Detroit Lions stock watch: Give Matthew Stafford his due, and the defense an enema

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down the Detroit Lions’ 46-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans, and looks at who helped their stock and who hurt it Sunday at Nissan Stadium:

Stock up

QB Matthew Stafford: There simply are not many quarterbacks tougher than Stafford, and he deserves to be commended. Stafford played three-plus quarters through a painful rib injury that he initially thought was going to keep him out of action. He tried to downplay the feat after the game, but it’s clear he went to great lengths to be on the field – and the way his teammates rallied around him, it’s clear how much they appreciate his effort and value having him as their quarterback.

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WR Marvin Jones: Jones was Stafford’s go-to receiver, catching 10 of the 12 passes thrown his way for 112 yards. He has mostly become a possession receiver at this stage of his career, but he had a key 39-yard catch just before halftime to set up the Lions’ second touchdown and remind everyone he can deliver big plays. Jones will be a free agent in March, and if the Lions do not re-sign him, he should not lack for suitors.

DE Romeo Okwara: Okwara had the Lions’ only defensive highlight when he leaped over left tackle David Quessenberry’s cut block to haul Ryan Tannehill down for a safety. Okwara has eight sacks on the season, a career-high, and might be the team’s indispensable player (in the non-Stafford category, at least). He had five total tackles Sunday, including two for loss, and has been a four-down contributor all year.

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Stock down

S Duron Harmon: Harmon will be a free agent in March, and unlike Jones and Okwara, will not be heading there on a high note. The veteran safety got beat badly on a 75-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, then took a poor angle on a 16-yard pass before halftime. He finished with a team-high 10 tackles, but had a subpar game overall.

The rest of the defense: The Lions don’t do a single thing well on defense. They don’t rush the passer great, they are not stout against the run and they don’t force turnovers. Okwara’s sack aside, the Lions did not have many redeemable moments Sunday. They need a complete overhaul on that side of the ball.

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Fake punts: Down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Lions called a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from their own 31-yard line. The play design was fine, and C.J. Moore nearly got the first down. But as a general rule, I don’t like when teams take their offense off the field to try and convert a key play. The element of surprise can work against undisciplined teams, but I would rather see Stafford, Jones or D’Andre Swift with the ball in their hand at that stage of the game.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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