Detroit Lions’ grades in 34-11 loss to Cincinnati Bengals: A lot of F’s on offense

Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett grades the Detroit Lions in their 34-11 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Ford Field.

Quarterback

Dan Campbell is right. The Lions’ season-long offensive struggles do not fall exclusively on Jared Goff, but the NFL is a quarterback league and the Lions do not have anything remotely resembling a difference maker at the position right now. Goff has no weapons at receiver and his offensive line was porous Sunday. Still, he averaged 2.5 yards per pass attempt in the first half and had 82 yards passing entering the fourth quarter. He missed a wide open T.J. Hockenson on a third-and-4 play that should have been a touchdown. Even accounting for the possibility of a poor route, that’s a situation Goff must convert. On the next play, he had a mental lapse and threw the ball out of bounds. Goff was not at fault on his interception — he threw a dime to Amon-Ra St. Brown — but had his worst game of the season overall. Grade: F

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Running backs

D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams combined for 35 yards on 17 carries, with rushing room nearly impossible to find. Swift scored the Lions’ only touchdown late and finished with five catches for 43 yards, while Williams saw reduced playing time because of game script. Williams did convert a fourth-and-1 on a fullback dive, when he got good blocks from Jonah Jackson and Evan Brown. Of all their offensive units, the Lions’ running backs were the least to blame for Sunday’s debacle. Grade: C

Receivers/tight ends

It was inadvertent, and not what he meant, but the most truthful answer Goff gave during his postgame news conference Sunday was when a reporter asked what defenses were doing to take away looks to his receivers. “Not much,” Goff said. The Lions’ receivers are so bad defenses do not have to do anything out of the ordinary to take them out of games. St. Brown had an interception ripped out of his hands in the first quarter, and Lions receivers combined for five catches and 22 yards before the fourth quarter. Hockenson did not offer much resistance on a first-half sack by Trey Hendrickson and he had a false start in the third quarter. On the bright side, Hockenson and KhaDarel Hodge did have good blocks on Swift’s 9-yard end-around. Grade: F

Offensive line

Man, do the Lions miss Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow. Penei Sewell, in his sixth and potentially last start of the season at left tackle, was flagged for a false start — one of two Lions penalties on the opening drive — and allowed the pressure by Hendrickson that forced Goff out of the pocket on that fourth-and-4 throwaway. Jonah Jackson had a false start penalty on fourth-and-1, which forced a Lions punt. Matt Nelson left Sam Hubbard basically unblocked on a run play that went for a 5-yard loss late in the first half and was called for a holding penalty that was declined on the same series but stopped the clock. No one on the line opened many holes in the run game, a big reason the Lions barely moved the ball in the first half. Grade: F

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Defensive line

The Lions allowed at least 120 yards rushing for the third straight week, and fourth time this season, but they actually played well defensively in the first half. It wasn’t a tackle for loss, but Alim McNeill beat Trey Hopkins to stop Joe Mixon for a short gain on the first play after Goff’s interception. Austin Bryant manhandled Riley Reiff, tossing the ex-Lion to the ground, for his second sack of the season, and Julian Okwara got the first sack of his career on a free rush. Michael Brockers had four tackles, including one for loss. Grade: C

Linebackers

Jalen Reeves-Maybin had a rough first series. He got caught on a block by Drew Sample on Mixon’s 8-yard run then got beat at the line of scrimmage by ex-Wolverine Chris Evans on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Burrow. He missed another tackle on Mixon in the backfield later in the game. Derrick Barnes showed good instincts blowing up a bubble screen that went for no gain on Cincinnati’s third series, and he made a nice play to knock a would-be touchdown pass out of Sample’s hands. He finished with a career-high eight tackles. Alex Anzalone appeared out of position on Mixon’s 14-yard run to start the second half, but Campbell said he was not out of place on Mixon’s touchdown, when the Lions were playing all-out to stop the run. Grade: C-minus

Defensive backs

Jerry Jacobs has been solid in his two starts, though he did give up a couple big plays Sunday. Jacobs made a big hit to dislodge the ball from Mixon, though the Bengals recovered the fumble. He got beat for a 34-yard pass by Ja’Marr Chase, when he stumbled while the two were jostling for position down the sideline, and he was in coverage on another 53-yard bomb to Chase, though it appeared as if safety Tracy Walker should have helped over top. Walker, coming off his best game of the season, could not hold onto an interception when he made a great break on a pass to Higgins late in the first half, and he was called for a taunting penalty on Amani Oruwariye’s interception. Oruwariye missed a tackle for loss on a 7-yard Mixon run in the third quarter and was called for one of two pass interference penalties — A.J. Parker had the other in the fourth quarter. And Dean Marlowe overran Mixon in the backfield on one play, then gave up a touchdown to C.J. Uzomah three plays later. Grade: D-plus

Special teams

Jack Fox remains a bright spot for the Lions. He had a busy day with six punts Sunday, and netted 47.8 yards with one moonshot of a touchback. Godwin Igwebuike made a nice tackle on the game’s first punt to keep those numbers down, but Tom Kennedy was called for an illegal block in punt coverage and was mediocre in his first shot as a kick returner. Austin Seibert made his only field goal try from 35 yards out. Grade: B

Coaching

Dan Campbell put Sunday’s loss squarely on his own shoulders, saying the Lions’ dismal performance was reflective of him not doing enough as coach to prepare them during the week. That may be an exaggeration, but it’s impossible to divorce the coaching staff from its team’s worst performance of the season. Offensively, the Lions are very predictable. Case in point: On the second play of the second series, Hendrickson read a bubble screen to Hockenson and went right after the tight end on the snap. Shorthanded as he is, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn must do something to generate more big plays. Campbell made the risky-but-right decision to try and convert a fourth-and-inches deep in his own territory in the second quarter. And defensively, Aaron Glenn’s group ran out of steam in the second half. Grade: F 

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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