Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Jared Goff’s strong start unravels in second half

Detroit News

Green Bay, Wis. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 35-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.

Quarterback

It’s admittedly cliché, but it was a tale of two halves for Jared Goff. The Lions quarterback looked like an All-Pro in the opening half, completing 13 of his 16 throws for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He showed poise in the pocket, taking advantage of good protection to make his way through his progressions en route to consistently finding the open man.

But in the second half, things came undone for the signal-caller. Goff long has had a propensity for fumbles, likely related to his relatively small hands for the position. Add in heavy rains, and it proved a recipe for disaster as he lost a snap and had a second ball slip from his hands while rearing back for a third-down throw.

Tack on an interception under duress for good measure and Goff wasn’t able to finish what he started, leading the Lions to zero points across the final two quarters. Grade: C+

Running backs

It felt like the Lions ran the ball more than they did, probably because they were once again forced to abandon it down the stretch for a second consecutive week. Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift combined for a respectable 4.1 yards per carry on 15 attempts, while hauling in seven of their eight targets in the pass game.

It certainly wasn’t a repeat of their Week 1 production, but they did what they could with the opportunities they had. Grade: C

Wide receivers/tight ends

Tight end T.J. Hockenson continued to be Detroit’s No. 1 option in the pass game, hauling in eight of the nine throws his direction. His second-quarter touchdown was a thing of beauty as he got a step on the defender running a wheel route and made a difficult catch near the back line of the end zone.

Quintez Cephus also continued to build some early-season momentum, pacing the corps with 63 yards on four grabs. Most of that damage came on the opening series, where he got open deep on a scramble drill, then followed that up with a touchdown catch with a crisp route, losing his defender in traffic.

But Cephus is beating himself up over the fourth-down catch he didn’t make, resulting in a turnover on downs that swung the game’s momentum. Likewise, rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown saw a deep throw slip through his hands at the end of the half, forcing the Lions to settle for a field goal over a touchdown.  Grade: B

Offensive line

Perfection? Not quite, but it looked pretty close at times, particularly in the first half, when Goff had plenty of time to process in the pocket.

The run blocking was above-average, but the gaps the front blew open in Week 1 weren’t there nearly as often. Penei Sewell continues to shine in a potential audition to permanently move to left tackle, although he did get hit with a holding call. On the opposite side, Matt Nelson was badly beaten on a third-down play that forced Goff into an intentional-grounding penalty, as questionable as the call may have been.

Goff ended up eating six hits behind the line, most of which came when the Packers were able to pin their ears back as their lead widened in the second half. Grade: A-

Defensive front

The run defense just hasn’t fully come together yet, although the group was significantly better in the second half, limiting the Packers to 3.1 yards per carry on the night. Even more positively, the unit generated far better pressure than it did in the opener, getting a hit on quarterback Aaron Rodgers seven times, including three sacks. It’s progress.  Grade: C-

Linebackers

All night, Jamie Collins and Alex Anzalone were a step slow, both getting to the edge against the run and in coverage. The tandem combined for 15 tackles, but were otherwise ineffective executing their assignments. Anzalone had a brutal second half, getting flagged for defensive holding on first-and-20, giving the Packers a fresh set of down, and getting beat one-on-one by tight end Robert Tonyan for a 22-yard touchdown.

At this rate, It won’t be long before the Lions will have no choice but to give rookie Derrick Barnes some playing time. Grade: F

Secondary

The Lions limited Rodgers to mostly short throws in the first half, but the reigning MVP caught fire in the second half, particularly on third down. He dropped a dime over the cover of Ifeatu Melifonwu for a 50-yard completion, which fueled the Packers pulling away in the second half.

Safety Tracy Walker was a step late on Aaron Jones first touchdown and Amani Oruwariye drew a pass interference in the end zone setting up the running back’s fourth score on the night. Grade: D

Special teams

It was another above-average night for Detroit’s special teams. Pro Bowl punter Jack Fox averaged 53.5 yards on his two boots, while linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin made an outstanding stop on the first, dropping the return man after 2 yards to preserve a stellar net average for the punter.

Kicker Austin Seibert was perfect on the night, draining a 43-yard field-goal attempt, although he was fortunate to get two cracks at it, after he missed the first after Green Bay called a timeout.

Godwin Igwebuike had a nice kickoff return, fielding a difficult one-hopper and bringing it back past the 40-yard line. The only red mark on the night was the Lions allowing Green Bay to get free for a 41-yard kickoff return that led to a touchdown drive in the first half. Grade: B+

Coaches

The offensive play-calling was outstanding in the opening half, utilizing a nice mix of run and pass that resulted in three scoring drives on four possessions, although the clock management was a little too casual on the final drive in the second quarter, resulting in a field goal.

I continue to approve of Dan Campbell’s decision to go for it on fourth downs, but I’m not sure about going to a shotgun look on fourth-and-1 when your offensive line has been getting solid movement to start the year. Embrace your identity.

The defense still needs work, but made some positive progress in this one. There’s still a lot to clean up and the lack of talent keeps getting worse as injuries mount in the secondary. It’s going to get tougher and tougher to overcome. Grade: C

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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