The Detroit Lions, once again, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Their offense left the field with 8:41 left in the game and a 14-13 lead over the Chicago Bears. What followed was a comedy of errors both from the Lions’ defense and from the coaching staff that resulted in a Bears game-winning drive that bled every single second off that clock.
But that was far from the only reason the Lions lost that game. There were disappointing performances abound, and that spoiled what appeared to be some actual progress being made on both sides of the ball.
Let’s dig a little deeper into our Lions Week 12 report card.
In his game back from injury Jared Goff may have played his best game of the season. He was accurate for pretty much the entire game, he was able to connect on four passes at least 10 yards down the field—including two touchdowns—and his touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds was a thing of beauty considering the pressure right in his face.
Unfortunately, it was not a perfect day from Goff. He still held onto the ball too long, looked hesitant to push the ball downfield at times, and had yet another fumble that cost Detroit a promising drive.
Overall, it was still far more good than bad, but the turnovers have to stop.
Running backs: C
D’Andre Swift looked more hesitant again in the running game and aside from a nice one-handed grab to convert a third down, he didn’t make much of an impact in the passing game before his shoulder injury.
Jamaal Williams looked much better and gave the Lions’ running game some life after a horrid first half. He and Godwin Igwebuike combined for 45 yards on just six carries in the final two quarters (7.5 YPC).
Tight ends: C+
T.J. Hockenson was targeted just once in the first half and turned it into a first down. However, on that same drive, he committed a false start that would end up being the first in back-to-back-to-back trio of penalties.
He came back in the second half stronger with an 8-yard catch and a nice 17-yard touchdown snag.
However, both Hockenson and Brock Wright struggled in blocking on this day.
Wide receivers: B-
Reynolds undeniably provided this unit with a spark, hauling in three catches for 70 yards and a score. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew continued to underwhelm. Kalif Raymond turned three catches into just 16 yards. Amon-Ra St. Brown turned four catches into 23 yards. Both players struggled to create some yards after the catch in the short-yardage game.
Offensive line: F
Six holding calls is simply unacceptable, no matter how “unfair” the officiating was in this game. Even putting the holding calls aside, it was a bit of a disaster game for Detroit’s offensive line. For most of the game, there were minimal rushing lanes, and Goff was under pressure early and often. Obviously, it’s worth pointing out the Lions were out there with a backup center and right guard in the game—the latter of which was making his first career start. However, the Lions have been dealing with a lot of shakeups on the offensive line all year. I’m not sure they’ve looked worse than they did on Thursday.
Defensive line: C-
If I were just grading the interior defensive line, this may be a B+ or A-. Detroit was clogging rushing lanes all game, and rookie Alim McNeill (three tackles) and Levi Onwuzurike (two tackles, one sack) were on top of their game.
But the Lions’ edge defenders were extremely ineffective in this game. Andy Dalton has all day to throw, making the Lions pay with both his arm and his legs.
Lions linebackers did an excellent job limiting the Bears’ rushing game all day. Their longest run of the day was just 12 yards, as Alex Anzalone had one of his better games as a Lion. He had yet another pass defended that nearly resulted in an interception, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin also looked strong in the run game.
Unfortunately, an injury to Reeves-Maybin forced Derrick Barnes into the game late, and the rookie linebacker was a bit of a liability in coverage in the second half, though he did notch a nice tackle for loss.
Will Harris, Tracy Walker, Jerry Jacobs, and Amani Orwuariye all notched pass breakups in this game, and Oruwariye made the best play of his career with this impressive interception in the end zone.
But the truth is this unit was torched for most of the day by Andy Dalton and a Bears receiving corps that was decimated by injury. Darnell Mooney lined up in the slot against Will Harris turned out to be a huge mismatch, as Mooney hauled in five catches for 123 yards.
This Bears’ pass offense had only eclipsed 200 net passing yards twice all year. They hadn’t passed for over 300 once. Dalton finished with 310 net passing yards on the day.
Special teams: D+
Jacobs ran into Raymond on a punt return that resulted in Detroit starting on their own 4-yard line. The Lions allowed a 22-yard punt return on a play that should have resulted in pinning the Bears deep in their own zone (Detroit was punting from the 50-yard line). And to be quite frank, Jack Fox was not good in this game. His 70-yard punt was a fluke considering it bounced off Bobby Price’s head and would’ve been downed there had it not been for a Chicago penalty. His other punts: 41 yards, 45 yards, 43 yards, 52 yards (touchback), 49 yards.
Godwin Igwebuike did have an impressive 35-yard kick return, though.
Defensively, the game plan was solid. Stop the run and dare Andy Dalton to beat you. Unfortunately, that’s what he did for much of the game. Plus, most of Detroit’s blitzes were completely ineffective in this game. Still, Detroit held Chicago to just three points in three quarters. Aside from a rough second quarter, they were pretty good.
That is, until the drive from hell. The Bears ran the last 8:30 off the clock, due to some bad coaching and miscommunications. That’s on coaching. As if a communication breakdown on third-and-9 wasn’t bad enough, the Lions followed up the horrible double timeout with this defensive play call.
Can someone help me on this … why were the Lions playing 10 yards off the receivers on third-and-4? They just handed that first down to the Bears.
And probably ended any chance of getting their first win. pic.twitter.com/9UKBe7wult
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 25, 2021
As for Dan Campbell and the offense, I have plenty of complaints to register. The first came on the initial third-and-32. Now, obviously, there aren’t any high-percentage plays for a conversion there, but I’m not talking about dialing up a 40-yard pass. Detroit was at the 50-yard line. Picking up half that yardage gives the Lions a chance at a field goal. Instead, the Lions ran another hopeless draw play for zero yards.
The Lions continue to insist on the short-passing game, which has been wholly ineffective for a full month now. Before, the excuse was the deep passing game wasn’t working, but in this game, it WAS.
There were also 10 penalties, the fact that Detroit’s defense is continuing to look confused pre-snap over and over again, and it was another day in which conservative play calling on both sides of the ball cost Detroit a chance to win late. Calling for coaches’ heads is premature, but skepticism about this staff is certainly warranted.