Lions vs. Cardinals: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Detroit
The Detroit Lions played one of the most lifeless, uninspired football games that one could ever see in Week 15 against the Arizona Cardinals. From offense to defense, and special teams and coaching, it looked like the Lions just wanted this game, and the season, to be over. They played pathetic, bad football in every aspect and the Cardinals handed them a complete butt-kicking.
It seems impossible that this team was in the playoffs last year. It seems so far away, and this football team is nowhere close to the team it was supposed to be. The Lions have found the bottom of the barrel.
Let’s look at the Lions’ final postgame grades and evaluations.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a horrendous game in Week 15 against the Arizona Cardinals. He made mistakes and they were costly, as the Cardinals returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He doesn’t look to have very good awareness right now, and the Lions offense is suffering from a lack of weapons.
Stafford was inaccurate all day, but he was under constant pressure from the defensive front of the Cardinals. Stafford finished 24-of-50 for 246 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass in the game, but he did throw three interceptions. Stafford had a very bad game, as did the entire Lions offense.
Mikel Leshoure: C-
The Lions really tried to establish the running game against the Cardinals, and they ran the ball on first down a lot. Leshoure wasn’t explosive against the Cardinals, and he wasn’t very effective when he touched the ball, finishing with 55 yards on 14 carries to go along with two catches for four yards. He also scored a one-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Leshoure at least did a good job of securing the football and ran the ball hard against the Cardinals.
Joique Bell: C
Bell takes advantage of the NFL opportunity in front of him. This week, he didn’t touch the ball all that much as the Lions found themselves down in the game. Bell touched the ball nine times and finished with 37 total yards. He makes a lot of plays catching the ball out of the backfield and is one of the Lions bright spots in 2012.
Calvin Johnson: A-
Johnson was great against the Cardinals and was open a lot. He found open areas of the defense throughout the game, and like always he is virtually unstoppable when teams try to cover him with one defender. Johnson is as hot as can be right now. In his last six games, he has 58 catches, 900 yards and four touchdowns.
Johnson finished with 121 yards on 10 catches in this contest.
Kris Durham: C-
Durham is a very big target, but it was obvious that he and Stafford are not in sync as he ran the wrong route multiple times. Durham did not take full advantage of the opportunity in front of him. He finished the game with one catch for 14 yards.
Will Heller: C-
Heller got the start for the injured Brandon Pettigrew and he did an admirable job. He wasn’t very busy, though, and the Lions offense looked like it really missed Pettigrew against the Cardinals. He finished with two catches for 18 yards.
Tony Scheffler: C-
Scheffler had a decent game but he dropped a few key passes as well. The Lions lined him up all over the field with the lack of playable receivers. He registered three catches for 36 yards, and he's a problem for defenses because of his size/speed combination.
Jeff Backus: D+
The Lions offensive line did not play well in Week 15, as Stafford was on his back early and often. They could not handle the interior of the Cardinals defensive line. Arizona registered two sacks on Stafford, although it pressured him constantly. Overall, this was not a very good performance from Backus and the rest of the offensive line.
Rob Sims: C-
This was a tough test for the left side of the line with the physical nature of the Cardinals defensive line. The Lions are fortunate to have a solidifying force like Sims next to Backus. Sims had a pretty average day against a tough defensive foe.
Dominic Raiola: D+
Like every game Raiola plays, he is physically outmatched and struggles to move anybody off the ball. He is a gamer, however, and he always gives everything that he has. While he doesn’t look pretty doing his job, he does manage to get it done.
Stephen Peterman: C-
Stephen Peterman had an average game. He was able to create some push in the running game, and the Lions tried to run the ball behind the right side of the line. The Lions were not explosive in the running game, though, and did give up two sacks and multiple pressures.
Gosder Cherilus: D
Cherilus had a pretty bad game as he was called for multiple false start penalties. The Lions offensive line did not do a good job of protecting Stafford, and the right side of the line got exposed.
Cliff Avril: C-
Cliff Avril had a very quiet game, finishing with just one total tackle. The Lions didn’t get a lot of pressure from their defensive ends and their underperforming offensive line. Avril wasn’t a factor in any way in this one.
Kyle Vanden Bosch: C-
Kyle Vanden Bosch also had a very quiet game and totaled two tackles. Because of the lack of pressure from the defensive ends, Vanden Bosch also wasn’t much of a factor.
Ndamukong Suh: C
Suh pushed the pocket, but the pressure wasn’t there regularly and the Lions defensive line was pretty ineffective against a bad Cardinals offensive line. He finished with three tackles and one sack in the game.
Justin Durant: C
Justin Durant and the rest of the linebacker group had a quiet day. The Cardinals ran the ball better than anyone would have thought, and this game did not go the way anyone would have thought. They ran the ball 29 times for a total of 100 yards, and they scored three touchdowns against the Lions.
Durant finished with three tackles.
Stephen Tulloch: B
Arizona tried to run the ball into the pressure Detroit was bringing inside, but Tulloch did a very good job of getting to the right gap and making good, strong tackles. Tulloch had a very busy day as the Cardinals ran the ball at the middle of the Lions defense a lot. He finished with 10 total tackles.
DeAndre Levy: C
DeAndre Levy was responsible for defending pass in coverage, and he picked off a Ryan Lindley pass early in the contest. It’s a tough job for the Lions linebacker because the scheme leaves him isolated. Levy did a good job of locating, and running to the ball in run defense. He registered three tackles.
Jonte Green: B-
Green got the start at cornerback. He has really progressed during his rookie season, as he is locating the ball and is a very athletic corner. Although, he did get burned to start the game, as rookie wide receiver Michael Floyd beat him down the sideline for a 25-yard gain. Green finished the game with seven tackles.
Chris Houston: B+
Houston played another solid game this week. He was tasked with stopping one of the game’s premier wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and he did an admirable job. The Lions didn’t get much pressure from their defensive line, and their secondary did a really good job of preventing the Cardinals passing attack, holding the Cardinals to 104 yards passing.
Houston had one total tackle.
Louis Delmas: B-
Delmas returned from his knee injury and drew the start, and he played a solid game. He was very aggressive while defending the run, and he did a really good job in pass protection too. Delmas makes a huge difference in the back end of the Lions defense, and that really showed today. He finished with three tackles.
Don Carey: B-
This was a stiff test for the back end of the Lions defense, as they had to keep Fitzgerald at bay. Carey had a good performance, stepping up to defend the run while also staying in position to defend the pass. The banged up Lions were outmatched, but Carey performed admirably for a deep backup. Carey finished the game with six total tackles.
Special Teams: C
They flirted with disaster a few times in this game, but they were able to come out unscathed from a special teams perspective. They were not hurt by them, but the Lions don’t ever get any help from their return units either.
In the second quarter, the punt return team made an enormous mistake as a Lions player's helmet touched a punted ball, causing Stefan Logan to muff a punt, which ultimately led to a Lions turnover. This mistake gave the Cardinals the ball at the Lions 5-yard line.
This was a pathetic performance that has to leave everyone questioning every player and every staff member. It has reached that point, and today was unquestionably the worst moment for the Lions since Jim Schwartz was hired.
The Lions hit bottom today. They were unable to respond to anything the Cardinals threw at them. The fourth quarter summed up the entire season: The Lions drove deep into the Cardinals red zone and threw a touchdown pass to make it a seven-point game, but they were called for delay of game.
The touchdown was nullified, and on the next play Matthew Stafford threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, stretching the Cardinals lead to 14 points. Perhaps a timeout would have worked out better for them.