but knocked it into the cornerback's chest instead.
Marvin Jones similarly made the most of the throws, catching five of the six Stafford sent his way.
It was a quiet day for the inside options, including the three tight ends, who combined for 32 yards. Jesse James and T.J. Hockenson also committed a penalty each. But James executed perfectly on the game-sealing catch that allowed Stafford to take a knee and run off the remaining clock. Grade: B+
Stafford's pocket wasn't consistently clean, but given Taylor Decker was out of the lineup with a sore back, the unit impressively held the Chargers without a sack and limited them to a single hit on the quarterback. Tyrell Crosby, Decker's replacement, did draw a holding call.
The run blocking was less impressive as the backs averaged 3.4 yards per carry. The team also came up empty on both third-and-short plays. Grade: C+
The defensive line had a couple big moments, including a sack and a hit on third downs leading to punts, but there wasn't enough consistent pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who often worked from a clean pocket.
On the ground, the Chargers averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Even Rivers got into the fun there, weaving through the pass rush for a 12-yard gain up the gut to convert a third-and-7. Grade: D+
Rookie Jahlani Tavai built on his strong debut with an even better game two performance. He delivered one of the game's biggest defensive plays, knocking the ball free from Chargers running back Austin Ekeler as he attempted to leap into the end zone.
Tavai was also solid in coverage, dropping into Rivers' passing lane on the aforementioned third-down plays where the defensive line got to the quarterback. Grade: B+
The defensive backfield bent often, but never really broke against the Chargers. Keenan Allen had plenty of success moving the chains, but when the game was on the line, cornerback Darius Slay came up with the victory-sealing interception in the end zone.
Rashaan Melvin added a pair of pass breakups to offset the long gain he gave up at the end of the first half, setting up a Chargers field goal, while nickel Justin Coleman played tight coverage on a pair of third down incompletions.
Finally, Tavai's fumble doesn't happened if safety Tavon Austin doesn't get a body on Ekeler at the goal line, initially stuffing the touchdown run. Grade: B
Fail. Unequivocal fail. Sure, punter Sam Martin was solid, but kicker Matt Prater cost the Lions four points with a missed extra point and field goal. And return man Jamal Agnew's continued struggles led to his benching.
The biggest problem might be the penalties. A week after struggling with yellow laundry in Arizona, the Lions special teams committed five infractions. Things have to improve in a hurry. Grade: F
Flawless game plan? Nope. Far from it. But the Lions' coaching staff did a lot of good things to help secure this victory. The most pleasant surprise was the calculated aggression of the offense, both with downfield shots throughout the contest, but especially with the decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, setting up the game-winning score, and throwing on third-and-6 with a hurry-up look to keep the ball away from the Chargers at the end.
Defensively, the Lions probably could have used a few more blitz looks to generate pressure, but the way they utilized Tavai in coverage on third downs was clearly a game plan design that effectively flustered Rivers on a handful of third downs.
There will be some criticism of Patricia's use of timeouts at the end of the first half. It didn't end up mattering, but if you try to see it from the coach's standpoint, he was trying to preserve at least one timeout for his offense, to avoid a rushed field goal. Given Prater's struggles to that point, it makes even more sense.
Additionally, the decision to pull Agnew was the right one. Even if it's a one-game thing, he's a young player struggled with mental and physical errors. Pulling the plug early in the game prevented something worse from happening. Grade: B+