Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Matthew Stafford sloppy, defense wears out vs. Colts

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 41-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. 


Matthew Stafford misfired on a couple throws early, which contributed to killing some of those first-half drives that put the Lions in a hole early. But it was the quarterback’s turnovers on back-to-back second-half drives that hammered the coffin shut.  

First, Stafford coughed up a fumble trying to evade the pass rush. The Colts recovered that loose ball and turned it into a lead-expanding touchdown early in the fourth quarter. And on the ensuing possession, Stafford didn’t see the nickel corner, leading to a pick-6. 

The only thing keeping this from a failing mark were two pretty touchdown throws to Jones, but maybe we’re being generous. Grade: D-

Running backs

Maybe when I go back over the film I’ll be forced to revise the immediate reaction, but it’s tough to see anything positive about eight yards on 11 carries combined for the backs. A lot of that undoubtedly falls on the offensive line, which wasn’t opening lanes, but it also means the backs weren’t creating anything on their own. 

And outside of Kerryon Johnson’s short touchdown grab, the group didn’t add much in the pass game, either. Even Johnson lost his footing on a third-down screen, surrendering a potential big gain. Grade: F

Wide receivers/tight ends

Marvin Jones caught a pair of touchdowns and Marvin Hall was productive with an increased workload following Kenny Golladay’s first-half injury. T.J. Hockenson led the Lions with seven catches, but four came against soft coverage on the final drive of the first half. Grade: C-

More: Marvin Jones status has shades of Golden Tate as trade deadline nears for Lions

Offensive line

What an awful performance for a group that had been playing much better this season. The front had no answer for DeForest Buckner, who got penetration early and often. Indianapolis finished with eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including five sacks. Grade: F

Defensive line

Detroit’s defensive line was playing well early in the game, before fatigue caused by an ineffective offense set in. That’s when the Colts started finding space in the ground game, where they finished with 70 yards in the second half.

Romeo Okwara added another sack and remains on track for a double-digit season. Danny Shelton also had a sack, but he held on to long, slamming quarterback Philip Rivers to the ground. That drew an unnecessary roughness penalty that extended a drive that ultimately ended in a touchdown. Grade: C-

More: Unnecessary roughness penalty begins Lions’ descent to doom


Jamie Collins was all over the field in the first half. On one series he had a tackle for a loss, a blitz pressure that resulted an incompletion and he recovered a blocked punt. He finished with a team-high 10 spots, but got little support from the rest of his room.

Jahlani Tavai looked slow and regularly out of position, while Jarrad Davis, Christian Jones and Reggie Ragland combined for seven tackles. Grade: D


It certainly wasn’t one particular receiver who did Detroit’s secondary in, but they had little answer for Rivers’ ability to efficiently spread the ball around. It’s always tough to see a safety with Tracy Walker’s coverage ability get burned on a go route by a running back, but that happened, resulting in a 29-yard touchdown. And while it won’t show up on the stat sheet, Justin Coleman’s 41-yard pass interference call in the fourth quarter killed off any hopes of a comeback. Grade: D

Special teams

One of Detroit’s biggest plays came courtesy of special teams, when Miles Killebrew blocked a punt in the first quarter, setting up the team’s first touchdown. 

Jack Fox was also solid, averaging 46.0 yards net on his five punts. His most impressive play came when he scooped a low snap off the turf and boomed it 55 yards, with enough hang time that the Colts return man had to signal fair catch. 

Matt Prater, on the other hand, continues to struggle. Detroit’s longtime kicker sent his only field-goal attempt wide left and has now missed five kicks on the year. Grade: B+


It’s been an up-and-down season for the Lions, generally speaking, but this was a game that offered an opportunity to prove the team was headed in the right direction. Instead, they laid an egg. 

The offensive game plan was tough to stomach. Prior to the game getting out of hand, the Lions were banging their heads on a brick wall running repeatedly on first down with little success. That put them in a boatload of third-and-long situations on the day. 

Defensively, things started out OK, but fell apart as fatigue set in. Shelton’s penalty showed a surprising lack of discipline, which reflects poorly on the coaching staff, as well. Grade: F


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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