Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Failing marks across the board on defense

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Oakland, Calif. — Justin Rogers grades the Lions' performance in the team's 31-24 loss to the Raiders.


Matthew Stafford wasn't perfect, but he was good enough to win the Lions this game. For the first time in more than two years, he threw for more than 400 yards, to go with three touchdown passes. He was picked once, on a 50-50 ball in the end zone to Kenny Golladay where he has reason to trust his receiver to win the matchup. 

On the downside, Stafford put his targets unnecessarily in harms way with a few balls. Plus he lost his footing in the pocket, leading to a sack, in the closing moments. Grade: B+

Running backs

The depleted backfield depth chart made some plays against the Raiders, averaging a healthy 4.5 yards on the ground with their 17 carries. Unfortunately, J.D. McKissic, the latest to get the starting nod, couldn't handle an exchange on the opening drive, leading to a costly turnover. He made up for it in the fourth quarter with a game-tying, 26-yard touchdown reception on a smooth corner route coming out of the backfield. Grade: B

Wide receivers/tight ends

Marvin Jones came up with big catch after big catch throughout the early stages of the game, finishing with a team-high eight grabs for 126 yards and a touchdown. Golladay also posted a big stat line, coming down with four receptions for 132 yards, which included a 59-yard score where he made a man miss to get into the end zone. Additionally, he drew a key pass interference penalty that gave the Lions a shot to tie the game late. 

After Stafford was sacked on Detroit's final possession, Logan Thomas hauled in a 13-yard grab to put the offense back at the 1, but he couldn't fight through tight coverage to make a tying catch in the end zone on the next play. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Without Graham Glasgow, the line still managed to create some lanes for the running backs, while largely keeping the Raiders' pass rush at bay. Stafford was sacked twice but one was when he fell. Beyond that, he was hit just one other time. The group does get dinged slightly for a couple holding calls. Grade: B

Defensive line

Outside of Trey Flowers, the defensive front didn't contribute many positives. Flowers continues to trend in the right direction, recording a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit to help end one drive, and later got the first sack on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in the past five games. 

Other than that, Carr felt minimal pressure and Raiders running back Josh Jacobs rushed for 120 of the Raiders' 171 on the ground. Grade: D+


The Lions leaned heavily on their linebacking corps in the game plan and the unit didn't deliver. When they weren't failing to bottle up Jacobs at or near the line, the group was getting beat in coverage, particularly middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, who has yet to show any positive developments since coming back from a preseason ankle injury. Grade: F

Raiders wide receiver Marcell Ateman (88) runs in front of Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) during the second half on Sunday.


Rashaan Melvin gave up two long passes to Tyrell Williams on third down. Justin Coleman struggled to stick with rookie Hunter Renfrow, failing to record a pass breakup for the second time in three weeks. And rookie Will Harris, playing a bigger role with Tracy Walker out with injury, missed multiple tackles and struggled with his various coverage assignments. The Raiders went 7-for-13 on third down and the secondary was a big reason why. Grade: D

Special teams

Matt Prater made his lone field goal, but there isn't a high degree of difficulty to converting from 23 yards out. Sam Martin's two punts were OK, but the coverage was lackluster, allowing one to bounce into the end zone and the second to be returned 16 yards. The team also uncharacteristically allowed a kickoff return to break loose for 31 yards. 

But worst of all, they got beaten badly on a punt fake. Instead of getting the stop, the Lions allowed tight end Derek Carrier to run for 27 yards and a conversion. Grade: D


Week in and week out, Darrell Bevell continues to come up with competent game plans that generate yardage and points.Unfortunately, the defensive game plan remains stale, allowing opponents to match Detroit's offense, punch for punch. 

It was a mixed bag with aggression. Coach Matt Patricia was rewarded with a touchdown for going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2, but punting on fourth-and-10 from the Raiders' 39 in the fourth quarter backfired when the ball bounced into the end zone for a measly 20 yards of field position.

Given Detroit's success on third-and-long situations the past two weeks, it merited going for it here.

There's also no ignoring the troubling final play call. The Lions faked a run, when they have rarely been able to run. That play fake forced Stafford to turn his back to the play, so he was rushed when he found pressure in his face after executing the play fake, and there is little defending Golladay and Jones being off the field in the game's biggest moment. Grade: D+


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers