Detroit Lions grades: Coaching, defense fail again in brutal loss to Raiders

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
View Comments

OAKLAND, Calif. — Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett grades the Detroit Lions after their 31-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday:


Matthew Stafford can’t do this alone, though he’s giving it a try. Stafford completed 26 of 41 passes for a season-high 406 yards. He threw an interception in the end zone, when he didn’t get enough air under a pass to Kenny Golladay, and he was uncharacteristically erratic in a two-minute drive at the end of the first half. Overall, though, Stafford turned in another winning effort. He looked off the safety to get Marvin Jones free on a first-half touchdown pass, he dug the Lions out of several long down-and-distance situations, and he led the team to the precipice of the goal line only to watch his fourth-down pass to Logan Thomas get broken up in the end zone.

Grade: A-minus

Lions all but out of the NFC North playoff race. And it's Matt Patricia's fault ]

Running backs

Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic saw the bulk of the playing time at running back in the Lions’ second game without Kerryon Johnson. McKissic fumbled the exchange on a handoff to kill the game’s opening drive, but he showed his elusiveness with 32 yards on four carries. McKissic had two big gains in the third quarter, including one shifty jump cut to get by Tahir Whitehead for an 11-yard run. Johnson had a 10-yard scamper in the first half, but had no time to get upfield on any of his three catches (for just 7 yards). Paul Perkins showed good vision on a 13-yard second-quarter run, when he cut back on Clelin Ferrell. Overall, the Lions finished with a respectable 77 yards on 16 carries from their running backs.

Grade: C

Wide receivers/tight ends

Marvin Jones is tackled by Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen during the fourth quarter Sunday.

Both Marvin Jones (eight catches, 126 yards) and Golladay (4-132) had huge days for the Lions. Jones outmuscled Daryl Worley for a 47-yard pass in the first quarter that set up his 2-yard touchdown catch on fourth down, and he survived a big hit from Erik Harris to convert a first-and-15 in the first half. Golladay made a slick open-field move to get in the end zone on his 59-yard touchdown catch. T.J. Hockenson had three catches for 56 yards but was being evaluated for a concussion, potentially his second of the year, late in the game. Hockenson made a nice pulling block on Johnson’s 10-yard run, and Jesse James had a good block on Stafford’s long pass to Jones, forcing a Raiders pass rusher inside and buying time for his quarterback.

Grade: A

It's the Lions' worst loss of year by far, but here's why season isn't over ]

Offensive line

The Lions don’t get much push from their offensive line in the run game, but center Frank Ragnow did have a couple nice run blocks. He opened a big hole on Johnson’s 9-yard run on the first play of the Lions’ second drive, and had the key block to spring McKissic for a first down in the third quarter. Ragnow was called for one false start penalty, and both sixth offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby and right guard Kenny Wiggins had second-quarter holding penalties. Joe Dahl, who left in the final series with a leg injury, and Taylor Decker didn’t communicate on a stunt switch when Stafford took a big sack on the final play of the first half, and Dahl and Hockenson couldn’t hold their blocks on Johnson's 2-yard loss in fourth quarter.

Grade: B-minus

Defensive line

The Lions continue to get shoved around in the run game, though Damon Harrison flashed on a few plays early and had probably his best game of the season. The Raiders finished with 171 yards on 36 carries and Josh Jacobs ran for two touchdowns. Trey Flowers beat Richie Incognito to throw Jacobs for a loss in the second quarter, but Da’Shawn Hand drew a costly neutral-zone infraction on third-and-6. Flowers had the Lions' only sack on a day when they couldn't get to the quarterback, but neither Romeo Okwara nor Devon Kennard could catch David Carr when he had to scramble to field a rolling snap and keep the Raiders in makeable field-goal range.

Grade: D-plus


Christian Jones (11 tackles) and Jahlani Tavai (10 tackles) had big days statistically, but none of the Lions’ linebackers made any game-impacting plays. Tavai looked like he forgot to cover Darren Waller on a 31-yard pass late in the first quarter, and Jarrad Davis committed a silly pass-interference penalty on a third-and-12 checkdown a few minutes later. Davis appeared to make a bad read on Jacobs’ 16-yard run just before the two-minute warning, when he filled the wrong gap, and he was beat by Marcell Ateman for a 34-yard gain to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Grade: D

Defensive backs

Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow catches the go-ahead touchdown against the Lions during the fourth quarter.

The Lions didn’t get any pressure on Carr, so it’s hard to assess how some of their defensive backs played in coverage. Justin Coleman had a rough day, as slot receiver Hunter Renfrow went for six catches, 54 yards and a touchdown. Renfrow beat Coleman for an 8-yard gain on one third-and-6 play, and he uncovered from the slot corner in the end zone as Carr scrambled to his left for the winning touchdown. Waller beat Will Harris for a big first down on third-and-3 in the second quarter, and Harris was beat by Jalen Richard for a key pass on the Raiders’ winning drive. Darius Slay was barely targeted, and Rashaan Melvin made a couple nice plays on third downs in the third quarter, 

Grade: C

Special teams

The Lions took a step back on special teams after a few mostly good weeks. They allowed a 27-yard gain on a well-designed fake punt, they weren’t great in coverage on kick returns and they failed to down a bouncing punt at the 1-yard line when they passed on a long field goal early in the fourth quarter. C.J. Moore did not go for the punt near the goal line, but he wasn’t allowed to touch the ball after going out of bounds. It appeared as if he was waiting for Thomas to make a leaping save on the ball and tip it back to him to down. Matt Prater made his only field-goal try of 23 yards.

Grade: D


What were the Lions thinking on that last play? Coach Matt Patricia, Stafford and others defended the call as a play they go to in that situation, fourth-and-goal at the 1. But with the game on the line, I want my best players on the field. I don’t want Golladay, Jones and Danny Amendola on the bench. Patricia made the right decisions to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2 early in the game, and to kick a field goal in a similar situation in the third quarter. I thought the Lions could have tried a long field goal with Prater rather than punt on the Moore play. Aside from the final play, the most concerning thing from a coaching standpoint is the Lions have not been able to solve their defensive woes all season. They can’t stop the run, they can’t get off the field on third and they don’t seem to have any fix for their problems against mediocre or better teams.

Grade: D-minus

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

View Comments