Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Defense flounders in season-ending loss to Vikings

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 37-35 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford gutted it out through a number of injuries, and after putting an early pass in harm’s way, settled down and delivered a solid performance. He finished the day completing 20 of 31 for 293 yards and three touchdowns.  

Stafford did produce one turnover, making an uncharacteristic error of leading the safety to the spot with his eyes, resulting in an interception. Grade: B+

Running backs

This was one of the team’s most efficient rushing performances of the season. Detroit’s backs combined to average 6.2 yards per carry. There were big plays, like Adrian Peterson’s 38-yard run to open the second quarter and D’Andre Swift’s screen pass that set up first-and-goal, as well as powerful finishes with each scoring in a short-yardage situation.   Grade: A

Wide receivers/tight ends

Marvin Jones went off in what might be his final game with the Lions, catching eight passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He nearly had a third score, but it was overturned by an official review. 

Quintez Cephus also added a touchdown grab with a well-run post route, providing some optimism for his future. About the only bad thing to say about the group was Mohamed Sanu proved unable to haul in a well-placed deep ball by Stafford. Grade: A-

Offensive line

Despite injuries going into the game, and more injuries piled up during the course of the finale, Detroit’s front held up well against the Vikings, limiting the opposition to a single quarterback hit. Additionally, they played a big role in creating the creases for the running backs to produce. Grade: A-

Defensive line

The front didn’t have a game-changing day, but were decent in limiting what the Vikings were able to do on the ground, while getting a decent amount of pressure on Kirk Cousins. That resulted in a pair of sacks, including Romeo Okwara’s 10th of the season. Grade: C+

Linebackers

It’s difficult imagining Jahlani Tavai in a Lions uniform next season. His game speed proved problematic on Alexander Mattison’s long touchdown catch on fourth down in the first half. Similarly, Reggie Ragland was beat across the middle by Ameer Abdullah for a score. The Lions desperately need to add more speed to the corps this offseason.  Grade: F

Secondary

So many blown coverages and missed tackles, capping a disastrous year for Detroit’s back end. No play summed up things better than the group’s final snap of the first half, when cornerbacks collided and safety Duron Harmon stopped playing, allowing Chad Beebe to score a 40-yard touchdown before the break.  Grade: F

Special teams

Matt Prater continued his inconsistent season, missing an extra point before nailing a 54-yard field goal. Jamal Agnew similarly had an up-and-down day, losing a fumble on a punt, but bringing back the opening kickoff of the second half 70 yards to set up a touchdown. 

Jack Fox had an average day punting the ball, but did enough to secure the franchise’s net punting record, besting Sam Martin’s 2016 mark. Grade: B-

Coaches

Offensively, the Lions put together a great game plan to attack the Vikings weaknesses, racking up yards and points with ease after a sluggish start. Defensively, the team had no answer for a Vikings team missing their best player, running back Dalvin Cook.  Grade: C-

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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