Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Stafford fades after outstanding start
Green Bay, Wis. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in their 23-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Matthew Stafford came out on fire, connecting on a pair of deep balls in Detroit's first two drives, while throwing for a franchise record 168 yards in the opening quarter. He completed eight of his nine throws to hit that mark, then proceeded to go 10-for-23 for 97 yards the rest of the way.
Yes, there were a couple of drops, including one by T.J. Hockenson in the end zone, but Stafford also misfired on several passes in the second half, throws he said in the postgame he'd love to have back. The quarterback is also responsible for a delay of game, which the Lions drew at a terrible time, when facing third-and-goal from the 2. Grade: B-
Detroit's backfield tandem of Kerryon Johnson and J.D. McKissic combined for 38 yards on 16 carries and another 34 on four receptions. That's not exactly an efficient night. The lanes didn't appear to be there often, but there were a handful of occasions when Johnson missed a hole. He also had a crucial drop on a third down late in the game that would have extended a possession into Packers' territory.
The group also struggled in pass protection, especially on a few third-and-long situations when Stafford was sacked despite extra protection from his backs. Grade: D+
Wide receivers/tight ends
Kenny Golladay had a bounce-back night, going off for 121 yards. Half that production came on the first snap of the game. Marvin Hall added a 58-yard grab on his only target, while Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola chipped in a paltry 23 yards on three grabs. The biggest issue for the group, especially down the stretch, was separation.
As for the tight ends, Hockenson had modest contributions in his return from a brutal concussion, but his dropped touchdown early in the game cost the Lions four points. His hands, a selling point as a prospect, and a skill that truly shined throughout his first offseason, have betrayed him early in his rookie season. Grade: C+
Stafford was sacked three times, all on third down. That, combined with the absence of a viable ground game, hurts the overall evaluation of the unit's performance. On the penalty front, Graham Glasgow had a false start, also on third down. Grade: D
The Packers ran for 170 yards. That's a total defensive failure, but it starts up front. Additionally, while schematics certainly play a role, pressure continues to be an issue. Damon Harrison recorded the unit's only sack, with the only other hit on quarterback Aaron Rodgers coming from defensive end Romeo Okwara.
It's tough to dock Trey Flowers too much for a pair of hands to the face calls late in the game, since the infractions were more the result of excellent selling by the Packers offensive tackle. The biggest issue is that Flowers didn't adjust his technique after the first infraction.
On the positive side, A'Shawn Robinson forced a fumble that was recovered by the defense. Grade: C-
It was another up-and-down outing for Jarrad Davis, who made an excellent open-field tackle to help kill a Packers' drive in the second half, and ended a scoring threat with a great blitz up the gut. But he also got too aggressive attacking a gap, playing a big role in a 45-yard run near the end of the first half that led to points. Jahlani Tavai and Christian Jones combined for four stops, but each had some coverage issues. Grade: D+
Detroit's secondary continues to play well. Justin Coleman led the charge with three pass breakups. He also had his first interception with the Lions, snagging a deflected ball at the goal line and returning it 55 yards. Coleman also got beat for a 35-yard touchdown late in the game, despite tight coverage on Packers receiver Allen Lazard. Tracy Walker was assessed a pair of questionable penalties, particularly a helmet-to-helmet hit when he was going for the ball. Grade: B+
Matt Prater was exceptional, making all five of his field goals, including two from 50 yards and beyond. And Sam Martin punted well, with a stellar 48.8-yard net average on his four boots. In coverage, Dee Virgin forced a fumble that was recovered by Tavon Wilson, while the Packers typically started behind the 25-yard line on kickoffs.
But the performance wasn't without flaws. Martin sent one kickoff out of bounds, giving the Packers the ball at the 40 on a drive that ended in a touchdown. The team also had 12 players on the field for a field goal attempt, giving the Packers a free first down they again translated into a touchdown. Grade: B
The offensive game plan to start the game was stellar, pushing the ball downfield on both of the first two possessions, netting 10 quick points. And the coaching emphasis on punching the ball out continues to show up, both in forcing incompletions and generating turnovers.
But when it came to adjustments, the Packers did the better job. The Lions offense went ice cold as it continued to try to ram the ball up the gut on the ground with little success.
The 12-men on the field issue definitely falls on the coaching staff and its communication process. Grade: C