Lions vs. Cardinals: Full Team Report Card for Detroit
As I wrote in the initial takeaways from the game, this was a difficult contest to evaluate. Detroit did a lot of things well on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, it did enough things poorly that it cost the team a victory. That makes it tough to grade several of the players here, but this is no diploma mill or rubber stamp pass/fail for slack-jawed athletes. Everyone gets a grade.
The Lions QB came out firing, putting up 210 yards and two touchdowns before halftime with remarkable efficiency. His arm strength and ball placement were outstanding.
The second half was a different story. Stafford completed just half his passes after the break, and the offense thudded to a halt. He did not adjust well to the adjustments Arizona made in its pressure and coverages at halftime.
Bush was ineffective as a runner, though he did make some pretty moves to avoid tackles. He re-injured his knee in the first half, then fumbled on the second play of the second half and spent the rest of the day on the bench.
Bell ran eight times for 30 yards, but almost all of that came on two carries. His hard-charging style broke several tackles, but Bell couldn't create much after making the initial tackler miss. I noted an exceptional blitz pickup late in the game. Bell caught five balls but was credited with one drop that could turn into two upon further review, and he didn't get good depth on a route once.
This was his best game in a long time. Facing off most of the day against a very talented corner in Patrick Peterson, Johnson caught six balls for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson moved all over the formation and still had a monster game despite being the focus of the defense.
Burleson caught seven passes for a total of 45 yards. He almost never ran a route longer than three yards, including the final play where he was tackled after three yards on 4th-and-4. There was little elusiveness after the catch for Mr. LionBlood in this one.
Edwards didn't catch a pass before leaving early in the game with an undisclosed injury. He did not return, and his speed was sorely missed.
Durham had one ball thrown in his direction, though it was not catchable. He ran the wrong route on one play. I did note he blocked well on a Bell run. Durham just couldn't get any separation for himself.
His woes continue. Pettgirew was on the hook for three dropped passes, and two of them came on third downs that cost the Lions potential points. Worse, he couldn't sustain a block on a tackle for loss on the first play of the game. Pettigrew gets a half-grade credit for his leaping 16-yard catch.
Scheffler started the game but saw limited action. Stafford did not throw a pass his way. He missed a block on a Pettigrew reception.
I saw the rookie on the field for one play, the second snap, which was wiped out by an illegal substitution penalty that appeared to be on Fauria.
The starting left tackle had an up-and-down day. I had him for two allowed QB pressures on first watching. Reiff sealed open holes on the edge very nicely in the run game on more than one occasion, and on the long Bush catch-and-run, he blasted a defender in space.
The goal for a left guard is to never get noticed on game tape. Sims will probably get charged with giving up the sack, but it was more of a coverage sack. He got injured in the first half but did not miss time. Detroit did not run well behind him.
Strong game for the center. Raiola was very active. His blitz pickups were excellent, and he did a fine job turning shoulders and opening creases. He wound up on the ground at the end of many plays but did his job quite well.
I saw this a lot from the rookie right guard in this game: He would fire out and win the initial leverage battle but couldn't sustain the block. Calais Campbell is a tough assignment, and the rookie grades out acceptably.
After last week's uneven performance, Hilliard once again was the weakest link in pass protection. When the Lions tried to run to the right, they found little success. The blocked field goal was directly on him, and that cost the Lions the game.
The stat line doesn't show it, but Ndamukong Suh was the best player on the field for either team. He consistently beat a double-team before it had a chance to get to him. Considering he did so well without normal running mate Nick Fairley next to him, this was a fantastic, penalty-free effort by Suh.
Young recorded a sack, which he owes to Suh, and generated at least one more QB hurry off the edge. A penalty for illegal hands to the face wiped out a turnover, however, and he had another penalty as well.
Ziggy flashed versatility in this game. He forced a false start by quickly flopping inside pre-snap. He nearly got home on two separate bull rushes where he had his blocker on skates. Ansah's strip sack of Carson Palmer was wiped out by penalty. It was not his best day in run containment.
The right end had one tackle and might get credit for one QB hurry. Not much to write home about.
Izzy made my notes twice. First, he peeled off a weak block and slammed the runner to the ground to stop a third-down conversion. Second, he was flagged for roughing the passer when he rolled into Palmer's legs well after the throw.
Starting in place of Fairley, Mosley had a lot of active energy at the beginning of the game. He recorded one tackle and assisted on another, but he offered no pass rush and had his shoulders turned a couple times versus the run.
Minimal impact in limited playing time, though he did get into the backfield and force an inside run to go outside into the waiting tacklers.
The middle backer was fantastic, all over the field. I noted him extensively in my initial takeaways.
Any time a linebacker scores a touchdown for Detroit, it's a cause for celebration. Strong all-around game for the Lions' primary coverage backer, but he was not great against the run.
Palmer didn't see the field as much this week as the Cardinals offensive scheme required more nickel coverage. He recorded a tackle and twice made very quick reads in pass coverage.
This was one of Houston's better games. Facing off against a limited Larry Fitzgerald, Houston was confident and alert. He broke up two passes and did a much better job playing the ball and not the receiver, a welcome breath of fresh air. Houston led the team in tackles with seven, and a couple of those were excellent crashes inside where he ducked the initial block.
Slay had a short day, getting toasted on the Cardinals' first touchdown. That was the last we saw of Slay.
Delmas was out of position on the Ellington touchdown catch, and he was also late to react to a few other throws until the ball was in the air. It was not an active day for the safety.
There are few safeties better at knifing inside the block and making the low tackle on the runner at or near the line of scrimmage. That's Quin's specialty and he did that a few times in this game. I noted him being in solid coverage on Jim Dray and Andre Roberts on occasion.
He missed a couple of tackles when Mendenhall took runs outside, overrunning his contain position. Mathis did prevent a touchdown by pushing Michael Floyd out of bounds, but he gave too much cushion at times.
Bentley was flagged for two pass interference penalties, both of which were merited. Strong play against the run can only compensate so much. Bentley was either really good or really bad, depending on the play.
Akers missed both his field-goal attempts, with one of them blocked. He actually missed three kicks, as the first miss was negated by penalty. His sole job is to kick field goals, and he failed.
Martin averaged over 50 yards per punt and prevented return damage with solid direction kicking. He's the only special teams player that earns a passing grade, which makes his strong day all the better in context. All four of his kickoffs went at least eight yards deep into the end zone.
The Lions failed to start any drive beyond their own 21, and Spurlock's inability to create anything as a return man played a major role in that. He very nearly committed the cardinal sin (sorry, bad pun) of running out of the end zone and going back in.