Detroit Lions grades: Nothing but F’s for entire defense, coaches in blowout loss in Seattle

Detroit Free Press

SEATTLE — Detroit Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett grades the Detroit Lions in their 51-29 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

Quarterback

The Lions fell behind so big so early, they put Tim Boyle in a bad spot in his third career start, having to throw 37 times. Boyle was errant on several passes. He missed a throw low to KhaDarel Hodge on the second series and was high on back-to-back throws to Trinity Benson and Amon-Ra St. Brown over the middle in the first half. He finished with three interceptions, the worst of which came on the first play of the third quarter, when he dropped a snap, picked up a loose ball and fired high to Hodge. He did throw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, but he wasn’t as consistently sharp as he was last week. Grade: D

Running backs

The Lions struggled to run the ball early, when the game was still relatively close, though those issues were somewhat on their offensive line. D’Andre Swift had just two carries in the first half, including a 31-yarder on a draw play with 21 seconds left when the Lions seemed to content to run out the clock. Jamaal Williams (11 carries, 22 yards) had minimal success running the ball, though he seemed to run harder after taking a big shot on the goal line. Craig Reynolds (four carries, 4 yards) was a non-factor, though he made one nice block playing a pseudo fullback role out of a pro set. Grade: D

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Receivers/tight ends

Amon-Ra St. Brown continued his phenomenal late-season run with 134 yards from scrimmage, including 111 receiving, and two touchdowns. He scored on a 26-yard run, when he spun out of an open-field tackle by Quandre Diggs, and caught a touchdown pass and scored a two-point conversion on a run in the second half. St. Brown did some of his damage receiving after the game got out of hand, but he also excelled despite a Seahawks defense focused on his every move. KhaDarel Hodge (five catches, 76 yards) made a nice lunging catch at the goal line that was nearly a touchdown, but the rest of the Lions’ pass-catching corps struggled. Trinity Benson had his first target in seven weeks sail through his hands just before halftime, and he would have lost a second-half fumble had officials not deemed his forward progress stopped. Jared Pinckney whiffed on a pulling block on a third-and-2 run that went for 1 yard and got tossed aside by Jordyn Brooks on another run play. And Boyle’s second interception glanced off Tom Kennedy’s hands. Grade: C

Offensive line

The Seahawks outmuscled the Lions in the trenches early with a five-man defensive front. Take out St. Brown’s 26-yard touchdown run and Swift’s long run just before halftime and the Lions had 14 yards rushing on 11 first-half carries. Matt Nelson and Parker Ehinger saw significant action as extra linemen, but that did little to create room in the run game. Tommy Kraemer, making a fill-in start at right guard for Halapoulivaati Vaitai, got shoved back on a fourth-and-1 play that went for no gain and on a second play early in the first half, when Williams made a defender miss in the backfield. Kraemer did have a nice block on St. Brown’s touchdown run, and Evan Brown made nice second-level blocks on the long runs by St. Brown and Swift. Penei Sewell was flagged for two holding penalties, including one that wiped out a 16-yard gain by Hodge. In pass protection, the Lions did not allow a sack for the second straight week. Grade: C-minus 

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Defensive line

Just like on offense, the Lions got pushed around up front on the defensive side of the ball. Rashaad Penny had 175 yards rushing on 25 carries and too often made his way past the line of scrimmage without getting touched. Charles Harris was one of three defenders who missed a tackle on Penny’s first touchdown run, and Levi Onwuzurike could not get off blocks on either Penny score. Julian Okwara slipped past Gabe Jackson for a third down pressure on the opening drive to force a bad pass by Russell Wilson, and Austin Bryant showed good hands to rip past Jake Curhan for a second quarter sack. Grade: F

Linebackers

Tackling was an issue for the Lions all game, at all three levels on defense. Jalen Reeves-Maybin missed a tackle on Gerald Everett in the first quarter, and Derrick Barnes was shoved out of his gap by Phil Haynes on Penny’s 23-yard run on the next play. Reeves-Maybin did sniff out a screen pass to Tyler Lockett after a play-action fake, but he was beat badly in coverage in the second half, when he bit on a run fake only to have a Wilson pass hit him in the back, and he and Will Harris missed tackles on Colby Parkinson on a key third-and-7 play in the third quarter after the Lions cut their deficit to 16. Anthony Pittman could not disengage from a block on Penny’s 37-yard run late in the first half. Grade: F

Defensive backs

Tracy Walker made a game-high 12 tackles but took a poor angle on Penny’s first touchdown. Will Harris was slow setting an edge on a second-and-10 run on Seattle’s opening TD drive and was slow reacting on Penny’s touchdown run. Harris also got beat badly on DK Metcalf’s first touchdown, when he guessed wrong on a slant-and-go in the red zone and had no safety help over top with a seven-man rush. Ifeatu Melifonwu never contested Metcalf’s jump ball touchdown, and A.J. Parker got beat on a 28-yard pass that was more about poor play design; he lined up over top a different receiver and was never in position as he raced to catch up. Grade: F

Special teams

Even the Lions’ usually solid special teams had an off day Sunday. Jack Fox’s first two punts went 38 and 37 yards and Riley Patterson badly missed his first field goal of the season from 55 yards out, albeit in poor kicking conditions. Godwin Igwebuike did have a 47-yard kick return that gave the Lions a blip of life, and Igwebuike recovered an onside kick in the third quarter, though Bobby Price got a little too anxious and nearly touched the ball before it went 10 yards. Grade: C

Coaching

Dan Campbell said he felt like his team’s effort was there Sunday, but from this vantage point the Lions looked demoralized and disinterested early. Campbell said he challenged the spot on a failed fourth-and-1 conversion attempt on the Lions’ opening drive because of the magnitude of the play, but that was a challenge he had little chance of winning. The Lions did not do anything to slow a Seahawks offense that scored on nine straight drives, and they had no answers offensively when they fell behind because of their shorthanded roster. This is not a loss that needs to be pinned on coaching, but when your team no-shows in a 22-point blowout in Week 17, Campbell and his staff certainly share in the blame. Grade: F

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

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