Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Dreadful marks for another defensive dud

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 35-29 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.


After throwing two touchdown passes in the first five minutes of the game, Matthew Stafford was uneven the rest of the way. He completed three of his seven throws in the second quarter as Detroit’s 14-point lead quickly evaporated. One of those second-quarter throws was picked, shortly after tight end Jesse James bailed his quarterback out on another interceptable throw. 

Stafford’s body language reflected his disgust down the stretch. He clearly wasn’t good enough against an opponent that was without their top two cornerbacks. Asked about it after the game, he said he was frustrated with himself but it was uncharacteristic behavior for the franchise quarterback. Grade: D

Running backs

Adrian Peterson ran hard and powered his way to his first two touchdowns as a Lion, while rookie D’Andre Swift had a bigger role after barely playing a week ago, netting eight touches for 52 yards and a receiving touchdown. Grade: C+

Wide receivers/tight ends

The aforementioned catch by James was arguably Detroit’s best offensive play of the game, and certainly his best since joining the Lions. Kenny Golladay paced the offense with 62 yards and a score, but he had an early drop and struggled to get separation at times. T.J. Hockenson had his least productive game of the year, but still ended up with a touchdown and 2-point conversion. Grade: B

Offensive line

It was a meh performance from the blocking. The ground game was OK but didn’t really churn out many chuck gains, while Stafford absorbed seven hits and three sacks. Grade: C-

Defensive line

Things started out so promising with nose tackle Danny Shelton deflecting the first pass of the game, resulting in an interception. But after that, Detroit’s defensive front was abused by the Saints offensive line, which paved the way for 164 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

The front four was also a huge part of the problem on third downs, where New Orleans converted 10 of 14 attempts. Grade: F


Jamie Collins and Christian Jones started the game and led the Lions with 16 combined tackles, but just one came from behind the line of scrimmage. After an outstanding performance against the Cardinals a week ago, Collins looked a step slow on many of his reads, including a misstep in zone coverage that resulted in a 19-yard gain in the red zone and set up a Saints touchdown. Grade: D


Drew Brees came into this game leaning on check-down throws, but against the Lions he showed no hesitation finding holes in the deeper portions of the field. The ultra-accurate quarterback completed 76% of his throws, including multiple in key third- and fourth-down situations. Even when the Lions were in position, like Jeff Okudah on a third-down conversion on the game-sealing drive, Brees still found a way to get the ball in there and get it done. Grade: D-

Special teams

Punter Jack Fox has set such a high bar that we take for granted an afternoon where he and the coverage units only had a 46.3 yards net average on his punts. If he did that every week, he’d set the NFL record in the stat category.

Detroit’s kickoff coverage was even better, limiting the Saints to 13.5 yards on the two they brought out of the end zone. Matt Prater didn’t attempt a field goal for the first time since Week 10 of last season. Grade: B


The Lions had a chance to ride a wave of momentum into the bye and looked primed to do so up 14-0 early in the game. But as the Lions have done so many times in the past under Matt Patricia, they couldn’t hold a lead or get a much-needed, late-game stop on defense. Grade: F


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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