| The Detroit News
Charlotte, N.C. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 20-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
It’s unquestionably difficult to assess how much of the blame pie Matthew Stafford deserves from this offensive debacle, but one thing is clear, he didn’t do anything to elevate the offense’s performance.
When you don’t put up a single point, and the best opportunity came on a long field goal attempt a play after Stafford ate a sack, there’s really no way around handing out anything other than a failing mark. Grade: F
Without D’Andre Swift, Detroit’s ground game fell apart. Adrian Peterson got the start and struggled with his vision, running into his blockers on multiple occasions. He also dropped a pass early in the game, contributing to a stalled drive. He finished with 18 yards on seven carries and the drop on his only target.
Kerryon Johnson was OK with his limited opportunities, but nothing that elevates the overall grade. Grade: F
Wide receivers/tight ends
With Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola sidelined by hip injuries, the Lions needed someone to step up. T.J. Hockenson ended up leading the Lions with 68 yards, but the majority of those came when the outcome was already decided. He also dropped a third-down pass that would have extended a first-half drive into Panthers territory.
Marvin Jones had 51 yards, but he lost out on doubling that total when a long touchdown was erased by an illegal formation penalty that appeared to be Jones’ fault. Grade: F
The Lions wanted to run the ball but struggled to give Peterson and Johnson quality lanes in the first half before the team was forced to abandon it. Then, when it became clear the offense was going to have to lean on the pass, the Panthers were able to tee off on Stafford, sacking him five times and hitting him on six other occasions.
Frank Ragnow, who has developed into a rock-solid player, had a game to forget. He got flagged for a holding on a third down and flubbed a snap that was recovered by the Panthers deep in Lions territory. Grade: F
The front largely bottled up the Panthers on the ground, but when the team needed a stop on third-and-goal from the 1, defensive tackle Danny Shelton was blown off the ball by Panthers guard Chris Reed. Rookie John Penisini was the team’s best defensive tackle, making a couple of plays near the line of scrimmage, while Nick Williams and Everson Griffen came up with batted passes.
Detroit wasn’t able to replicate the pass rush it got last week, with 21 quarterback pressures against Washington, only recording a single hit on elusive rookie quarterback PJ Walker. Grade: D
Detroit’s linebackers racked up some decent tackle numbers, but just one came behind the line of scrimmage. They get credit for slowing down the run but didn’t offer much in coverage. Grade: D+
Say what you want about Walker, but the young quarterback has some real talent. He executed several difficult throws against the Lions from both in the pocket and on the move. It is fair to expect the secondary to have done a better job than allowing him to complete 70 percent of his passes, including rookie Jeff Okudah giving up another long gain over the top.
That said, the defensive backfield did come up with a couple of interceptions in the end zone, keeping the final score much closer than it could have been. Grade: C
Jack Fox got a workout, punting the ball six times. Because he was often hindered by field position, he only mustered a 42.2-yard average, but he regularly pinned the Panthers near their own 10-yard line.
As for Matt Prater, one week after he was the hero with a 59-yard game-winner, he slipped back into his season-long struggles by sending a 51-yard effort wide left. He’s now missed seven kicks on the season.
Neither teams’ return game was a significant factor.
It doesn’t matter who was injured, this offensive game plan was garbage. The team was too conservative against a young, struggling defense that had been historically bad on third down entering the game.
Defensively, the Lions were good enough to win, but you kind of expect that when a two-win opponent is missing their star running back and starting quarterback. Grade: F