Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Scarbrough solid in debut, defense falls flat again
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in their 35-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
After a sluggish start, Jeff Driskel found a groove in the second half and led the Lions on a pair of touchdown drives. For the second week in a row, he showed some touch on his deep ball, with accurate throws to Marvin Hall, Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay, making two of those three passes while on the move.
Speaking of being on the move, Driskel gained 51 yards on eight runs, most of which were scrambles away from pressure. He proved tough to hit in the pocket and made good decisions on zone-reads, keeping one for a 2-yard touchdown. He does get knocked for throwing one into the ground when he had space to run on a second-down play in the second half. Grade: B
The newest addition to the roster, Bo Scarbrough, provided a nice north-south element in a surprise start. He churned out 55 yards on 14 carries, including a 5-yard touchdown. Additionally, his 23-yarder in the second quarter set up Driskel for his scoring run, using Scarbrough as the decoy on the zone read.
In the passing game, J.D. McKissic did his best with limited opportunities. He hauled in three of his four targets for 40 yards, including a 22-yard gain where he broke multiple tackles. Grade:B+
Wide receivers/tight ends
Marvin Jones had himself a day with two touchdown catches, including one where he eluded multiple tackles to score from 25 yards out. He would have had an even bigger day if a 28-yard catch at the end of the first half wasn't wiped out by guard Kenny Wiggins getting flagged for being an ineligible receiver.
Other than Jones, it was a quiet day from the corps. Golladay hauled in just one of his five targets and continues to struggle to consistently win in contested situations. Amendola had a workmanlike 47 yards that included three first-down grabs.
The tight ends contributed almost nothing in the passing game. Grade: C
There were a handful of nicely blocked runs, including Scarbrough's 23-yarder and Driskel's touchdown run, but as usual with this group, defenders were allowed into the backfield far too often.
Driskel was sacked three times and hit six, but that doesn't begin to explain how many sacks he avoided when his pocket collapsed.
The group also picked up three penalties. Grade: D+
Early on, the Lions got some pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott, and they managed to hold Ezekiel Elliott in check much of the afternoon, limiting him to 2.8 yards per carry. But the pass-rush pressure pretty much evaporated down the stretch, leaving Prescott all day in the pocket to survey the field and convert on critical downs. Grade: C-
Jarrad Davis came up with one of the defense's few big plays, forcing and recovering a fumble that led to a touchdown early in the first quarter. Beyond that, the group was relatively quiet. Davis finished with seven tackles and the corps did contribute to bottling up Elliott, but Dallas also did a nice job creating some pass-game mismatches to take advantage of Detroit's questionable coverage skills at the position. Grade: C-
Outside of a couple Darius Slay pass breakups early in the game, there aren't many good things to say about the performance of Detroit's secondary.
Before exiting with an injury, safety Tracy Walker whiffed on a tackle attempt, allowing running back Tony Pollard to score on a short pass, while cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin were routinely beat in coverage.
Even Slay had a letdown when a rare interceptable ball went through his hands in the second half. Grade: D-
Matt Prater didn't attempt a field goal, but punter Sam Martin was sharp. Getting a boost from his outstanding coverage units, he averaged 44.5 yards net on his six boots and pinned the Cowboys inside their 20-yard line four times.
Return man Jamal Agnew also broke out of a slump with a 32-yard punt return, setting up Detroit's second touchdown. He had a second quality return setting the Lions up near midfield, but it was negated by one of two penalties on rookie C.J. Moore. Grade: B+
First and foremost the defensive game plan and in-game adjustments remain problematic. The Lions have no answers for most opponents, including the Cowboys, who racked up more than 500 yards of offense in the victory.
Offensively, the Lions did what they could with Driskel at the helm and their fifth starting running back in five weeks.
The Lions attempted an aggressive shot at the end of the first half, but it was negated by a penalty. But they bounced back with an impressive touchdown drive to start the second half, incorporating Hall for the first time in three weeks.
The decision to go for two down eight in the fourth quarter will be controversial but makes some sense. Lions coach Matt Patricia wanted to get ahead of the curve, trying to potentially avoid overtime against an offense he didn't think his defense could stop.
Instead of waiting to the closing seconds to try the conversion, he went for it early, leaving a backup opportunity to send the game into overtime when the first attempt ended in failure. Grade: C-