Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Receivers, special teams, Jamie Collins shine in triumph

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Glendale, Ariz. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance after their 26-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. 

Quarterback

There’s a lot to like about what Matthew Stafford contributed to the victory. First and foremost, the final stat line is stellar. He completed 22 of his 31 throws for 270 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. And who doesn’t love a game-winning drive, which included the composure to quickly move past a devastating penalty? 

But Stafford did put a couple balls in harm’s way, including an interception that was overturned by a penalty. Additionally, the accuracy still feels a touch off to start the year. The best (or worst) example being a pass he sailed over the head of Jesse James in the end zone.

As Stafford said after the game, the Lions should have scored 40 points. Maybe that’s excessive self-criticism, but the team certainly left points on the field. Grade: B+

Running backs

The Lions leaned heavily on Adrian Peterson, trying to keep the ball away from the Cardinals’ high-octane offense. Peterson had a big run early, but his production was modest his final 21 carries. He finished with 75 yards on the ground. 

Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift had smaller roles for this one, but Johnson had some nice plays away from the ball, including a perfectly executed pick on James’ touchdown catch. I’m not going to knock him for getting blown up by an unblocked defensive tackle for a sack. He should have never been put in that position. Grade: B-

Wide receivers/tight ends

Kenny Golladay appeared to be on a pitch count after returning to action from a hamstring injury, but he made an immediate impact. He led the Lions with six catches, including a touchdown he had to go up high to snag. 

T.J. Hockenson also had another productive day, while drawing a key flag on the game-winning drive. Marvin Hall unfortunately won’t show up on the stat sheet, but his over-the-shoulder grab in the final minutes was incredible, even if it was wiped out by a holding call. Grade: A-

Offensive line

The run game’s production was modest, averaging 3.3 yards per carry and just 2.4 yards per pop after Peterson’s 27-yard romp to open the game. The blocking also allowed six tackles in the backfield, including four sacks.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, making his season debut, struggled with consistency while playing guard. He allowed two of those four sacks and was hit with the hold that erased Hall’s long catch in the fourth quarter. Grade: C-

Defensive line

The Lions didn’t hit Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray a bunch but did a good job of keeping him contained in the pocket for much of the afternoon, while also holding the opposing ground game in check. Grade: B-

Linebackers

This game will be Exhibit A for what the Lions saw in Jamie Collins. The free-agent addition caused one interception by generating pressure with a blitz, then got a little taste for himself by jumping the passing lane on a throw intended for Larry Fitzgerald. 

The rest of the corps contributed in bottling up Murray and running back Kenyan Drake, but Collins was the MVP of the day. Grade: A-

Secondary

Murray was too efficient at times, putting together a pair of flawless touchdown drives where he picked apart Detroit’s secondary. But two interceptions from the defensive backfield should be celebrated because it hasn’t happened in a few years.  

Safety Duron Harmon was gifted one by Collins’ pressure, but he was in good position to make the play. He really should have had a second pick in the second half. Meanwhile, rookie Jeff Okudah struggled at times — which is to be expected when covering DeAndre Hopkins — but the young cornerback’s diving interception was a memorable way to get a first. Grade: B

Special teams

Matt Prater made up for a couple long misses to start the season by going a perfect 4-for-4, including the game-winner from 39 yards out. And Jack Fox was excellent once again, netting better than 50 yards with his punts, despite one bouncing into the end zone for a touchback.

Even Jamal Agnew got in on the action with a key 19-yard punt return that set up the game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter. Grade: A

Coaches

Give credit where credit is due — no one would have been surprised if this roster had rolled over given the way the season started. Instead, they responded to the adversity, both from the previous weeks and within the game.

The defensive game plan was well-executed, forcing the Cardinals into long drives that resulted in critical errors, and the offense did everything it could to give the defense much-needed breathers with an attack focused on controlling the ball and the clock. 

Coordinators Darrell Bevell and Cory Undlin dialed up some good calls, Detroit’s special teams continue to be outstanding and Matt Patricia deserves credit for keeping the entire operation together despite his team’s tumultuous start. Grade: A

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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