After each Detroit Lions game this season, I’ll give each unit a grade and some thoughts about their performance.
On paper, Matthew Stafford didn’t play his best statistical game, passing for 248 yards and completing just 58% of his passes. Drops by receivers plagued him today though, and he played better than those numbers would lead you to believe. SLR’s Dean Holden said it best.
He did throw one interception, and though it was tipped, he did force the ball into pretty good coverage. Overall, this was one of my favorite Stafford performances. Four touchdown passes isn’t too shabby, either.
Running Backs: B-
After an ugly first half, Detroit’s running backs made up for it with a solid second half performance. Reggie Bush caught 5 passes (including a beautiful middle screen for a touchdown) all in the second half while rushing for 78 yards on 17 carries. Joique Bell played well in short yardage situations before leaving with injury. We even got to see Mikel Leshoure carry the ball twice today.
Wide Receivers: C-
I’ve never been a huge fan of Kris Durham, but he played well today. In fact, I’d call Kris Durham a serviceable NFL wideout, finishing the day with 8 catches. The rest of the receiving corps finished with 4 receptions on 15 targets. Dropped balls plagued this group today, and Calvin Johnson is not himself. Frankly, this group just was not good today.
Tight Ends: A
Brandon Pettigrew had four receptions on four targets. Joe Fauria had three catches on three targets, all of which were touchdowns. In a game where the wide receivers were poor, these two stepped up. Need I say more?
Offensive Line: B
A solid B here after a dismal performance last week in Green Bay. Stafford consistently had time to find receivers and was only sacked once. I was especially impressed with the blocking on a couple of screens the Lions ran. No holding penalties and just one false start are a marked improvement.
Defensive Line: C+
I probably grade this group harder than the others, but with the talent on this front four, much is expected. They sacked Brandon Weeden twice, and quarterback pressures forced two interceptions. They also caused an intentional grounding penalty. Not a bad day, right? Two things bring this grade down: poor run defense (especially in the first half), and multiple encroachment penalties. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing that happen numerous times.
Man, was this group underrated entering the season or what? DeAndre Levy continues to impress, picking off Weeden twice and leading the Lions defense in tackles. I can’t say enough about what his elevated play has done for this defense.
I did not come away impressed with the Lions secondary today. Brandon Weeden continually found big holes in coverage and burned the Lions on some big plays. Granted, Weeden often had time in the pocket to find said holes. Chris Houston still looks a step slow following a hamstring injury, and Darius Slay still looks like a rookie out there. Cleveland’s first touchdown looks to be a missed assignment by Delmas, though it is hard to tell. I still believe the future is bright here with guys like Slay and Bentley, but today left something to be desired.
Special Teams: A-
I thought this might be the week we’d see Steven Miller returning kicks and punts, with Theo Riddick out. Michael Spurlock hasn’t impressed me, save one punt return, and I think his days may be numbered with Miller on the practice squad. Outside of the return game, this group was an “A” performance. Sam Martin again punted the ball well, downing the Browns inside their 20 three times. The punt coverage teams always played extremely well. David Akers made his only field goal attempt from 51 yards.
Detroit played the first half looking, for lack of a better term, unprepared. I give this staff credit though, because the halftime adjustments made were phenomenal. The defense shut out Cleveland in the second half and the offense was able to consistently move the ball downfield. Even with Calvin Johnson not himself, they were able to find ways to create space against a very good defense. Kudos to the staff on some great in-game adjustments.