I wasn’t impressed with Matthew Stafford this week, and after defending his inconsistent play on Monday Night Football, I’m reconsidering. Too many errant throws against the Niners. No, he didn’t receive much help from the offensive line, but there is no reason he didn’t get rid of that ball before the safety. No interceptions, but only completed 28 of 50 passes. Watching Stafford closely, I noticed he didn’t look off his first receiving option many times in the game, which caused him to try and force the ball in some tight spots.
Running Backs: D
The run game in Detroit is one of the more unimpressive aspects of the team. Jahvid Best has all of this skill, but rarely gets opportunities to shine, in part because Scott Linehan’s offense runs primarily through the shotgun. That being said, I still think he shows potential; he should take a page or two out of Frank Gore’s playbook: lots of straigh-ahead hard-nosed running. Enough of the jukes and stutters, just hit the hole. On a positive note, even though Best was spelled by Maurice Morris because of a concussion, Morris looked solid which is encouraging in case Best is unable to go against Atlanta.
Wide Receivers: B-
Both of the touchdowns (Pettigrew, Burleson) were controversial. Granted, Stafford wasn’t throwing his best stuff, but when the game gets tough, we’ve relied on Calvin to step up. This didn’t happen like it has in the past and there wasn’t anyone else to make up the slack. Credit to Linehan for working Jahvid Best in the pass game, however.
Offensive Line: D
Jeff Backus is one of the most frustrating players to watch. You want to root for him and be proud of his Lions’ tenure, but when he blows it like he did Sunday, it’s tough to put much faith in him. Five sacks is an awful lot against a team that isn’t highlighted by a big name like Jared Allen or DeMarcus Ware. Stafford was not confident in his line, causing him to release too quickly.
Defensive Line: C+
No a particularly impressive game. Vanden Bosch obviously started out hot, but that was about it for the Lions. I can count on one hand the number of times I heard the commentators mention the names “Suh,” “Avril,” and “Fairley” combined. The only real upside, and this is handicapped due to Alex Smith’s ability, was their limitation on the quarterback’s play. He was flushed a few times during pass rush, and only averaged 3.9 yards per completion.
There really isn’t much to comment on aside from Frank Gore’s numbers: 15 carries, 141 yards, 1 touchdown. That’s a 9.4 YPC average for you math guys out there. The only touchdown through the air from Smith to Kendall Hunter could also be pinned on the LB corps as that came not only at the goal line, but at a mid-depth route.
Defensive Backs: A-
Not a lot of highlight plays from this group, but they played solid. They had a total of five pass deflections, so they were playing some great press coverage and using their hands well. Amari Spievey had that interception which helped turn things a little bit for the Lions, but overall it was just good coverage. Michael Crabtree had 15 targets but only 9 receptions for 77 yards. And I’m pretty sure I saw Chris Houston out-spring Frank Gore twice to save open-field touchdowns after the front seven failed to wrap him up.
Special Teams: D+
Tedd Ginn Jr. had some excellent returns, and after two solid games on punt coverage in a row, this unit left their reliability in question yet again. Jason Hanson missed a 52-yard field goal, and although it’s a tough one to make, it’s difficult to remember the last time he’s janked one wide-left…especially in-doors. Punter Ryan Donahue wasn’t on his game either; of his eight punts, his average wasn’t bad at 43.8 per, but he failed to pin one inside the 20 yard line.