Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Detroit falls short in trenches, on sidelines

Detroit News

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Detroit — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears

Quarterback

As he typically has been throughout the season, Jared Goff was largely conservative with his decisions in his return from injury, but at least he was accurate with his attempts, completing 21-of-25 for 171 yards. Goff also had two touchdowns, including a pretty 39-yard deep throw to Josh Reynolds, standing tall in a muddy pocket to deliver the throw. 

The biggest blemish on the quarterback’s day was a lost fumble, allowing the ball to be punched out when wrapped up by another defender for the sack. That turnover ended up in three points for Chicago, which was more than the opposition’s margin of victory. Grade: B+

Running backs

D’Andre Swift was struggling to get going before exiting the game in the second quarter, turning six early touches into nine yards. He also put a ball on the ground and was fortunate the recovering defender had a foot out of bounds when he scooped the fumble. 

Jamaal Williams ended up shouldering most of the load and was decently productive, gaining 65 yards on 15 carries, while converting a couple third-and-short situations. Godwin Igwebuike only got one touch, ripping off an 11-yard gain. Grade: C+

Wide receivers/tight ends

After a dud of a debut, Reynolds rebounded with three catches for a team-high 70 yards. There’s clearly some potential for bigger production down the stretch given his preexisting chemistry with Goff. 

The rest of the crew caught the balls their way, including a 17-yard touchdown by Hockenson, but combined for just 74 yards on 10 catches. Grade: B-

Offensive line

The good news is the line only allowed Goff to get sacked once. The bad news, that resulted in a fumble. The far bigger issue for the offensive line was a slew of penalties. Every starter outside guard Jonah Jackson was flagged for at least holding infraction, while Evan Brown and Penei Sewell each committed a false start. In total, the group netted eight flags.  Grade: D-

Defensive line

The Lions did an excellent job controlling Chicago’s ground game. Factoring out quarterback scrambles, Bears ball carriers mustered just 59 yards on 23 carries, with lead back David Montgomery being limited to 46 yards on 17 totes. That’s a significant improvement from the last time the teams met, when he went for 106 yards and scored twice with 23 touches out of the backfield. 

The pass rush was another story. Detroit was wholly ineffective generating pocket pressure through three quarters, finally  busting through in the fourth quarter, when rookie Levi Onwuzurike netted his first NFL sack. Grade: D+

Linebackers

Alex Anzalone had one of his better games with the Lions, recording a pair of pass breakups and multiple stops short of the sticks on third down, finishing with nine total tackles. Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Derrick Barnes also played a critical role in Detroit’s effectiveness against the run by filling their run gaps. Grade: B+

Secondary

It was a hit-and-miss performance for the secondary. Amani Oruwariye was a bright spot, nabbing his fifth interception of the season and nearly securing a second. Unlike many of his previous picks, where he was in the right place at the right time, the third-year cornerback earned these opportunities with outstanding positioning. 

Will Harris, on the other hand, struggled playing a different role. Handling the nickel with AJ Parker out, Harris scored an early pass breakup on third down, forcing a punt. But that was quickly forgotten when he surrendered a 52-yard completion and was out of position on an 18-yard touchdown grab the next play. 

The 317 yards Bears quarterback Andy Dalton was able to rack up wasn’t ideal, but given how much time he had in the pocket, I’m not sure how much better Detroit’s back end could have done. Grade: B

Special teams

Jack Fox averaged 50 yards on his six punts, carried by a 70-yarder early in the first half that flipped the field for the Lions. But his net was a less impressive 40.1 yards due to KhaDarel Hodge failing to locate the ball inside the 5-yard line on one, resulting in a touchback, and the coverage units getting leaky, leading to a couple nice returns for Chicago return man Jakeem Grant. 

Igwebuike nearly busted a big one on a kickoff for the Lions, but couldn’t outflank the Bears after breaking free of a mass of bodies and reversing fields. Rookie kicker Riley Patterson didn’t attempt a field goal in his debut for the Lions, but made both his extra points, including one pushed back five yards after a penalty for too many men on the field. Grade: C+

Coaches

At times, the Lions remained too conservative on offense, and we’re not just talking about the couple times they got into third-and-a-mile because of penalties. Reynolds seemed to be opening things up for the passing game, but the Lions largely went away from him after the opening drive. 

Defensively, part of the pass rush’s problem was sending three after the QB on several second- and third-and-long situations. That allowed Dalton time to survey the scene and find an open man. Coordinator Aaron Glenn has to know at this point that he doesn’t have rushers capable of consistently winning one-on-one. 

The double timeout at the end of the game was understandable, to an extent. The 5-yard infraction the Lions committed was better than the touchdown they believe they were going to give up without it. But it is inexcusable to come out the initial timeout without a well-communicated plan. Instead, there was chaos and that’s on the coaches. Grade: D

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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