Justin Rogers' Lions grades: High marks dinged slightly by costly mistakes
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance after the team's 34-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Matthew Stafford came into the game nursing a hip injury, but you wouldn't have known with the way he played. The Lions quarterback had pinpoint accuracy with many of his throws, including some shots downfield early and a laser between four defenders in the end zone that Kenny Golladay caught for a go-ahead score late in the third quarter.
Stafford even ran hard, including a tackle-breaking gallop around the edge in the fourth quarter. The only knock, and it's a big one because of how costly it proved, was his fumble deep in Chiefs' territory. You respect the effort of trying to keep a play alive, but there's a limit, and that mistake cost Detroit three points. Grade: B+
Kerryon Johnson finally found some running room, churning out 125 yards on a career-high 26 carries. The Lions are getting more and more comfortable leaning on him as a workhorse.
J.D. McKissic was effective as the complement, delivering an 11-yard catch and four carries for 30 yards, including a 26-yard romp that finished inside the 5.
But much like Stafford, the grade is docked because of a costly turnover. Johnson, trying to extend the ball across the goal line after McKissic's long carry, lost the handle. The chaotic play saw the Chiefs scoop up the loose ball and return it 100 yards for a touchdown. Grade: B
Wide receivers/tight ends
Stafford did a good job spreading the ball around, with Golladay leading the Lions with nine targets. He was the quarterback's favorite option near the goal line, hauling in two touchdown passes and nearly making an impossible grab for a third, until replay review showed the ball was moving as the receiver landed out of bounds, reversing the ruling on the field.
Marvin Jones chipped in a team-high 77 yards, while Marvin Hall came down with a critical 34-yard catch against tight coverage along the sideline, leading to Golladay's second touchdown, late in the fourth quarter.
Finally, T.J. Hockenson had a touchdown grab before exiting with an injury, making up for an earlier drop. He also worked himself open on the one Golladay couldn't handle in the end zone. As a collective, the tight ends played their part in the big day on the ground. Grade: A-
By far the unit's best game of the year. Yes, Stafford was sacked four times, which is too much, but he also operated from a clean pocket on a significant number of his throws, leading to an efficient performance.
And, for the first time this year, the run lanes were sustained with consistency, particularly on the interior. On the downside, center Frank Ragnow got hit with a pair of penalties, including a false start on 4th-and-1, which led to the Lions settling for a field goal instead of finishing a long drive with a touchdown. Grade: A-
The defensive line got a decent amount of pressure, contributing to one of the least efficient days of Patrick Mahomes' career, but the unit was unable to get home for any sacks and hit the Kansas City passer, just once.
Defensive end Trey Flowers forced one of the team's four fumbles, which was recovered by linemate A'Shawn Robinson, but Flowers also lost his gap on two of Mahomes' scrambles, including a critical fourth-down conversion on the Chiefs' game-winning drive. Grade: B
It was a quiet day for Detroit's linebackers, as the off-ball group combined for just five stops. Some of that had to do with the amount of spy and coverage assignments the group drew. In coverage, Jarrad Davis got beat for a 30-yard reception by running back Darrel Williams, running a wheel route out of the backfield. Grade: C
Against arguably the best passing attack in the NFL, Detroit's secondary, missing Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs, fought tooth and nail to limit the damage of Kansas City's receivers and tight end Travis Kelce. The latter got his, in the form of seven catches for 85 yards, but Watkins was harassed into a pedestrian performance.
Nickel back Justin Coleman was the standout, breaking up a pass for Watkins in the end zone on a third down and later forcing Watkins to fumble, a loose ball Coleman also recovered. Most importantly, the secondary gave up zero touchdowns. Grade: A-
Kicker Matt Prater was perfect, including a 53-yarder he crushed through the uprights. Punter Sam Martin was also decent, especially after a sub-par first effort. He finished with a net average of 42.7 yards on his boots. The return game was nothing special, but the coverage units were very good, forcing a pair of fumbles, one of which was recovered by the Lions. Grade: A-
Detroit's game plan, on both sides of the ball, worked about as well as you could have hoped. The offense moved the ball well throughout the game and it's unfair to put the two red-zone fumbles on the coaching staff. That means the plan put the Lions in position to score 40 point with a balanced attack that took advantage of Kansas City's weaknesses up front and in the secondary.
Defensively, the Lions bent, but managed to hold strong at least a couple times. The unit also continues to get after the football, punching it out twice for fumble recoveries. Matt Patricia did take the blame for the fourth-down play call that resulted in Mahomes scrambling for a first down.
Patricia also oddly challenged the spot early in the game, showing some trepidation about his team's ability to pick up a third-and-1. The call stood, wasting a timeout, while the offense still managed to convert. It arguably also impacted his willingness to challenge calls later in the game. Grade: A-