Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Stafford, receivers rise to fore in season finale
Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in Sunday’s 35-11 win over Green Bay Packers.
Matthew Stafford misfired on a couple throws to Eric Ebron, but was otherwise on point. Stafford showed good touch on a pair of deep balls to Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, and also connected with Golden Tate wide open in space out of play-action, resulting in a 71-yard score.
There wasn’t much breathing room for the backs, who combined for 49 yards on 21 carries. None of the trio averaged more than 2.5 yards per carry on the afternoon. The group also made only modest contributions in the passing game. The bright spot was Ameer Abdullah’s scoring run in the fourth quarter, a meaningful response to Green Bay’s lone touchdown.
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Golladay, Jones and Tate all found their way into the end zone, each with some individual effort to complete the score. Tate and the rookie ran through tackle attempts from a Green Bay safety, capping their long scoring plays, while Jones won a contested one-on-one ball on a short throw, while adding his fifth gain of 40-plus yards this season earlier in the game.
Ebron wasn’t rewarded for the separation he got on a couple of routes, against a deep zone on one and in the end zone after a good release on a corner route on another. He finished the day with one grab for nine yards. Darren Fells was targeted just once, on a screen, which he translated into 12 yards.
The group did a poor job opening run lanes for the backs, and allowed an above-average amount of pressure, resulting in a pair of sacks, both on third down. Taylor Decker had a holding call in the red zone, but also had an impressive lead block on Abdullah’s touchdown.
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Ziggy Ansah went off, recording three sacks for the second straight week. He essentially had a fourth, forcing an intentional grounding that pinned the Packers at their own 1-yard line. Akeem Spence and A’Shawn Robinson split another sack and the team’s defensive tackles combined for four more hits on quarterback Brett Hundley. The downside was the Packers went over 100 yards rushing, but it took 27 carries to barely eclipse the mark.
Returning to an every-down role, Jarrad Davis paced the Lions with 12 tackles. He was still inconsistent in coverage, but did manage to record a pick, the first of his career, when a pass deflected off a Packers receiver’s hands. Tahir Whitehead chipped in seven stops and also pounced on a fumble in the red zone.
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Glover Quin forced his seventh turnover of the season, punching a ball free from Hundley that was recovered by Whitehead, while Darius Slay all but locked up his spot at the top of the interception leaderboard with a late pick. The secondary did give up a late passing touchdown and 2-point conversion.
Jamal Agnew had another strong day returning punts, although his best effort was negated by a block in the back call. Punter Sam Martin bounced back despite some awkward looking efforts and Matt Prater made every kick he attempted. The worst play from the group was being unprepared for an early onside kick the Packers recovered.
The offensive play-calling played to the Lions’ strength of attacking downfield. There was only a handful of occasions where the team tried to unsuccessfully rely on the run. And you have to love the trick play the Lions ran on a late 2-point conversion, but it begs the question of where that type of creativity was earlier in the year.
Defensively, the Packers were able to move the ball on several occasions, but turnovers limited the damage, making the game plan look better than designed.
Jim Caldwell didn’t have to make many big decisions down the stretch, but his quick challenge of an incomplete pass proved to be a good decision that led to a touchdown.