Detroit Lions grades: Handing out A’s like candy after blowout of Jaguars

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett grades the Detroit Lions after Sunday’s 34-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Matthew Stafford said he did not “feel like I played all that great” Sunday, but he was efficient within a gameplan that called for the Lions to not take risks against an inferior opponent. Stafford completed 19 of 31 passes for 223 yards and used his feet to convert a key third-and-7 on the opening drive, when he rushed for 17 yards. Stafford missed a couple throws, including a deep shot to Marvin Hall early in the second quarter and a third-down pass to Kerryon Johnson just before halftime, but he also threw a dime of a post route to Kenny Golladay and struck for another big play to Golladay when he caught the Jaguars jumping offsides. Stafford did throw his fourth interception of the year, on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, but he played winning football overall. Grade: B

Running backs

D’Andre Swift had a career day with 116 yards rushing on 14 carries and two touchdowns. He ripped off a 54-yard run on his first carry, and probably will catch some flack from teammates for his attempted spin on the play, but there’s not much to dislike about his performance. He did miss a route adjustment when Stafford threw his way on a two-minute drill at the end of the first half, but one 9-yard run in the third quarter, when he showed both vision on a cut back and power running over Josh Jones, encapsulated why the Lions drafted him No. 35 overall. Adrian Peterson had a modest day with 40 yards rushing on 15 carries, but didn’t have much room to work, and fullback Jason Cabinda missed a block on Swift’s first goal line carry. Grade: A-minus

Wide receivers/tight ends

Kenny Golladay (four catches, 105 yards) had his first 100-yard receiving day of the season, but the Lions’ receiving corps had another disappointing day overall. Golladay dropped a pass on the opening series, when he did not finish his route across the middle, and tight end T.J. Hockenson had a second quarter drop on an out-and-up route, when he slowed up briefly which caused him to lunge for the ball. Marvin Jones has become a dirty-work receiver, doing lots of small things that don’t show up in the box score. Jones ran a perfect pick route on Hockenson’s goal line touchdown. Take away Golladay’s 105 yards receiving, though, and the Lions had just 118 yards on their other 15 catches. Grade: C

Offensive line

I didn’t think the Lions were at their best blocking Sunday, despite Swift’s big day, though some of that can be attributed to the rotating cast of linemen on the field. Some of that was due to heat — Tyrell Crosby and Halapoulivaati Vaitai left with hydration issues — and some may have been part of an ill-conceived line rotation. Frank Ragnow, playing through a groin injury, had a great blitz pickup on Stafford’s 36-yard pass to Golladay in the second quarter, and he helped clear the way on Peterson’s 1-yard touchdown run with Crosby and Jonah Jackson. Jackson opened a crease on Swift’s 54-yarder, but the Lions had several penalties up front, too. Oday Aboushi missed a block on his first snap, Joe Dahl had an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty, Ragnow had a hold that wiped out a big run by Swift, Taylor Decker was called for a false start. Grade: B-minus

Defensive line

The Lions had their best pass-rushing day of the season, and they did it with a mix of front-seven pressure and timely blitzes. Trey Flowers had the game’s only sack, knocking the ball loose from Gardner Minshew before he could unleash a pass late in the first half. Romeo Okwara recovered that fumble and beat right tackle Jawaan Taylor for a good pressure that forced an incomplete pass on third-and-5 earlier in the second quarter. Okwara had a couple mistakes, missing a sack when Minshew stepped up in the pocket to covert a third-and-6 and committing an offside penalty in the third quarter. But the line played well, limiting Jacksonville to 44 yards rushing. Grade: A-minus


The linebacking corps deserves equal credit for the Lions’ defensive prowess. Jamie Collins had seven tackles, one quarterback hit and a pass deflection, and Jahlani Tavai had the pressure on Minshew that forced his second quarter interception. Tavai was left grasping at air on Minshew’s 6-yard touchdown run, and Jarrad Davis missed a sack one play after Christian Jones deflected a Minshew pass in the fourth quarter, but the group seemed to be largely in the right spots and sharp with its tackling. Grade: A-minus.

Defensive backs

Jeff Okudah has had a rough start to his NFL career, and he had another learning moment Sunday when he got beat on a double-move by Keelan Cole on the second play of the game. The Jaguars had minimal success passing or running the ball, but they did take advantage of a few coverage busts. Cole snuck behind Tracy Walker for a 51-yard gain; Duron Harmon also missed a tackle on the play. And Walker missed a tackle on a third-and-3 conversion by Laviska Shenault in the first half. Amani Oruwariye had a nice pass breakup, when he ripped a third quarter catch out of D.J. Chark’s hands, and Harmon had his second interception of the season, but Jayron Kearse (late hit) and Darryl Roberts (pass interference) were flagged for penalties. Grade: B-minus 

Special teams

Matt Prater made field goals of 31 and 41 yards but missed his third kick of 50-plus yards this season. At some point, the Lions will have to re-evaluate whether 50-yard tries are worth it. Jack Fox had an off day punting, too. Fox entered the week with an unsustainable 49.9-yard net punting average and had touchbacks on both of his punts Sunday, one despite a great effort by Tony McRae to keep the ball in play. The Jaguars kicked away from Jamal Agnew on kickoffs and punts, and the Lions got decent pressure on Jacksonville’s missed field goal. Grade: C


The Lions played a solid all-around game coming out of the bye, and even if their performance came against one of the worst teams in the league, the coaching staff deserves credit for what D’Andre Swift called the best week of practice of the season. The Lions mixed up the looks they showed Minshew, pressuring him with a number of blitzes early, and they did well to give Swift more time on offense. Darrell Bevell appeared to be trying too hard to get Stafford his first ever touchdown pass against the Jaguars when he called three throws from the 1 late in the game, but I like Matt Patricia’s aggressiveness to try and convert twice on fourth-and-short. Grade: A-minus

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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