The Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions met on Saturday night in a NFC clash. It was an exciting football game, but at the end of the day it is another loss for the Lions. The Falcons downfield threats were on display, as was Calvin Johnson. The game was highlighted by Calvin Johnson breaking Jerry Rice’s 17-year-old receiving record of 1848 yards. Calvin has 1892 yards through 15 games in 2012.
The Falcons beat the Lions 31-18.
Let’s look at the Lions’ final postgame grades and evaluations.
Matthew Stafford: A-
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a great game in Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons. He made one mistake as he tried to force the ball to Calvin Johnson in the fourth quarter. The Lions offense is suffering from a lack of weapons, but Stafford managed to make a bunch of plays in Week 16. He threw the ball from many different arm angles and delivered the ball on time.
Stafford was accurate all day, but he was under constant pressure from the defensive front of the Falcons. Stafford finished 37-of-56 for 443 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass in the game, but he did throw one interception. Stafford had a very good game, perhaps one of his better games in the 2012 season.
Mikel Leshoure: C-
The Lions really tried to establish the running game against the Falcons, and they ran the ball on first down a lot. They run the shotgun draw constantly, and it seems to never produce for them. He wasn’t explosive against the Falcons, and Leshoure wasn’t very effective when he touched the ball, finishing with 46 yards on 15 carries to go along with three catches for 20 yards.
He did score a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter but he had a very costly fumble in the game. Leshoure is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry but he has scored nine touchdowns in 2012.
Joique Bell: B-
Bell takes advantage of the NFL opportunity in front of him. This week, he didn’t touch the ball all that much in the running game as the Lions found themselves down in the game. Bell touched the ball 13 times and finished with 83 total yards. Bell caught nine passes, and he is one of the Lions bright spots in 2012.
Calvin Johnson: A
Johnson was unbelievable against the Falcons in Week 16. He found open areas of the defense throughout the game and like always, he was virtually unstoppable when teams try to cover him with one defender. Johnson is as hot as can be right now. Johnson has 69 catches, 1125 yards and four touchdowns in his last seven games.
Johnson finished with 225 yards on 11 catches in the Week 16 game and he broke Jerry Rice's 17-year-old record of 1848 receiving yards.
Kris Durham: C
Durham is a very big target, but it was obvious that he and Stafford are not in sync. Durham hasn’t taken full advantage of the opportunity in front of him. He finished the game with two catches for 32 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 Falcons in Week 16. He finished with four catches for 34 yards.
Tony Scheffler: C
Scheffler had a pretty quiet game against the Falcons. The Lions lined him up all over the field with the lack of playable receivers. He registered four catches for 41 yards. Scheffler is a problem for defenses because of his size/speed combination, but he is lining up in the slot and is having trouble separating from the slot corners he is facing.
Jeff Backus: C-
The Lions offensive line did not play well in Week 16, as Stafford was under pressure early and often in the game. Stafford did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly, and the Falcons didn’t register a sack in Week 16.
The Lions could not handle the interior of the Falcons defense as the offensive line really struggled to open holes on the running game. 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 defensive line of the Falcons. The Lions are fortunate to have a solidifying force like Sims next to Backus, but today he and the rest of the line didn’t move anyone off of the ball. Sims had a pretty average day against a tough defensive foe.
Dominic Raiola: C-
Like every game Raiola plays, he is physically outmatched as he 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: D
Stephen Peterman had a bad game in Week 16. He wasn’t able to create any movement in the running game, and he didn’t hold onto a block that would have led to a Stafford rushing touchdown. He was also flagged for a personal foul in the fourth quarter. The Lions tried to run the ball behind the right side of the line, but they weren’t able to do much in the running game.
Gosder Cherilus: C-
Cherilus had a pretty average game. He did get the false starts cleaned up, but the Lions got stuffed all night trying to run behind the right side of the line. Overall, the Lions offensive line had a pretty rough night.
Riley Reiff: B
Reiff came in and played in the jumbo package the Lions run, and he looks athletic and mobile. He made a nice trap block on the rushing touchdown by Leshoure.
Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril: D+
Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril both had very quiet games against the Falcons as they each finished with one tackle. The Lions didn’t get any pressure from their defensive ends against the Falcons and their underperforming offensive line. Vanden Bosch and Avril weren’t a factor in the game in Week 16.
Ndamukong Suh: B
Suh pushed the pocket the entire game as he was lined up against rookie offensive lineman Peter Konz. He regularly got pressure and the interior of the Lions defensive line was pretty effective against a struggling Falcons offensive line. He finished with four tackles and a half-sack in the game to go along with a safety.
Andre Fluellen: C+
The Lions signed Fluellen with the injury to defensive tackle Nick Fairley. He stepped into a rotational role and performed well, finishing with three tackles.
Sammie Hill: C+
Hill got the start in the game for injured tackle Nick Fairley and helped to push the pocket from the middle of the defense. He finished with two tackles in Week 16. Hill and the Lions defensive line did a good job of stringing running back Michael Turner out, allowing their linebackers and secondary players to step up and make tackles.
Justin Durant: B+
Justin Durant and the rest of the linebacker group had a good day in Week 16. The Falcons presented a tough test with tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner. Gonzalez was held to one catch for nine yards and the Falcons ran the ball 22 times for a total of 73 yards.
Durant finished with eight tackles in Week 16.
Stephen Tulloch: B
The Falcons tried to run the ball into the pressure the Lions were bringing inside, but Tulloch did a very good job of getting to the right gap and making solid tackles on a very physical running back. Tulloch had a very busy day as the Falcons ran the ball at the middle of the Lions defense a lot in Week 16. Tulloch had five total tackles in the game.
DeAndre Levy: B+
DeAndre Levy was responsible defending pass in coverage against the Falcons. It’s a tough job for the Lions linebacker as the scheme left him isolated on Gonzalez. Levy did a good job of locating, and running to the ball in run defense. He registered eight tackles in Week 16.
Jonte Green: B-
Green got the start at cornerback in the game against the Falcons. Green was a sixth-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Green has really progressed during his rookie season, as he is locating the ball and is a very athletic cornerback. He doesn’t look terribly out of place and did an admirable job lined up against Julio Jones. Green finished the game with eight tackles.
Chris Houston: D
Houston played a bad game in Week 16 against the Falcons. Houston was tasked with stopping two of the game’s premier wide receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones and he got burned horribly a few times. The Lions didn’t get much pressure from their defensive ends, and the Lions secondary was left exposed to Matt Ryan and his playmakers. Houston got fried early by White and later by Julio Jones. Houston had five total tackles against the Falcons.
Louis Delmas: C
Delmas played a solid, unspectacular game in Week 16. Like always, he was very aggressive while defending the run. The Lions secondary was significantly outmatched in this game and the Falcons really took advantage of the Lions vertically. Delmas and the secondary had a rough night. He finished with nine tackles against the Falcons.
Don Carey: C
This was a stiff test for the back-end of the Lions defense, as they had to keep White and Jones at bay. Carey had a good performance against the Falcons, stepping up to defend the run, while 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 three total tackles.
Special Teams: C-
The Lions have no choice but to add a player in the offseason that can help them in the return game and play another position as well. They don’t have the roster room to carry Logan, especially when he helps in no other area other then returning the ball, and he isn’t effective doing that. He managed to make a terrible play on the free-kick after the safety. Logan is no longer an asset for the Lions.
The Lions were able to punt, and kickoff the ball and the coverage team defended the kicks with solid coverage. The Falcons return game did nothing against the Lions in Week 16.
I love the adjustment the Lions made defensively at halftime. At the end of the day, the Falcons were just too much for the Lions. The Lions showed up and played with passion and heart in Week 16 but they were beat by a much better, more talented team.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan continues to call for the shotgun draw play and it is going nowhere. The Lions need to get a little (or a lot) more creative in the running game as their offensive line is not moving anyone off of the ball. It doesn’t make sense to run into the offensive lineman’s back at the line of scrimmage.
Head coach Jim Schwartz was a little conservative in the game, settling for a field goal at the end of the first half. He could have taken one shot at the end zone, but chose to take three points instead.