Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Fourth-quarter implosion sinks marks for defense, coaching

Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 27-23 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Quarterback

It wasn’t a standout performance, by any means, but Matthew Stafford was in the midst of an even-keeled, mistake-free outing through the first three quarters. It certainly was good enough to win. But things fell apart in the fourth quarter, fueled by two crucial errors.

First, Stafford took a sack outside the pocket when the Lions were in field goal range. That left Matt Prater to kick an attempt from 55 yards, which he narrowly missed wide right, giving the Bears a short field for quick score. Second, Stafford made an awful throw into coverage, resulting in an interception that was converted to the game-winning score. 

Yeah, Stafford brought the Lions back in the closing seconds and put a ball right on D’Andre Swift that should have won the game, but there wouldn’t have been a need for dramatics if you remove the blunders. Grade: C-

Running backs

In his Lions’ debut, Adrian Peterson was as good, if not better, than advertised. The legendary back racked up 93 yards on the ground, averaging 6.6 yards per attempt. And his three catches put him over 100 yards from scrimmage.

Surprisingly, it was Swift who got the goal-line call at the end of the first half and he pounded it home. It was a good debut for the rookie, who flashed his promise, but the lasting impression will undoubtedly be the drop in the closing seconds. Grade: B

Wide receivers/tight ends

There were a couple drops, but the group missing Kenny Golladay held their own. T.J. Hockenson had his best game since last year’s season-opener and caught all five of his targets, including one touchdown and another one down to the 1-yard line that set up Swift’s plunge. Danny Amendola was also excellent, with a pair of long, drive-extending grabs and a team-high 81 yards. 

Stafford’s favorite target was rookie Quintez Cephus, who only hauled in three of the 10 throws his way. He also missed a key block early in the game, resulting in Peterson getting stuffed on a third-and-1. Grade: B

Offensive line

There was more good than bad in the ground game, with a big chunk of Peterson’s success the result of quality holes. In terms of pass protection, Stafford was only sacked the one time, and, as noted, that’s largely on him for holding on to the ball. 

Tyrell Crosby, making a start in place of the injured Halapoulivaati Vaitai, got dinged for holding and also allowed a third-down pressure early in the game that killed a possession. Grade: B

Defensive line

Chicago averaged 5.3 yards per carry and racked up nearly 150 yards on the ground. And while Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky felt some heat throughout the game, he was only touched by the defensive line one time, when Trey Flowers cleaned up some interior pressure and netted a strip-sack on a third-down play that killed a scoring threat. Grade: D+

Linebackers

Jahlani Tavai and Jarrad Davis paced the group with four tackles, which isn’t enough, and the second level carries plenty of culpability for Chicago chewing up so much yardage on the ground. 

To make matters worse, Jamie Collins got ejected for the rookie mistake of making contact with an official. Yeah, it might not have looked that bad on video, but Collins has to know better than to touch the official when demonstrating his point. Grade: D-

Secondary

The Lions somehow manage to make Trubisky look like a Pro Bowler again and again. And while the Lions defensive backs made some good plays, including multiple pass breakups in the end zone, they got beat for a trio of scores, as well. Grade: C-

Special teams

A 55-yard field goal is never easy, so it’s tough to dock Prater too much for missing there. The other main negative was a 45-yard kickoff return surrendered to Cordarrelle Patterson, who was otherwise kept in check. 

The performance of new punter Jack Fox was a bright spot. He averaged 49.3 yards, put most of his kickoff attempts deep into the back of the end zone and even recorded the tackle on Patterson’s long return. 

Jamal Agnew also deserves some praise for a nice return at the end of the first half, which set up the Lions’ first touchdown. Grade: B+

Coaches

There’s no way to give the coaches anything less than a failing grade after blowing a three-score lead in the fourth quarter. This team continues to have major problems closing out games.

Of all the problematic decisions, Matt Patricia’s decision to kick the 55-yard field goal — as opposed to punt with a 10-point lead and four minutes remaining — is the most questionable. There’s value in being aggressive, but forcing the Bears to drive the length of the field when they struggled to do so all day was the better play. Grade: F

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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