Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions: Full Report Card Grades for Detroit
The 17-14 loss will evoke strong, familiar feelings from the faithful. Up by 14 early, Detroit had plenty of chances to knock the Bills out, but the offense sputtered as the injuries mounted.
Hard to shed the term "same old Lions" with losses like that. Classic Lions meltdown. A very anti-Caldwell loss. Simply can't process it.— Donkey Kong Suh (@JustWinDetroit) October 5, 2014
It might be an overreaction, as the loss needs to be pinned on the kicker and the offensive line, but it's understandable. The whole point is the Lions used to lose games they were supposed to win, and this game was no different.
However, not everyone played poorly. Click through to find out how each positional unit fared.
It's difficult to determine how to grade Matthew Stafford's performance.
Plenty of errant throws missed the mark when he wasn't pressured. But he was harassed so often that it's hard to blame him for seeing ghosts.
The Bills got to Stafford six times to continue a season-long trend.
Matthew Stafford has been sacked 17 times this season. He didn't take his 17th sack last year until ... Week 16.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) October 5, 2014
He also gets graded on a curve because the only person interested in helping him was Golden Tate.
Caldwell on Matthew Stafford: "He's played better ... but he can't do it alone."— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) October 5, 2014
In all, Stafford completed 18 of 31 passes with one touchdown and one interception. The pick was a poorly thrown ball that was too high, too hard and too far behind the receiver, as were many other tosses on the day.
The Lions cannot keep any running backs (or anyone) healthy, so Detroit had to rely on former practice-squad member George Winn.
He performed pretty well, running hard with two hands on the ball at all times to avoid the fumbling issues that plagued him in the preseason. There was a lot of good (11 carries for 48 yards) and only one dropped pass.
George Winn running like this could be his only game. Protecting the ball with two hands after fumble issues in preseason.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) October 5, 2014
Unfortunately, Reggie Bush didn't get much work before going down with an ankle injury. He saw just six carries and finished with only 43 yards of total offense to go along with one or two dropped passes.
The running backs weren't good, but they weren't terrible. More importantly, they weren't effective.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Golden Tate was the only bright spot in the offensive darkness.
The recent addition was sensational with the ball in his hands, cutting on dimes and generally making people look stupid. He hauled in seven catches for a score and 134 yards, which is more than half of Detroit's passing total for the day.
It also looked like he had won the game when he busted a 55-yard reception that only traveled nine yards in the air. As you surely know, the offense failed to pick up any more ground, and the soon-to-be-gone Alex Henery missed the ensuing kick.
The rest of the unit did nothing to help out the cause; nobody else could match Corey Fuller's three catches for 17 yards.
Granted, Calvin Johnson's injury put a Megatron-sized dent in the receiving corps' productivity, but Tate is the only thing buoying this grade.
The offensive line should send Alex Henery a gift basket because this unit would be taking a lot more guff if it weren't for him.
Nobody on the offensive line stood out the entire game, save for backup guard Garrett Reynolds' obliteration of Mario Williams when Larry Warford was out.
As mentioned previously, Stafford was sacked six times on Sunday and took many more hits. The running game was somewhat better than recent weeks but finished with just a 3.5-yard average.
Have to credit Schwartz and his Bills DL, they dominated DET today. The decline of Lions' OL is an emerging, disturbing story.— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) October 5, 2014
The return of LaAdrian Waddle helps, but there are more leaks in this dike than fingers to fill them. Rob Sims has continued to regress, and even Warford hasn't performed to the standard he set last year.
The defensive line—much like the defense as a whole—is not going to take much blame for this loss.
The Bills love to run the ball, and the defensive line completely took that away. Buffalo averaged just 2.2 yards per carry, and that starts with Ndamukong Suh.
Ndamukong Suh having himself a half. Helluva play to spin off a blocker there.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) October 5, 2014
Suh routinely fought off double-teams to help drag down the running back. He also logged one of Detroit's nine quarterback hits.
George Johnson continued his strong season with a sack, and Ziggy Ansah created some pressure. Jason Jones seemed to be in Kyle Orton's face on every other play.
The defensive effort was worthy of a win. The only negative was the lack of sacks that allowed Orton just enough time to put up 309 yards.
You didn't foresee Ashlee Palmer being the lead to this slide, but he deserves some recognition.
I take back anything I've ever said bad about Ashlee Palmer.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) October 5, 2014
Palmer added a sack to his two tackles and even played well in coverage. He wasn't the best linebacker for Detroit, but he was a very solid backup who deserves some love.
DeAndre Levy made plenty of impact plays, tackling well in the open field and sniffing out screens. He had a few questionable decisions where he took an inside route to a running back on a flare and got caught up in the wash, but he had almost twice as many tackles (13) as anybody else.
Tahir Whitehead also threw in some huge tackles that gave Detroit a chance to win this game. His stop late in the fourth quarter forced a Bills punt.
However, the tape might not be as kind to the linebackers in terms of zone coverage. It would appear that they needed to get more depth to help shut down some of those deep crosses.
The supposed weakest link of the defense looked like the Lions of old at times, with Rashean Mathis just throwing a shoulder into people instead of wrapping up and Danny Gorrer showing us how not to tackle.
Oh, and giving up 309 yards to Kyle Orton is difficult to swallow.
But there were some positives.
Darius Slay giving it to Robert Woods after good deep coverage. Did a little Mutombo finger wag.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) October 5, 2014
Darius Slay posted five tackles and had some tight coverage on Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. He also, however, got toasted by Marquise Goodwin for a 43-yard gain when Glover Quin was late getting over the top.
The safeties combined for 11 tackles in great support of the running game. And Mathis jumped an early Orton pass and took the pick back for a score.
But you can't wash away 309 yards in the air and some big catches late that gave the Bills the chance to win the game.
Make no mistake about it—Alex Henery is out of a job.
The veteran kicker missed three kicks of varying distances to keep the Bills in the game. This has been a season-long epidemic, and we can rest assured Henery is not the cure.
Alex Henery just missed his third field goal. This one would have won the game. He's done. Confidence destroyed. He'll never kick again.— Bryn Swartz (@eaglescentral) October 5, 2014
But this unit as a whole isn't taking a bath.
Jeremy Ross looked great returning punts. He racked up 48 yards on just two attempts.
Sam Martin is still Sam Martin. He averaged 47.1 yards per punt and put over half of them inside the 20.
But the story is going to be Henery, as it should. He should take that gift basket he gets from the offensive line and give it to Ross and Martin for giving him a passing grade.
Detroit came into the game as the least-penalized team that had played four games. That trend is over, at least for now.
The Lions were flagged eight times, costing the team 62 yards. That's surprising because it seemed as if any time the offense had something going, a holding penalty would put the prize out of reach.
That holding call on Raiola was the first penalty on the #Lions today. Again, they average the fewest penalties in the league.— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) October 5, 2014
And there were plenty more that were declined or the flag was picked up.
It's hard to get too uppity with the offensive schemes because the line was so poor. There are only so many screens a team can run, and Stafford was having issues hitting short passes.
The only real gripe with the defense was the lack of adjustment to the constant flare passes. Otherwise, there's nothing wrong with giving up just 17 points.
Overall Grade: C
This game wasn't as bad as it feels. The Lions did a lot of good things and were beaten because of the deficiencies of a few.
But this is a team game. And those weaknesses (offensive line and kicking) were too strong to overcome.
The kicker will be replaced, but the offensive line's issues are more concerning. There's no quick fix considering this is as healthy as the unit has been all year.
Granted, the Lions won't play a front as fearsome as Buffalo's each week, but the O-line should be the story you pay attention to as the season progresses.
And don't forget that the season isn't over. A 3-2 record through five games with a share of first place and one of the best defenses in the league is a reason for cautious optimism, not reactionary pessimism.