Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Full Lions Report Card
The 22 straight road losses represents the longest streak in NFL history between two franchises.
This was a tough game to watch for Lions fans. The surprising absence of Calvin Johnson weighed heavily upon the game far beyond Detroit just missing its top receiver.
The grades here reflect how the performances of the players rate in comparison to their play so far this year. I also factor in my expectations based upon the matchup and how well they executed their assigned tasks.
It's important to note the Lions are still 3-2 and remain tied for first place in the NFC North. The Chicago Bears lost to New Orleans to also fall to 3-2, while the Packers sit a half-game back at 2-2 thanks to their early bye week.
It's always harder to grade after a tough loss, but there were some real positives from this game. The Lions face the Browns next Sunday in Cleveland, and many of the good things from this game can positively translate into that contest as well.
Unfortunately, the negatives also pertain. There is a lot of work to do in Allen Park this week if the Lions hope to remain in first place and knock off the surging Browns.
Matt Stafford played very much as you would expect a quarterback without his top two receivers, one of whom is a superstar. He finished 25-of-40 for 262 yards and a late touchdown. Stafford was sacked five times, fumbling on one of them.
He struggled to find anyone open, especially deep down the field. Some of his throws were on the money but dropped; I counted four legit drops on the day. I also noted he failed to see a wide-open Patrick Edwards on an early third down, instead launching the ball well over Tony Scheffler's head on the sideline.
On the positive side, once again his mechanics were clean. Stafford even showed some agility, ripping off a nice run (nullified by a penalty) and riding shotgun in front of Reggie Bush on a reverse. We could see more of that against Cleveland, which has a formidable pass rush.
Reggie Bush did not have a great game. Some of that is on him, but some falls on the coaches as I highlighted in the game takeaways. Bush is a player who thrives in the open field, but he struggled to find much to work with. He dropped a pass and lost his footing on his best play, a reverse which picked up 20 of his 44 rushing yards.
Joique Bell ran five times for 21 yards, showing good forward lean and fighting for every inch. He also caught all four passes thrown his way, accruing 30 yards.
I had in my notes that I thought the Lions should have used him more, especially early in the game. His physical style was underutilized here. Hopefully, the coaches see that and incorporate Bell more into the Cleveland game plan.
Theo Riddick did not touch the ball before leaving the game early with an injury.
Stafford's favorite target on the day, Kris Durham pulled down three of his eight targets. One of those receptions went for the only Lions touchdown on a nice post pattern. He frequently struggled to gain separation from coverage.
In a good offense, Durham is the fourth wideout. He was asked to be the top dog in this game, and he clearly doesn't have that sort of speed or skill. At least Durham is validating his roster spot and proving he can contribute as a solid possession receiver as the season progresses.
After failing to register a blip in the stat book last week, Ryan Broyles caught both passes thrown his way against Green Bay. Like Durham, he really struggled to present himself as an open target. The role of the slot receiver is to get open quickly, and Broyles consistently failed to do so in this game.
He is still clearly not 100 percent recovered from his ankle injury. As the only wideout with any appreciable speed, Edwards could not threaten the defense down the field. Two catches for 16 yards is not stepping up in the way the team needed him. I also docked him for two lousy blocking efforts.
Signed late in the week, Kevin Ogletree played a lot more than anticipated. He caught two passes for 20 yards and played with real energy. For someone who couldn't possibly know much of the playbook, I thought Ogletree played pretty well. He's worth watching in Cleveland and beyond.
This was another strong receiving effort by Brandon Pettigrew, building upon last week's impressive performance against Chicago. He led the team in receiving yards with 59 on four catches.
Stafford targeted Pettigrew five times, and a couple of those presented the tight end with a difficult catch. He looked lither in space than he did earlier this season too. On first blush, his run blocking was acceptable.
If he can continue to play at this level, the offense will look that much better when Johnson and (hopefully) Nate Burleson return.
Scheffler also caught four balls, but two critical mistakes stand out in my mind. On a fourth-quarter sideline catch, Scheffler stayed in bounds instead of simply stepping out, costing precious time for the comeback effort. Later, he had a bad drop on a well-thrown ball.
This was Scheffler's most extensive action of the year. While the productivity was nice, and I did note a couple of solid blocks, he could have made a much bigger imprint on the game. Maybe next week.
Joseph Fauria was not intentionally targeted in the game. He wound up in the way of a pass to Durham when he ran his route too deep. Once again, we did not see much of the third tight end.
Riley Reiff did not have a great day. While he generally fared well on the initial engagement, sustaining leverage and controlling the action was a problem. He surrendered at least one sack and two quarterback hurries, though all could acceptably be labeled coverage pressures more than Reiff being badly beaten.
Failing to even attempt to block Clay Matthews on the edge, however, is completely unacceptable. Reiff is fortunate that Matthews himself got hurt on the play instead of Stafford breaking his thumb.
He made my notes three times. Two of those were for falling off run blocks where he couldn't get to the point of attack. The third was a missed twist pickup that blew up a delayed handoff.
As is typical for Dominic Raiola, he really struggled with the opposing 3-4 front alignment. Raiola was very ineffective as a run blocker, and the Packers had success bringing pressure up the middle on occasion.
The rookie right guard was the bright spot on the line. Having said that, he's played better. Several run plays called for him to peel off an initial block and get to the second level, but he failed to engage that second block consistently.
Jason Fox stepped back into his starting role at right tackle after missing the last three weeks with a groin injury. At least one sack belongs on his watch, and his ability to sustain blocks in the run game was lacking. He was good enough to keep his starting job over Corey Hilliard, who I did not see in the game.
Despite the low grades here, I'm hopeful this unit can and will play better in Cleveland. It helps playing the same scheme in consecutive weeks, and the Browns run a similar 3-4 to Green Bay.
I broke down Ndamukong Suh's game earlier, but I neglected to mention the tripping penalty (pictured above). Suh was frequently held, including one play where I noted he was held by two different Packers, but he failed to draw the flags.
Perhaps he's learning to keep quiet and try to earn back the benefit of the doubt. Other than the tripping penalty, another play on which he was blatantly held, Suh kept his emotions in check and kept himself clean on the penalty front.
This might have been Nick Fairley's least effective game as a pro. The only times he showed up in the backfield where on plays where Green Bay allowed him to take himself out of the play by rushing with reckless abandon. An offsides penalty contributed to an early third-down conversion, too.
The rookie end contributed Detroit's only sack of Aaron Rodgers. He also forced a fumble on a tackle for loss on Johnathan Franklin. The Lions ask Ziggy Ansah to make the impact plays, and that's exactly what he did. Again. His star keeps rising, but Joe Thomas will be a major test next week.
There's not much to look at on the stat sheet, but Willie Young was quite active. He blew some run contains, but some of that was the fault of lining up in the Wide 9 scheme and being asked to play inside defense from too far outside. I counted him with three pressures of Rodgers, two of which produced throwaways.
Devin Taylor recorded two tackles in more extensive playing time. He also drew a holding penalty when he torched David Bakhtiari around the corner. I liked his hustle against the run.
It seems like every week we see the same thing from C.J. Mosley; he reliably occupies interior blockers against the run and peels back to make a couple of tackles as the play is going past. That's exactly what he did versus Green Bay. He is what he is, for better or worse.
Other than getting obviously held in the end zone while pressuring Rodgers (it wasn't called), Israel Idonije was once again more notable for being out of position and a step slower than expected. Look for Taylor to keep eating away at his reps going forward.
Stephen Tulloch was very active, but this was a game more reminiscent of his less effective 2012 campaign than how well he has played so far in 2013. Most of his tackles came away from the line of scrimmage, and he struggled in coverage on Jermichael Finley. Not his best day.
I made no bones about it in the weekly takeaway piece; DeAndre Levy continues to play at a very high level. He was the best player on the field for the silver and Honolulu blue.
Ashlee Palmer failed to record a tackle before leaving early in the game with an injury, He did not return, but because the Packers play so much 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back), he wasn't really missed.
Considering he was questionable to play with a hamstring injury, it's hard to be too negative on Chris Houston for trying to gut it out. Still, it was a horrible game for No. 23. He was flat-out torched by James Jones on the long touchdown, misreading the help he expected.
On another occasion, Houston was flagged for pass interference but Jones still caught the ball. If you're going to interfere, and Houston did on that play, at least make sure the receiver doesn't secure the catch. He couldn't even interfere properly in this game.
Rashean Mathis was frequently targeted by Rodgers when he really needed a conversion. Mathis struggles with shifty receivers, which makes Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson both tough assignments. I noted his good tackling more than once, and he finished with six solo tackles.
It was a decided mixed bag for Bill Bentley. The nickelback made the notes twice for blanket coverage on Cobb, but he picked up a holding penalty and missed a tackle. Both of those gaffes allowed what would become scoring drives to continue. His enthusiastic run support augments his grade.
After playing so well against Chicago, Louis Delmas was victimized on the long Cobb run with a terrible angle. For every thumping hit, and he had a few, there was a missed tackle or a late recognition in coverage.
Here is an example of comparative grading. I gave Delmas a C for his effort, and in my notes I was far more complimentary to Delmas than I was to Glover Quin. He was a half-count late in coverage help on several occasions. Quin's run defense was not nearly as assertive as it has been in past weeks.
He played exclusively on special teams but made an impact, racking up two tackles as part of some excellent coverage units in the game.
Another perfect day at the office for the venerable veteran. David Akers flashed the big leg with a 53-yard field goal. That's the only time he saw the field.
The rookie punter and kickoff specialist had a great day. All of his six punts traveled at least 45 yards, including two 58-yard efforts. Two were downed inside the Green Bay 20. The Packers did not attempt to return any of his kickoffs.
Cue the broken record. Micheal Spurlock's returns were once again inferior to simply taking a knee or letting the ball roll. It is time to try to find someone better. The return units continue to be a major problem, and it's abundantly clear Spurlock is not the answer. Look for the Lions to try something different going forward.