Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Receivers grab spotlight; more problems for OL
Philadelphia — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance after the team's 27-24 victory over the Eagles.
Matthew Stafford was good enough. His stat line was far from impressive, with a mere 18 completions for 201 yards — and several of those throws were off-target — but he came through with an important series in the second half, competing four passes for 71 yards, including a touchdown to Marvin Jones.
Stafford also played a role in Detroit's zero-sack performance, having a good feel for the blitz and dodging a couple rushers in the backfield with good movement within the pocket. Grade: B
Kerryon Johnson barely had room to breath, routinely forced to dodge a defender in the backfield on his 20 carries. J.D. McKissic needed just one carry, a 44-yard reverse in the second quarter, to lead the team in rushing. Johnson did find the end zone, on the leap over the line, and was solid in pass protection, making up for his lack of efficiency on the ground. Grade: C-
Wide receivers/tight ends
Stafford made his receivers work with several throws at the far end of their catch radii, but the group delivered. Kenny Golladay hauled in a contested catch on third down to extend an early touchdown drive, Marvin Jones brought in a couple full-extension grabs, including a touchdown in the second half, while Danny Amendola showed off toe-tapping ability to convert a third-and-11 and kill valuable clock in the fourth quarter.
The performance of the tight ends could have been better. Rookie T.J. Hockenson ran out of bounds prior to a catch in the end zone, negating the touchdown, and had another scoring strike ripped out of his hands. Grade: B
Outside of a couple communication errors, the pass protection for Stafford was excellent. He worked from many clean pockets and wasn't sacked for the second consecutive game.
As for the run blocking, it continues to be a major issue. Yes, the Eagles are really good at stopping the run, but the fact that the backs were regularly having to duck and dodge tacklers in the backfield is worrisome. Grade: C+
For three quarters, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz barely felt any heat in the pocket. Detroit's rush got home a bit more in the second half, including a pair of sacks. Still, you'd like to see some more consistency from the group. The same goes for run defense, where the Eagles managed 127 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Grade: C-
The linebackers also played a part in the Eagles' success on the ground, but the group also struggled in coverage, whether it was covering the running backs or tight ends. It could have been worse, but Christian Jones was bailed out when Dallas Goedert dropped a touchdown. Grade: C-
Wentz wasn't terribly effective, either, completing 19 of his 36 throws. Nickelback Justin Coleman had a productive day, breaking up three passes, while Detroit's secondary managed to draw four offensive pass interference calls.
There were some sloppy plays, as well, including Darius Slay biting on a shoulder fake and allowing rookie running back Miles Sanders to get behind him for a 40-yard gain. It was also another disappointing tackling performance from hard-hitting safety Quandre Diggs. He whiffed three times, with one miss resulting in a short reception turning into a 20-yard touchdown. Grade: B
There was a lot to like about Detroit's special teams after a tough start to the year. Return man Jamal Agnew broke out of his slump in a big way, returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and nearly breaking through on a punt, as well, going 24 yards before he was dumped by the Eagles punter.
Collectively, the group committed just one penalty, although you can easily argue they got away with a couple more, including an egregious face mask by Miles Killebrew.
The knock on the group, and it was a big blunder, was allowing Matt Prater's final field-goal attempt to be blocked. Tight end Logan Thomas took the outside man on the rush, allowing Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins to come through free and get a hand on the kick. Had the defense not stepped up late, that could have proved costly. Grade: B-
Detroit's offensive game plan was solid, but was held back by the ineffectiveness of the run blocking. Coordinator Darrell Bevell dialed up some excellent calls at the right times, including the reverse run by McKissic and the touchdown pass to Jones.
Defensively, the Lions played it conservatively, as usual, although the offseason emphasis on stripping the ball continues to show up with both Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers punching a ball free.
Matt Patricia challenged a non-call for pass interference and lost. The idea made sense, since Amendola was impeded from getting back to the ball, but it wasn't enough evidence to result in the call on the field being overturned.
And, as we often highlight, the Lions got a little too conservative down the stretch. Up 10 points with 13 minutes to go, the offense opened a drive just across midfield. Instead of going for the kill, they ran it twice for no gain and ultimately punted it away after failing to convert on third down. Grade: B