Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Running backs fuel offense; blown coverages haunt secondary

Detroit News

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Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance after the team’s 19-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens

Quarterback

True to his scouting report, quarterback Jared Goff struggled to handle the Ravens’ pressure in the first half, missing multiple targets and tallying just 57 passing yards on 15 attempts, 25 of which came on meaningless dump-offs to the running backs in the closing seconds of the second quarter. 

Goff settled down after the break, working the offense efficiently on lengthy scoring drives on all three of the team’s possessions, mixing up deep shots and short passes to his playmakers in space. He completed 14 of 15 passes. 

Additionally, he didn’t turn the ball over for the first time this season, giving the Lions a chance to pull off the upset. 

 Grade: C

Running backs

The Lions were able to rally on the backs of their backs. D’Andre Swift fueled the team’s first touchdown drive, touching the ball six times, including three receptions for more than 40 yards. He also finished the series with a 2-yard touchdown run.

Swift and Jamaal Williams split the load on the Detroit’s next touchdown drive, combining for 10 touches on the 12 snaps (not counting a long pass interference penalty drawn by Quintez Cephus). This time it was Williams finding pay dirt. 

Between rushing and receiving, the duo accounted for more than 60% of Detroit’s offensive production. Grade: B+

Wide receivers/tight ends

Detroit’s other pass-catchers were a non-factor until the late stages of the game, amassing just 28 yards on 11 targets in the first half. Kalif Raymond particularly struggled early, putting a couple catchable balls on the ground. 

The group got going late with Cephus drawing the critical pass interference and Raymond coming up with a pair of big gains — a sliding grab and a lengthy catch-and-run — that set the Lions up for a go-ahead filed goal. 

T.J. Hockenson, after catching 16 balls the first two games, was held in check by the Ravens, hauling in two balls for 10 yards. Darren Fells gave the Lions 35 yards, but also drew a false-start penalty ahead of a fourth down attempt that forced the Lions to punt. Grade: D+

Offensive line

The Ravens did a lot of damage behind the line of scrimmage before the Lions made some halftime adjustments, racking up five tackles for a loss, two sacks and six quarterback hits on the day. And like Fells, rookie left tackle Penei Sewell jumped early on a fourth-down attempt that resulted in a punt. 

Jonah Jackson also had some penalty issues, drawing a hold and a personal foul during a first-half drive when the Lions were already pinned deep in their own territory.  Grade: D+

Defensive front

The Lions did a remarkable job at keeping Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ ground game in check up front. Even though Baltimore was able to eclipse the 100-yard mark as a team for the 42nd straight game, Jackson only had one significant gain, a 31-yarder in the second quarter. 

When you factor that one out, the Ravens averaged just 4.0 yards per carry their other 21 attempts. 

In addition to their role slowing the run, Jackson was sacked three times and pressured several others by the Detroit’s edge defenders, despite Trey Flowers missing the game due to injuryGrade: B+

Linebackers

It was far from perfect, but the linebacking tandem of Derrick Barnes and Jalen Reeves-Maybin did a good job playing downhill against the Ravens, contributing to the oppositions struggles on the ground. Reeves-Maybin set that tone early with a tackle behind the line on third down, forcing a punt, on the Ravens’ first possession. 

Alex Anzalone also rebounded from his subpar performance against the Packers, coming up with a big sack late in the fourth quarter that should have contributed to a game-winning defensive stop.  Grade: B

Secondary

Finally, the defensive backfield managed to come up with an interception, and a timely one at that as Amani Oruwariye picked off Jackson late in the fourth quarter to set up Detroit’s go-ahead field goal. 

The Lions managed to do some other positive things in the secondary, including a couple of breakups on deep throws. And rookie nickel AJ Parker continues to make plays all over the field, including a couple of run stops on Jackson.

But there were far, far too many blown assignments, starting with Parker and Will Harris combining to lose receiver Devin Duvernay on Baltimore’s only touchdown, which came on a third-and-18. 

Harris was the culprit again when the Ravens converted fourth-and-19 on the game-winning drive, allowing Sammy Watkins to get behind him for a huge gain.  Grade: D

Special teams

Jack Fox opened the game with an incredible punt that pinned the Ravens at their own 3-yard line, but followed it up with a dud that went out of bounds after just 25 yards. For the day, it was more good than bad for Fox, but he also outkicked his coverage on a couple boots, leading to a pair of punt returns that netted 42 yards.

Ryan Santoso, filling in for kicker Austin Seibert, who is on the COVID-19 reserve list, capitalized on all his opportunities. That included a 35-yard field goal that put the Lions up one late in the game.  

The most disappointing play on special teams was a penalty by rookie Jerry Jacobs, who illegally ran out of bounds to avoid a blocker while coverage a punt. That negated a fumble recovery that would have given the Lions the ball inside the Ravens’ 20. Grade: D+

Coaches

The good news is the Lions continue to fight, regardless of the circumstances. And the defensive game plan was solid and executed well, although the team needs to continue to clear up its issues in coverage. 

Offensively, it was surprising to see the group start out so slowly after coach Dan Campbell criticized the unit following the loss to Green Bay. But credit to coordinator Anthony Lynn to making some key adjustments to get Swift more involved in the second half. 

Campbell challenged a pair of calls. The first, a spot that would have given the Lions a first down late in the first half, was upheld as it was ruled on the field. But the second, when the Lions were called short of the goal line on a Williams’ run, turned into a touchdown after the officials took another look at it. Grade: C+

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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