Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Detroit terrible in trenches, subpar (again) in secondary

Detroit News

Chicago — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 24-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.


In a game that came down to a handful of plays, Jared Goff made a couple of critical errors that will haunt him. Excusing him for the botched snap, when center Frank Ragnow sent it back early, Goff sailed a pass to Kalif Raymond down the seam in the second quarter that should have been a touchdown. Instead, the Lions would turn it over on downs later that drive, netting zero points. And on fourth-and-1 in the closing minutes, Goff again misfired, taking blame for the errant throw after the contest.

The overall stat line was decent, finishing 24 of 38 for 299 yards. After the overthrow to Raymond, Goff came back with one of this most impressive plays, avoiding significant pressure in the pocket to find rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown for the long conversion on third-and-11. And Goff also hit Raymond for a 25-yard touchdown on a very similar throw to the one misfired on earlier in the contest. Grade: C- 

Running backs

As he’s done all season, Jamaal Williams got the start and ran hard as the primary ball carrier, churning out 66 yards on 14 carries. Most of that damage came in the first half, before the Lions fell behind 21 points early in the third quarter and were forced to go away from the run.

D’Andre Swift, on the other hand, had his least effective performance of the season. He struggled to make tacklers miss, gaining just 16 yards on eight carries. And in the passing game, he also failed to make much of an impact, hauling in four of six targets for 33 yards.

Swift also gets knocked for his pass protection, getting beat for two sacks. To be fair, we’re not sure what we expected on the one where he was forced to block Khalil Mack one-on-one. Grade:  C-

Wide receivers/tight ends

For the first time this season, Detroit’s outside pass-catchers played a critical role in the offense’s ability to move the ball. Quintez Cephus had the best game of his young career, hauling in four of the five throws his direction for 83 yards, including a long gain that set the Lions up first-and-goal from the 5.

Similarly, St. Brown also had his best output of the season, more than doubling his production from the first three games with 70 yards receiving.

But the star of the day was Raymond, who continues to be developing into one of Goff’s favorite weapons. He finished with just three catches, but that included the second and third touchdowns of his career. And, as noted earlier, he should have had another score after running an excellent route and beating the Bears coverage, but the throw was long. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Penei Sewell struggled, getting beat around the outside on a red-zone snap where edge rusher Robert Quinn forced a fumble the Bears recovered. The rookie offensive tackle gave up some more pressure and also got his with a false-start penalty, his second in as many games. Grade: D+

Defensive line

In his debut as a starter a week ago, Bears quarterback Justin Fields was sacked nine times. The Lions got to him once, when Charles Harris stripped the ball late in the fourth quarter, killing a drive. And that wasn’t because the Bears were having the rookie passer get rid of the ball quickly. He held on to it plenty to take several downfield shots.

Even worse than the pass rush was Detroit’s run defense. The front really struggled to protect the edges, with Harris and Austin Bryant getting moved off their spots on several occasions as the Bears racked up 188 yards and scored all three of their touchdowns on the ground.  Grade: D


Because most of the Bears damage running the ball came around the edges, we feel like the linebackers deserve less of the blame in this one. Alex Anzalone paced the team with six tackles, while Derrick Barnes added four, including his first behind the line of scrimmage.

The best play from the group came when Jalen Reeves-Maybin got his hands into the passing lane, deflecting a Fields’ throw at the end of the second quarter that was intercepted by Amani Oruwariye. Grade: C-


It was another rough day in a rough season for Detroit’s secondary. Cornerback Bobby Price got beat deep multiple times, although on the 64-yard reception to Darnell Mooney, it’s worth asking where safety Will Harris was with the help over the top. In all, Fields had too many open targets, resulting in the rookie completing 65% of his 17 throws for 209 yards.

It’s also nice to see the Lions pull down an interception, but Oruwariye’s pick was more about being in the right place at the right time after Reeves-Maybin’s deflection than a play of skill.

The group also struggled in run support, particularly AJ Parker, who missed a tackle on David Montgomery’s first touchdown run. Grade: D-

Special teams

Jack Fox continued his excellent season, booming his three punts an average of 55.3 yards, while the coverage limited the Bears to one return of six yards.

Raymond also had a decent day returning punts, bringing one of his three efforts back 22 yards. Corey Ballentine was less impactful handling kickoffs, averaging 23.5 yards on four attempts.

The Lions didn’t attempt a field goal, so nothing to report there with backup Ryan Santoso. The biggest blunder on special teams came on a desperation effort, when newcomer Josh Woods jumped early trying to block a punt in the closing minutes. Grade: B+


The Lions have below-average talent, so execution errors are to be expected. This was a game the team’s coaches failed to give the group the best chance to win. That starts with Dan Campbell’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line in the second quarter, down 14-0.

You’ve gotta take the points, Dan. Normally, we applaud Campbell’s aggression in this space, but that’s a low-percentage play, regardless of how you feel about your call sheet.

Campbell similarly could have taken the points to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, facing a fourth-and-1, while still holding all three timeouts. That one is more of a coin-flip decision, but he acknowledged rushing to the line and snapping it quickly was a mistake, which contributed to another failed attempt.

Defensively, the Lions continue to struggle solving their coverage issues. Leaning on Price, a converted safety, continues to look like a mistake. Sure, there aren’t many other options on the roster, but at least Jerry Jacobs played corner in college, and Daryl Worley and Ballentine have plenty of pro experience despite not being in Detroit more than a couple weeks. Grade: D-


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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