Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Secondary shredded like wheat, no answers for Texans’ attack

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 41-25 loss to the Houston Texans

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford was OK, with a good completion percentage, some quality throws, but one disastrous decision that kick-started a three-turnover stretch that flipped the game’s momentum.

In the first quarter, Stafford decided to attack the flat, throwing a ball to fullback Jason Cabinda. The problem was the ball had to get by J.J. Watt, who is well known for his ability to get his hands in the passing lane. That resulted in an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Stafford arguably should have had another pick, but the safety dropped it going to the ground. He was thinking about getting up and running instead of securing the ball. Grade: C-

Running backs

Adrian Peterson scored twice and had a really good series to start the second half, gaining 40 yards on five carries, but was otherwise quiet. Kerryon Johnson was a little more efficient, gaining 46 yards on 11 carries and adding 52 more on four receptions. 

But the grade takes a big hit due to ball security. Johnson put one on the ground to start the second quarter, ending a scoring threat. That was after Jonathan Williams lost a fumble the series before on his first, and potentially only carry in a Lions uniform.  Grade: D

Wide receivers/tight ends

T.J. Hockenson got off to a red-hot start, hauling in a 51-yard pass on a trick play and making an improbable snag off his shoe tops for another 17-yard pickup, but the second-year tight end was a nonfactor in the second half. 

Four others caught at least two passes, including Mohamed Sanu, who had a late touchdown and two-point conversion.  Grade: C-

Offensive line

The ground game was sufficient, and the short-yardage success near the goal line was a positive. Stafford faced a little too much pressure, taking four sacks and absorbing four other hits, but some of that was because he held on to the ball too long at times. Grade: C-

Defensive line

Houston did minimal damage on the ground, including the always dangerous running ability of DeShaun Watson, who faced a decent amount of pressure in the pocket. The front did muster a pair of sacks, including the first of the season for defensive tackle Nick Williams. Grade: C

Linebackers

It was a mixed bag for Jamie Collins, who forced a fumble recovered by fellow linebacker Jahlani Tavai, but was also responsible for a 33-yard touchdown grab due to poor man coverage on running back Duke Johnson. 

Jarrad Davis contributed on one of Detroit’s two sacks, while Reggie Ragland got flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Grade: C-

Secondary

Detroit’s defensive backfield is banged up with Jeff Okudah out, Darryl Roberts on injured reserve, Amani Oruwariye nursing a sore back and Desmond Trufant exiting with his hamstring flaring up once again. 

But that’s making excuses for a group that had no answer for Houston’s speed on go routes and crossing patterns. Will Fuller torched the Lions repeatedly and the team gave up multiple long passes after getting Houston into bad down-and-distance situations. Grade: F

Special teams

Matt Prater only had a single field goal attempt, a chip shot from 29 yards. Meanwhile, Jack Fox punted three times, twice pinning the Texans inside the 20, but sailing the third into the end zone, hurting his overall net average.

The coverage units were solid, as always, while the return game made little impact. The group was flagged for running into the punter late in the game, while pursuing a block, but there was no harm from the foul since it didn’t result in a first down. Grade: B

Coaches

On the positive front, the Lions opened up the offensive playbook, attempting two trick plays. The flea-flicker out of the reverse resulted in a big gain and Stafford came close to hauling in a touchdown pass on the second, but couldn’t hang on to the ball going to the ground. 

The Lions challenged that call, and even though it didn’t get overturned, it was worth questioning the ruling on the field. 

But the bad outweighed the good. As noted, the Lions defensive game plan had no answer for the Texans’ speed on the outside. Sure, it was a short week and injuries were mounting, but you knew what Houston was going to do and you didn’t come up with a reasonable rush/coverage counter.  Grade: D+

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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