Game Grades: Lions defense is team's strength

Matthew Stafford and company put up big numbers, but Detroit's defense has been solid both weeks to open the regular season.

With two weeks in the books, the Detroit Lions are 2-0 and are locked in an early tie with the Green Bay Packers atop the NFC North.
 
Despite being the expected victors in this matchup, the Lions’ 48-3 dismantling of the Kansas City Chiefs was a blow-out not many could have predicted.
 
To win the contest by 45 points, a team record in a regular season game, contributions were necessary from each facet of the game.
 
Here is my Week 2 report card, grading the offense, defense, special teams and coaching.
 
OFFENSE
 
The Lions offense put up an impressive 48 points and 411 yards.  Still, amongst the excellence remains opportunity.
 
Matthew Stafford had another strong performance, registering 294 yards and four touchdowns.  Despite the great statistical performance, Stafford’s completion percentage was significantly lower as he completed only 59 percent of his passes. The lower completion percentage is not a testament of less precision but rather an exhibit of frequent pressure.  The Chiefs failed to register a sack but pressured, hit and knocked down Stafford on many occasions.   
 
The running game was once again a serviceable complement to the passing attack, led by Jahvid Best's 57 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown.  The Lions are built to be a passing team and the running game is designed only as a complimentary piece – a role that it has successfully embodied for the first two weeks of the season.
 
However, one of the biggest issues of the day – and so far early in the season – is the offense’s inability to consistently convert third downs. The Lions converted only five of 15 opportunities on third down and only four of 12 when Stafford was under center.
 
With the starting offense in the game, the Lions were faced with third down 12 times.  They elected to pass 11 times (which is the right call).  The problem is, some of the passes were off target due to a successful pass rush from the Chiefs (Calvin Johnson also had a rare drop in the end zone).  
 
The Lions averaged just over seven yards to go on those 12 third downs. The interesting thing is? They converted on some of their longer attempts (24 yards, nine yards and eight yards) while failing to convert some of their shorter attempts.  The Lions failed to convert on third and one on three different occasions (including the Johnson drop)  and failed on third and five two other times.  
 
When looking at the yards and points put up by the offense, be mindful of the assistance provided by Kansas City in the form of penalties and turnovers.  
Grade: B+
 
DEFENSE
Whenever a defensive unit keeps a team out of the end zone, allows only 267 yards and produces five turnovers they deserve to be commended.  
 
The Lions defense has strung together two great performances and – despite the attention the offense is generating – has been this team’s strength early on.
 
Some may be concerned with the lack of sacks (two) but the Lions pass rush – mostly generated from the defensive line – should be measured through the unit’s overall performance not the sack total.  Their ability to pressure the quarterback without blitzing was essential to creating five turnovers and limiting the Chiefs to only three points.
 
The only thing keeping this unit from a perfect score was their inability to stop the run early in the game.  Before getting injured, Jamaal Charles had two rushes for 27 yards while the Chiefs rushed for just under 100 yards in the first half.  
 
With the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson on the schedule next week, the Lions need to be prepared to stop the run. 
 
Grade: A-
 
SPECIAL TEAMS
 
Jason Hanson hit both of his field goals, including one from 51-yards out.  
 
Ryan Donahue averaged 41 yards per punt and was successful in downing two inside the 20.
 
Stefan Logan had only one return opportunity in both the kickoff and punting game (a seven-yard punt return) but did a great job of demonstrating discipline by not forcing a return.  
 
The kickoff converge unit allowed a 35-yard return, which was only a slight blemish on a strong performance.
 
Grade: A
 
COACHING
 
The decision to bench Gosder Cherilus sent a strong message to the team, demanding focus and discipline.  Cherilus had a strong outing in Week 1, so his benching was a risky proposition but Cory Hilliard proved to be a serviceable replacement, enabling the message to be sent without the distraction of a poor performance.  
 
The play calling – on offense and defense – was effective, and former Chiefs' coach Gunther Cunningham received a Gatorade bath as his reward.
 
The Lions were able to maintain a strong balance on offense while keeping the focus on their passing attack.  
 
Jim Schwartz continues to demonstrate his intestinal fortitude by making gutsy calls on fourth down. No complaints here.
 
Grade: A+

 


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