Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Defensive line keeps pressure on Jets

Detroit News

East Rutherford, N.J. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 20-17 victory over the New York Jets.

Quarterbacks

It wasn’t the prettiest stat line for Jared Goff, but it’s tough to fault a conservative approach against a playmaking secondary with a shutdown cornerback patrolling the left side of the field. The Lions quarterback completed 23-of-38 throws for 252 yards, with a game-winning touchdown toss and zero interceptions.

On top of the absence of turnovers, Goff did well to avoid negative plays, evading pressure and throwing the ball away of multiple occasions to finish with zero sacks. The only true negative from the performance was a underthrown deep ball for Jameson Williams that should have been a touchdown, but ended up being broken up by a defender. Grade: B+

Running backs

It wasn’t the most efficient day from the backfield rotation, with the team’s trio of backs averaging 3.7 yards per carry and 38 receiving yards on 13 targets. On the positive side, D’Andre Swift ran well, racking up 52 yards on eight carries, while looking elusive in space. And Jamaal Williams’ day should have included a touchdown, but his 11-yard score was wiped out by a holding penalty. Grade: C+

Wide receivers/tight ends

Brock Wright missed a block on a fourth-and-goal that was stuffed early in the game, and dropped a pass on Detroit’s final offensive possession, but the second-year tight end more than made up for the blunders by expertly selling a block before going out on a fourth-down crossing route later in the series. He then turned that short, converting catch into a 51-yard game-winning touchdown.

Amon-Ra St. Brown paced the Lions’ pass-catchers, as usual, with seven grabs, including multiple third-down conversions. Kalif Raymond also consistently moved the chains, matching his season-high with five grabs. Grade: B+

Offensive line

The offensive line gave Goff plenty of time to work with much of the day, but struggled with holding penalties, drawing five flags that negatively impacted multiple drives. None of those infractions were bigger than two against Evan Brown, two plays apart in the red zone, which negated a touchdown and left the Lions settling for a field goal. Grade: B-

Defensive line

Detroit’s defensive line had one of its most impactful performances of the year. Isaiah Buggs set the tone early, splitting blockers to score a tackle for a loss on the unit’s first play. By the end of the day, the front had contributed four sacks and four additional hits on the quarterback, while playing a key role in holding the Jets to 2.3 yards per carry on the ground.

The only negative was the edges allowed Zach Wilson to get out of the pocket a few times, resulting in some clean downfield looks that turned into big gains. Grade: A-

Linebackers

It was another solid day for Alex Anzalone. He had five tackles, including one for a loss, and generated multiple pressures on Wilson while blitzing. The counting stats weren’t really there for anyone else in the group, outside of two tackles for Malcolm Rodriguez, but you don’t hold a team to such a low rushing total without the second-level guys fulfilling their gap responsibilities. Grade: B+

Secondary

It was an up-and-down day for the secondary with some big plays made and big plays allowed. Safety Kerby Joseph got spun around on tight end C.J. Uzomah’s 40-yard touchdown route in the second quarter, while Jeff Okudah gave up a 50-yard bomb to receiver Jeff Smith that allowed the Jets to net a game-tying field goal at the end of the first half.

Detroit’s secondary largely settled down in the second half, with Jerry Jacobs coming up with a critical turnover early in the third quarter that turned into points for Detroit’s offense.

Nickel corner Will Harris also made some nice plays, forcing an intentional grounding on the blitz and making a tackle for a loss in run support, but that was contrasted by surrendering a 33-yard reception late in the fourth quarter on a drive where the Jets took the lead. Grade: C-

Special teams

Raymond starred for Detroit, putting forth a great individual effort on a 47-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was his first score as a returner in his career. Additionally, he threw some key blocks on two other punts that prevented the Jets from pinning the Lions deep as the ball bounced into the end zone on both.

Michael Badgely was 2-for-3 with his field goal attempts, coming up short on a difficult 54-yarder into the wind. Punter Jack Fox was only OK, netting 38.0 yards on his four boots after one turned into a touchback. Overall, the Jets were able to do very little on returns. Grade: A-

Coaching

Winning on the road is tough, and the Lions did enough to get the job done against a quality opponent, but they made it harder on themselves than it maybe needed to be.

Early in the game, the team ran it four straight times after getting to first-and-goal at the 7. It still should have worked, but needing a half-yard on fourth down, the better choice would have been a QB sneak, compared to the failed, slow-developing handoff behind two pulling tight ends.

Credit for not shying away from going for it on fourth down later in the game, and making two better calls to convert in those instances, including a well-timed and executed fourth-and-1 that resulted in Wright’s winning score.

Finally, not learning from an early-season mistake, coach Dan Campbell gave the opposition a short field with the 54-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. That was a 50/50 chance at best, and the Lions would have been best served punting and pinning a struggling Jets offense deep, instead of opening the door for the near comeback. Grade: C-

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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