MINNEAPOLIS — Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down the Detroit Lions’ 19-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and looks at players who helped and hurt their stock Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium:
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Maybin has seen the most extensive defensive action of his career the past three weeks, since the Lions cut Jamie Collins, and on Sunday he proved once again why that decision was the right move, ripping a ball out of Alexander Mattison’s hands to set up the Lions’ late touchdown. Lions coach Dan Campbell called the play “outstanding.”
“He goes after the football,” Campbell said. “He makes a conscious effort to punch the ball out, and that becomes contagious when you get more than a few guys doing that. And he earned that. He earned it for us. It was big. It was huge. When we needed it most.”
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DL Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill: As a tandem, Onwuzurike and McNeill had their best game of the season Sunday. Onwuzurike (four tackles) single-handedly blew up two rushing plays by tossing Vikings linemen aside, and McNeill (one tackle) had a pair nice pass rushes, forcing Kirk Cousins to rush one check down and fire off another incompletion. Second- and third-round picks in April’s draft, the rookies are reason to believe in the Lions’ future.
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown: Another member of the Lions’ rookie class, St. Brown followed a six-catch, 70-yard performance against the Bears with 65 yards and a career-high seven grabs Sunday. Brown is a chain-mover as a receiver and a good blocker in the run game. With Quintez Cephus likely facing an extended absence with a shoulder injury, he should be in line for a bigger role going forward.
QB Jared Goff: The Lions have an incredibly small margin for error this season, and Goff keeps wasting it away by committing turnovers. He has seven officially on the season — six, if you disregard the premature snap Frank Ragnow sent off his leg in last week’s loss to the Chicago Bears — and had two crucial ones in scoring territory Sunday. The Lions will be in prime position to take a quarterback in next year’s draft, so Goff has 12 games left to show the rest of the NFL he still can be a reliable starter.
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CB Amani Oruwariye: Oruwariye had a tough task Sunday covering Justin Jefferson, one of the best receivers in the NFL. Jefferson dominated the matchup, finishing with seven catches for 124 yards and struck for big third-down conversions of 17 and 37 yards. The Lions are incredibly thin in the secondary, so Oruwariye will draw tough assignments going forward. He needs to be better in man coverage to give the defense options.
WR Trinity Benson: The Lions traded fifth- and seventh-round picks for Benson (and a sixth-rounder), and so far their return has been so-so. Benson made a nice block to free D’Andre Swift for an 11-yard run in the first quarter, but he could not hold a block on third-down screen pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown and had a drop. Like St. Brown, he is line for expanded snaps going forward.