Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Offense makes its mark, defense doesn't
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance following the team's 42-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
After a few misfires early in the game, Matthew Stafford settled down and put together a fine performance against one of the league's better defenses, throwing for 364 yards and four touchdowns. He did have an interception in the closing minutes, but the game was essentially out of reach at that point. Grade: B+
Kerryon Johnson exited the game early with a knee injury, leaving Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic to shoulder the load. The tandem didn't get a ton of carries, averaging 3.5 yards per carry on the 15 attempts. They each contributed as pass-catchers, combining for six grabs on seven targets, gaining 59 yards. The performance didn't include much in terms of explosive plays, but they helped move the chains on multiple drives. Grade: B-
Wide receivers/tight ends
Marvin Jones had himself a day, catching four touchdown passes. He did drop one in the end zone but made up for it with a second opportunity a couple snaps later. It was actually Danny Amendola who paced the team in yardage, catching eight balls and topping the century mark for the second time this season. And Marvin Hall continues to be a big-play machine. For the third consecutive game, he had a catch of more than 30 yards, hauling in a difficult 47-yarder. Grade: A-
The Vikings have terrorized the Lions' blocking over the years, but Detroit's offensive line held its own in this one and kept Stafford relatively clean. The opposition recorded two sacks, with the first coming late in the third quarter. You can absolutely live with that. The ground game wasn't great, but it also wasn't awful, so that's an improvement. Grade: B
The run defense continues to be absent. Dalvin Cook gouged Detroit's defense for 142 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. And the pressure continues to be lacking from the pass rush. The team managed three hits on quarterback Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) but not a single sack. That's the fourth time this season the Lions have recorded one sack or none in a game. Grade: F
If the defensive line gets the initial blame for Cook's 142 yards, the second level carries a lot of the culpability for the back's slew of longer gains. The corps combined for 12 stops, with just one coming behind the line. There were no sacks, no quarterback hits and no pass defenses from the trio playing off the ball. Grade: F
Despite the amount of criticism he gets nationally, Cousins has put together plenty of big games during his career, including posting a perfect passer rating two times. He continued his current hot streak against a secondary that allowed him to complete 24 of his 34 throws with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The Lions have had a knack for making plays on the ball this season, but they didn't get their hands on any against the Vikings — zero pass breakups and zero interceptions. The Vikings' pass catchers got plenty of separation throughout the contest, and even when they didn't, the Lions couldn't make a play. They did commit a pair of penalties in the red zone, though, each of which contributed to drives ending in touchdowns. Grade: F
Punter Sam Martin had a good day with a net average of 47 yards. And Matt Prater knocked down his only field-goal attempt. The coverage units had a small breakdown, allowing a 38-yard return to former teammate Ameer Abdullah on a kickoff, but that's hardly back-breaking. The biggest issue was a pair of penalties, including a false start by long snapper Don Muhlbach that pushed the Lions out of field-goal range. It should be noted coach Matt Patricia implied the team didn't intend to attempt it from 56 yards out in that situation and were only trying to get the Vikings to jump offside. Grade: B+
The offensive game plan, on the whole, found weaknesses in Minnesota's defense and exploited those, including in the red zone, where the Lions had been struggling. You have to like the aggressiveness of going for it on fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter, but it's fair to question the play call. McKissic is a fine receiving option, but it didn't look like Stafford had anywhere else to go when the Vikings had that route covered.
As for the defense, the Lions had no solutions, either initially or with any of their attempted adjustments. The Vikings did what they wanted for most of the game, with seven drives of 47 or more yards.
The fact that many of the mistakes were fundamental errors, given the team's emphasis on being fundamentally sound, is damning. Grade: C-