The Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 20-13 in Week 4 of the regular season. The Lions put a very sub-par effort forth against the Vikings in this NFC North game. The Lions go into their bye week with some very serious questions to answer, and a 1-3 record.
Lets look at the Lions' final postgame grades and evaluations.
Stafford delivered the ball well all day against the Vikings but his receivers dropped the ball far too often in this game. He threw accurately and with great velocity but he couldn’t put the Lions in the end zone when it mattered. Stafford deserved better today as he finished 30-of-51 for 319 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Mikel Leshoure: C
Leshoure had a rough game against the Minnesota defense as they kept him hemmed in throughout most of the game. He did break one long run but fumbled at the end of the play. Leshoure finished with 26 yards on 13 carries and 37 yards on four receptions.
Joique Bell: B
Bell came in late in the game as the Lions were down two scores and gave the offense a little life catching the ball out of the backfield. He looked good running in open space and he is a tough runner to bring down. Bell finished with one carry for two yards and six catches for 72 yards.
Calvin Johnson: C
The Vikings held the Lions wide receivers to very little in Week 4. This was not a great performance by Johnson as he took a big shot to the head and had a few drops after that. He also had a ball jarred loose after initially catching it in the end zone. This has to be considered a pretty average game at best for a superstar like Johnson.
Titus Young: D
Young was held in check by the Vikings throughout the game as he finished with one catch for 17 yards. He also dropped a pass that would have resulted in a sure first down. With the exception being the pass he caught at the end of the game in Week 2, Young has been very down in 2012 and the game against the Vikings was no different.
Nate Burleson: B-
Burleson had a pretty good game when considering how bad the Lions offense looked throughout the game. He finished with five catches for 51 yards. This is about all you can expect out of Burleson, as he is a chain mover at this point of his career.
Brandon Pettigrew: D-
Pettigrew continues to drop the football at incredibly important times. He dropped a touchdown last week and let the ball get stripped out of his hands for a Titans touchdown. This week, he dropped a sure touchdown pass at the game’s most critical time. Pettigrew’s hands are becoming a massive liability.
Pettigrew finished with seven catches for 67 yards, but he dropped the ball on one of the games most important plays. It is inexcusable to drop the football like Pettigrew did at that point of the game.
Jeff Backus: C-
Jeff Backus did an average job of protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford in this game. Backus does not help in the run blocking game, but that is not a particular strength of his game. Overall, Backus was adequate versus the Vikings but he was responsible for allowing a few sacks on Stafford. He looked confused at times as to who to block, and the Lions paid for it.
Rob Sims: B
Rob Sims did a nice job of keeping Stafford clean in this game. Sims was really good in pass protection and he did an adequate job of giving the Lions running backs some room to operate. Sims is quietly a very good player and a stabilizing force playing next to Jeff Backus.
Dominic Raiola: C-
Much like the other offensive linemen, Raiola was fairly effective in pass protection but pretty poor in the running game. The Lions aren’t asking Raiola to open up holes for them, as his job is to make the calls for the offensive line. Raiola looked physically outmatched in this game as he couldn’t move anybody off of the ball.
Stephen Peterman: C
Stephen Peterman was good in this game, as he didn’t take any bad penalties. Peterman did not create any push in the running game and the Lions could not run the ball behind him against the Vikings.
Gosder Cherilus: C
Cherilus was not a problem from a penalty perspective in this game, and in a tight game that matters. He did a good job in pass protection but he lacked the ability to move the Vikings defensive linemen to give the running backs any room to run the ball.
Cliff Avril: B
Avril was active in making tackles near or behind the line of scrimmage in the game against the Vikings. Avril got some nice pressure on quarterback Christian Ponder and he did a great job of disrupting the throwing lanes for Ponder. This was Avril’s best game of the 2012 season, but it was shortened because on an injury. Avril played like the Avril everyone saw last year against the Vikings. He finished with three tackles and a half of a sack.
Ndamukong Suh: C-
The Lions registered two sacks in this game but Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder was never really pressured from the vaunted middle of the Lions defense. The middle of the Lions defense is supposed to be their strength but they are not playing that way. This was another below average performance for Suh. He managed a half of a sack and two tackles but he was very quiet in this game.
Kyle Vanden Bosch: B-
Vanden Bosch had a decent game against the Vikings as he registered three tackles in this game. It was another subpar effort for the defensive line as a whole, but Vanden Bosch’s effort was on display as he was near Ponder right as the ball was thrown a few times.
Nick Fairley: C-
Fairley started for the injured Corey Williams and was very quiet against the Vikings. He finished with one tackle and really no quarterback pressures. This was not a great game for Fairley and the middle of the Lions defense.
Justin Durant: B
Justin Durant and the linebacker group as a whole played a solid game against the Vikings. They were tasked with tackling one of the NFL’s toughest players to bring down in running back Adrian Peterson. The Lions linebacker group missed a few tackles but overall they did a good job of preventing the big play. Durant had a good game registering six total tackles.
Stephen Tulloch: B
Stephen Tulloch did a good job of tackling in the game. Tulloch finished with six total tackles. It was a tough test, but Tulloch did a nice job against the Vikings. The Lions linebackers played a really clean game as the penalties that Tulloch took last week did not show up in this game.
DeAndre Levy: B+
DeAndre Levy seemed to be all over the field in this game as he did a great job of tracking down the ball from his weak side. Levy finished with nine tackles, the majority of them against Peterson. Levy had a very good game against the Vikings.
Bill Bentley: D+
Bentley had another rough outing against the Vikings as he was flagged for pass interference twice in the game. Bentley is a rookie, and he is going to look up and down. This was one of those “down” games for Bentley. He did register 5 total tackles.
Chris Houston: B
Houston is the Lions' best cornerback and today he wasn’t tested very much in the passing game. The Vikings were content to run the ball and challenge rookie Bill Bentley on the other side. Houston had a solid game as he finished with four total tackles.
Erik Coleman: B
Coleman did a better job of tackling in this game than he did last week. The Lions secondary was pretty untested in this game via the pass, but they needed to tackle well and Coleman did a good job today. He finished with seven total tackles.
Ricardo Silva: B
Silva was activated from the Lions practice squad and started the game against the Vikings. He played really well in run support as he came up a few times to make open field tackles. Silva did not look out of place against the Vikings and has to be considered a bright spot for the Lions. Silva finished the game with five total tackles.
Special Teams: F
I am not sure if it is possible to play worse on special teams than the Lions have over these past two weeks. They simply have killed the team and prevented it from winning football games. The Lions gave up another punt return and another kickoff return for touchdowns against the Vikings.
There has to be a better way to play in this area of the game than to allow this unit to prevent this team from winning football games. Is it time for another special teams coach to come in and work with this team? There certainly is an argument for that kind of move. Consider this the second game (through four weeks) that the outrageously bad special teams play has killed the Lions chances of winning a game.
You simply can’t start a game by giving up a 105-yard return for a touchdown, follow that up by giving up a 77-yard punt return in the third quarter and expect to win that game. This was a horrendous game for the special teams unit.
The Lions have some serious questions to answer about their approach to offense and how they can stay in games with the liability that is their special teams units. They continue to get into their own way on offense by trying to run the ball after driving it all the way down the field by throwing the football.
There is a reason that the Lions were explosive on offense last year and it was because they couldn’t be stopped even when teams knew they were throwing. The play calling has been very sub-par through four weeks and it has gotten stale and conservative.
The Lions will not be happy going into their bye week after this loss, but it comes at a good time with the issues that they face.