Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Depleted defense offers little resistance

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Nashville — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 46-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans. 

Quarterback

Yeah, the Lions got blown out, but can we take a moment to marvel at what Matthew Stafford was able to accomplish in a game not even he thought he’d be able to play in a few days earlier due to a nasty rib injury.

From the start, Stafford was accurate, efficient and able to complete passes at all depths. Heck, he even scrambled for positive yardage a couple times. He finished 22 of 32 passing with a touchdown and no interceptions. He led the Lions to 16 points, but it’s not his fault the team lost two fumbles in Titans territory.

Chase Daniel relieved Stafford in the fourth quarter and also led a quick-strike touchdown drive before throwing an interception in the closing minutes, with the outcome already determined. Grade: A-

Running backs

D’Andre Swift resumed his starting role, scoring twice on 15 carries as the lead backfield option. He continues to show impressive ability as a between-the-tackles runner, despite being on the smaller side for the position. But Swift also made one of the game’s critical errors, losing a fumble when attempting to leap over the line on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. 

Adrian Peterson, playing a clear second fiddle to the rookie, carried the ball six times and disappeared from the game plan after four consecutive carries on Detroit’s opening-possession touchdown drive. Grade: C+

Wide receivers/tight ends

Marvin Jones continues to shoulder the load with Kenny Golladay out of the lineup. The veteran caught 10 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, while setting up a second score with a 39-yard grab down to the 2 at the end of the first half. 

Rookie tight end Hunter Bryant was next on the yardage chart. His lone reception, a 44-yarder across the middle, was the key play on a touchdown drive. Not a bad first catch for his career. 

T.J. Hockenson had a quiet day, with just two receptions for 18 yards. He also lost a fumble, taking a handoff on third down and having the ball knocked from his grasp when he tried to extend for the line to gain. Grade: B

Offensive line

The Lions cobbled together another unique starting five with Joe Dahl making his first start at center and the returning Halapoulivaati Vaitai jumping back in at right tackle. The latter didn’t finish the game, suffering a concussion in the first half, but the group held together surprisingly well, keeping Stafford well-protected much of the afternoon. 

Dahl was solid but did badly botch a snap that led to Stafford absorbing his biggest hit of the game. That loss of yardage also contributed to the Lions turning the ball over on downs. Grade: B+

Defensive line

The defense’s top priority in this game was limiting the damage done by star running back Derrick Henry. That didn’t happen as he finished with 147 yards and a touchdown. That allowed the Titans to set up an effective play-action passing game.

The only time the defensive front even got a hand on quarterback Ryan Tannehill was Romeo Okwara’s second-quarter safety. That was a big play at the time, contributing to an eight-point swing at the end of the first half that helped keep the game close heading into the final quarter before things fell apart. Grade: D-

Linebackers

The linebackers didn’t do much of anything to stop Henry from having a big day on the ground and they contributed to some early game zone-coverage busts that Tannehill was able to exploit. The quarterback also took advantage of Detroit’s overcommitment to stopping Henry, scoring twice on the ground. 

Finally, while it’s a bad sign it was even a matchup in the first place, A.J. Brown made easy work across the middle, catching a touchdown pass against the coverage of Jarrad Davis. Grade: F

Secondary

It was a disastrous day in the back end, highlighted by safety Duron Harmon’s awful coverage of Corey Davis on a 75-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. The Lions got their hands on two passes all day, but their one chance at an interception was disrupted when two defenders collided.  

Tannehill finished his day with a highly efficient 145.8 passer rating. Grade: F

Special teams

Matt Prater missed another kick, sending an extra point wide left, but made up for that error with a 53-yard field goal. Jack Fox punted just once, and while the 36-yard boot isn’t great for his season averages, it did pin the Titans inside their own 10.

Detroit’s kick coverage was solid, as usual, and Jamal Agnew found some breathing room bringing back kickoffs, averaging 29 yards on four tries. 

The unit’s biggest play was a failed fake punt. C.J. Moore took a direct snap and came up just short of the marker, giving the ball back to the Titans in the fourth quarter. Grade: B

Coaches

Detroit devised a good offensive game plan that moved the ball effectively while keeping Stafford decently protected behind a makeshift offensive line. The play designs were certainly enough to keep the Lions closer than the final score indicated, but two fumbles in Tennessee territory eliminated any hope of keeping it tight in the end. 

As for the defensive game plan, I don’t know what to tell you. The Lions are down so many pieces that it’s tough for them to compete right now. Still, there’s no viable excuse for allowing an opponent to go 5-for-5 in the red zone and score touchdowns on six of their nine possessions. It’s flat out embarrassing.

Darrell Bevell made a decision to not challenge the spot on the failed fake punt, opting instead to conserve a timeout down 14 with 12 minutes remaining. Even if the spot of the ball rarely gets overturned, the situation seemed to merit the risk. Grade: D+

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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