Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Stafford commands comeback horse to victory in Bevell’s debut

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Chicago — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 34-30 victory over the Chicago Bears.

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford had himself a day, throwing for over 400 yards and at least three touchdowns for just the fifth time in his career. The Lions quarterback was aggressive downfield, taking repeated shots throughout the contest. He overthrew his targets on a handful of attempts early but made up for it with some pinpoint accuracy over the final two quarters. 

Yeah, he had an interception, when defensive tackle Bilal Nichols improbably jumped a route and snagged a sidearm bullet at close range, but Stafford overcame the error with a 96-yard touchdown drive where he accounted for all 96 yards, putting the Lions in position to complete the comeback.  Grade: A-

Running backs

With D’Andre Swift sidelined once again, Adrian Peterson shouldered the load and provided a respectable 57 yards on 16 carries against a stout Bears front. Most importantly, the veteran cashed in twice near the goal line, squeaking in from 3 yards out on third-and-goal in the first quarter and barreling through multiple would-be tacklers from 5 yards out for the game-winning score.  Grade: C+

Wide receivers/tight ends

It was a mostly positive day from Detroit’s pass-catchers, who made several tough grabs on tight-window throws away from their bodies. Marvin Jones paced the team with eight catches, including multiple drive-extending grabs on third down and a 25-yard touchdown where he caught the deep defender sleeping and zipped behind him into the end zone. 

Rookie Quintez Cephus made up for a bad route early in the game to haul in a 49-yard touchdown on a broken play, deep ball. The tight ends also contributed, with T.J. Hockenson strengthening his Pro Bowl resume with seven catches for 84 yards and Jesse James utilizing his frame to haul in his second touchdown of the season.  Grade: B+

Offensive line

The Detroit Lions were forced to go to third-string right tackle Matt Nelson after Tyrell Crosby suffered an ankle injury in the first half, and despite the daunting matchup of blocking Khalil Mack, Nelson more than held his own. 

Stafford faced some pressure but nothing overwhelming. He ate a couple of sacks for minimal losses and was otherwise able to escape the pocket and limit the damage. 

The ground game’s success was marginal, but the front got excellent push on both of Peterson’s touchdown runs behind the left side of the line.  Grade: A-

Defensive line

It was a rocky start at all levels of the defense, but the defensive line played a critical role in things tightening up in the second half by slowing down Chicago’s run game that was nearly unstoppable through two quarters.

And the grade is unquestionably boosted by Romeo Okwara’s strip-sack in the closing minutes. It’s the second time this season, he’s forced a critical, fourth-quarter fumble in a victory this season. Grade: C

Linebackers

The linebackers played a role in the run game struggles early in the contest, but a lot of the damage Chicago was doing was on the edges. Jamie Collins led the Lions with 10 tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage, while Reggie Ragland also had a tackle behind the line and contributed on the game-ending, fourth-down run stop with defensive tackle Kevin Strong. Grade: C-

Secondary

Mitchell Trubisky has proven time and time again he’s a below-average NFL quarterback, but when it comes to playing against the Lions, he looks like an All-Pro. He stuck to that script on Sunday, picking apart the defensive backs on a pair of first-half touchdown drives and finishing with a completion percentage and passer rating well above his career rates. 

The back end also got flagged with two penalties, with one setting up an early touchdown and the second, a 15-yard horse-collar tackle coming on the game’s finale drive, where the Lions were fortunate to be able to get the stop deep in their own territory. 

 Grade: D

Special teams

The Lions gave up a 45-yard kickoff return to start the game, but were otherwise solid in coverage. When it came to punts, the ball wasn’t booming off the foot of Jack Fox like usual, but he got some friendly rolls and still finished with a net average above 42 yards. 

Matt Prater handled kickoff duties competently but didn’t attempt a field goal. He did miss his first of five extra-point attempts, but Okwara got the miss back by blocking one of Chicago’s.   Grade: C-

Coaches

Detroit’s defense is still a mess, and the fact they let Chicago put up a season-high 30 points is problematic. But there were some clear adjustments made in the second half that limited the Bears to scoring just seven points across the final two quarters. 

Offensively, it was nice to see the Lions playing more aggressively. Sure, they dipped into their conservative tendencies on occasion, but not to the frustrating degree they did under Matt Patricia. 

And while it’s more of a feel thing than illustrated by quantifiable data, the Lions did show more poise in the closing minutes of the first game with Darrell Bevell captaining the ship. It’s easy to suggest the team reflected his loose, positive demeanor when their backs were against the w.  Grade: B

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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