Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Stafford, coaches on point
Green Bay, Wisconsin — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in Monday’s 30-17 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Matthew Stafford was sublimely accurate in the victory over the Packers, putting the ball right where it needed to be all night. Whether it was hanging on for an extra tick against the blitz to give Theo Riddick extra space on a long screen gain, or lofting two touchdown tosses right into Marvin Jones’ wheelhouse, Stafford was on point in the victory. Grade: A
Ameer Abdullah played a critical role in a first-half scoring drive, gaining 33 yards on the first three and final three snaps of the series. His 4-yard touchdown run put the Lions up 14-0. But an old nemesis, ball security, showed up as he fumbled it twice, losing one. Riddick lost 9 yards on four touches in the first half, but closed strong, with a 63-yard screen to set up the Lions’ final touchdown. Grade: C+
Jones, as mentioned, caught two touchdown passes. Neither was an easy grab, but he utilized his tracking ability and body control to get the necessary late separation to finish the plays. Golden Tate also had a monster night, hauling in seven of his nine targets for 113 yards. He narrowly missed another long gain, but was ruled out of bounds along the sideline. TJ Jones chipped in a pair of first down catches. Grade: A
Eric Ebron didn’t drop a ball and came up with a pair of gains of 15 yards or more. He might have had a third had the Packers not perfectly defended a misdirection screen to him early in the third quarter. Darren Fells wasn’t a big factor in the passing game, but hauled in a 10-yard pass on a hurry-up snap designed to prevent the Packers from challenging a second Tate reception made along the sideline. Grade: B
The pass protection was good much of the night, and the lone sack the Lions allowed came on a long-developing flea flicker. A big part of Stafford’s success was the pockets he was provided. The run blocking continues to be below-average, and it was troubling to see the offense not be able to punch it in with three rushing attempts from the 1-yard line. Grade: B
Two of the three sacks came from second-level blitzers, but the front four generated enough pressure to get quarterback Brett Hundley on the move a decent amount, forcing some difficult throws. And while the Packers ran the ball efficiently, red-hot rookie Aaron Jones was shut down, held to 12 yards on five carries. Grade: B+
The linebackers did a nice job protecting the middle of the field, apart from being sliced through by Randall Cobb on a 46-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter. Jarrad Davis paced the Lions with eight tackles and Tahir Whitehead tallied five stops, including two in the backfield. His sack helped derail the Packers’ lengthy drive to open the game. Grade: B
Darius Slay’s coverage was so tight the Packers barely looked his way. He allowed only a pair of short catches, blanketing Jordy Nelson on the outside. Glover Quin came up with a huge fourth-down stop behind the line on a shovel pass, firing downhill from the deep safety spot to make the play. Tavon Wilson had a sack and D.J. Hayden broke up an early third-down pass to force a punt.
About the only bad thing you can point to with the group was a pass interference on Hayden as time expired in the fourth quarter and the game had long been put on ice. Grade: A
The big play was defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson blocking a field goal. It was a low kick, and might have missed anyway, but Robinson made sure of it. Matt Prater missed a 55-yard field goal for the Lions, which he has made feel like a gimmee, but is never an easy kick. The only other knock on the units was an unnecessary holding infraction committed by Nevin Lawson on a fair catch. Grade: B+
The Lions’ changed up quite a bit on offense. They kept what was working, some of the downfield shots in the passing game, but leaned heavily on Abdullah early, including some red zone touches, which resulted in a touchdown. The team also continued to work return man Jamal Agnew into the offense, mixing and matching some calls out of similar looks to keep the Packers off balance.
And while it’s easy to appreciate the effort, maybe burn the flea flicker call until you are blocking the run a bit better.
The Lions opted not to challenge the Tate catch ruled out of bounds, but it didn’t matter since they still scored a touchdown on the drive. Jim Caldwell made up for another borderline call along the sidelines, this one ruled a catch, by having the offense prepared to rush a snap and negate the Packers’ ability to challenge. Grade: B