Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Run defense suffers setback, coaching not up to par

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Minneapolis — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 34-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Quarterback

At one point, Matthew Stafford completed 16 consecutive passes in the first half, but they were mostly short throws against a Vikings defense determined to take away the deep ball. And with the game slipping away in the second half, Stafford threw not one, but two interceptions in the red zone. 

The first was egregious, directly into the arms of linebacker Eric Wilson, who was sitting in a zone across the middle. The second was excellent coverage by Eric Kendricks, but Stafford knows how good of a player the veteran linebacker is and admitted the ball placement wasn’t good enough after the game. 

Chase Daniel came in after Stafford took a shot to the head and threw an interception of his own, badly overthrowing T.J. Hockenson on a deep shot. Grade: D+

Running backs

D’Andre Swift didn’t get the start but saw the bulk of the workload, gaining 97 yards from scrimmage on 13 carries and three receptions. He showed good vision, but did drop a pass.

Adrian Peterson was decent, and certainly better than he has been in recent weeks, averaging 3.6 yards per carry. He was stuffed on a third-and-goal from the 1, but a lot of the blame for that goes to the offensive line. 

As for Kerryon Johnson, he continues to be excellent in pass protection and had a slightly bigger role on offense this week, gaining a season-high 65 yards from scrimmage. Grade: B

Wide receivers/tight ends

Danny Amendola paced the Kenny Golladay-less offense with 77 yards on seven catches, but like Swift, he dropped an easy one that contributed to ending an offensive possession. 

Marvin Jones and Hockenson both scored, with the veteran receiver showing some nifty moves in the open field, spinning free of a tackle attempt to gain the final 9 yards on his 15-yard touchdown.

Marvin Hall and Quintez Cephus, who ate up a lot of Golladay’s snaps, combined for a respectable five catches for 59 yards. Hall could have done more if Stafford got a little more air under a game-opening deep ball that was broken up by a Vikings cornerback. Grade: B

Offensive line

The Lions moved the ball well on the ground before having to abandon it late in the second half. They finished with 129 yards on 27 carries. Unfortunately, one was a 3-yard loss on third-and-goal when guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai was badly beaten by his defender.

In pass protection, the group was good enough against an always-aggressive Vikings rush. Stafford took a few hits, including one that knocked him from the game due to an inadvertent knee, but you can live with two sacks on 48 dropbacks. Grade: B-

Defensive line

Dalvin Cook ran for more than 200 yards. Do we need to say anything more? Detroit’s front had been playing much better against the run following their bye, but this was an embarrassing setback.

There wasn’t much of an opportunity for a pass rush, but no sacks and one QB hit from the group is never going to be enough. The best thing the group did was get their hand on two passes, resulting in incompletions. Grade: F

Linebackers

The linebackers, as usual, share culpability for the team’s inability to bottle up the run. Additionally, Jamie Collins was beat twice for long gains by Cook in the passing game. Collins also couldn’t get off his block on Ameer Abdullah’s 22-yard screen pass that scored at the end of the first half. Grade: F

Secondary

Kirk Cousins only threw the ball 20 times, but his 13 completions resulted in 220 yards and three touchdowns. Vikings receivers found plenty of space to operate when the Lions played zone and also came up with some chunk gains against man coverage. 

Amani Oruwariye had a rough drive in the second half, allowing a 35-yard completion on third down that extended the possession before he was flagged for defensive pass interference near the goal line, which led to a touchdown. Grade: D

Special teams

Matt Prater missed another field goal, this time from 46 yards out, but Detroit’s special teams were otherwise good. Jack Fox only punted twice, averaging a net of 48 yards, while the coverage and return games were solid. 

What’s remarkable is the Lions managed to block two punts, bringing their two-week total to three. That’s unheard of in the modern NFL. Grade: A-

Coaches

Another week, another dismal defensive performance by a team that is led by a defensive head coach. Matt Patricia talks about consistency and getting better as the season goes along, but the Lions are doing neither, giving up more than 30 points for the fourth time this season and more than 200 yards rushing for the second time. 

The icing on the cake was the Lions having 10 men on the field for Cook’s 70-yard touchdown run. That’s beyond unacceptable after the counting error occurred twice the week before.

And the offensive play-calling can’t be ignored. The stretch run going right — the weaker performing side of Detroit’s offensive line — on third-and-1 proved to be predictably disastrous. And the fact the Lions couldn’t find more ways to succeed passing downfield against a defense down three cornerbacks is baffling. Grade: F

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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