Game Grades: Lions Keep Streak Intact

For the first time in 13 years the Detroit Lions boarded a plane in Minneapolis and headed back to Michigan with a victory. Lions' insider Mike Mady breaks down the team's 26-23 win on Sunday, offering grades on each facet of the team.

For the first time in 13 years the Detroit Lions boarded a plane in Minneapolis and headed back to Michigan with a victory.

The Lions' 26-23 victory over the Vikings propels the team to their first 3-0 start since 1980.

The Vikings came into the game with a winless record and many were predicting a lop-sided victory for the Lions but that forecast never materialized.

Instead, the Vikings took a 20-0 first-half lead and forced the Lions to fight their way to an eventual overtime victory.

The Lions are now owners of the NFL's longest active regular season winning streak, reaching seven dating back to last season.

With all the positives, the Lions still have areas in which they can improve. Below are the game grades for each facet of the game.

OFFENSE

At first glance, the 358 yards and 26 points outputted by the Lions offense appears as a solid performance.

The truth is, the Lions offense performed when they needed to and did their part to deliver a victory but sputtered in the first half.

The Lions scored no points in the first half and had three drives fail to produce a first down.

The lack of production in the first half from the offense was an issue because increased pressure was put on the defense both in terms of fatigue and field position.

The second half proved to be a different story and the Lions used the passing attack to tie – and eventually win – the game.

Playing in his 16th game as a pro, Matthew Stafford was frequently pressured and as a result produced some errant throws, yet the third-year player was sharp when he needed to be. His 378 yards through the air powered the comeback, as he often targeted tight end Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson.

The Lions still need to improve on third down but they converted on a decent 41 percent of their third downs against the Vikings, a marked improvement.

The running game was ineffective, averaging only 1.1 yards per carry, with only 20 rushing yards on 19 attempts.

The Lions supplement the running game with short passes and had some success with that against the Vikings – including a 60-yard screen pass to Jahvid Best.

One of the biggest issues on offense was pass protection, particularly from the offensive tackles.

Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was benched after blowing an assignment and allowing a sack on the Lions' first drive.

Left tackle Jeff Backus had a rough outing as well. He gave up three sacks to Jarred Allen and struggled to block Allen for much of the contest.

The Lions will need to have these issues addressed as they prepare to matchup with the Dallas Cowboys and DeMarcus Ware.

The Lions had no turnovers despite frequent quarterback pressure (Stafford had one fumble, which Best recovered).

Grade: B-

DEFENSE

On defense, the Lions were solid , allowing 321 yards and 21 points.

As the Lions offense struggled in the first half, the defense was essential as they kept the game within reach. They did allow 20 first-half points but did hold the Vikings to field goals on their first two drives, preventing an overly lopsided score.

The defensive line had a strong showing (you just won't hear that from them), registering three sacks and also playing a key role in stopping the Vikings during a pivotal moment of the game.

With 11:40 left in the fourth quarter, The Vikings were on the Detroit 17 and opted to run the ball at the middle of the Lions defense. The defensive line held their ground and stopped Toby Gerhart (yes, not Adrian Peterson, but Toby Gerhart) for no gain.

The turnover on downs gave the ball to the Lions offense, who tied the game.

The Lions struggled against the run, allowing 5.7 yards per carry. They over pursued at times (see the 39-yard end around to Percy Harvin) and upcoming opponents will surely look to exploit that – in the form of misdirection plays - in the future, so correcting it will be important.

The defense was strong when it had to be and despite giving up some yards on the ground got the job done when they needed to. They got off the field on third down (allowing the Vikings to convert on only 28 percent of their third down attempts).

Grade: B

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jason Hanson had four field goals, including the game tying and the game winning scores. He also connected on a 50-yarder – that might have been good from 60 yards – proving his reliable leg still has power.

Ryan Donahue did a good job punting, averaging 46.4 yards per punt but the coverage units failed to take advantage.

The Lions allowed a 53-yard punt return while only averaging 33.6 net yards per punt. The kickoff coverage had some issues as well, allowing a 68-yard return to Lorenzo Booker.

Stefan Logan had a 20-yard punt return and also averaged 24 yards on three kick returns.

Grade: C

COACHING

The coaching staff did an outstanding job making adjustments – particularly on offense – in the second half of the game.

The Lions took advantage of some mismatches, heavily relying on Pettigrew and Johnson.

They also did an outstanding job playing to the team's strengths.

With the running game struggling (20 yards on 19 carries) offensive coordinator Scott Linehan didn't force the run, instead calling some short, high percentage passes to supplement it.

The benching of Cherilus sends a strong message, demanding focus, to the team and proves head coach Jim Schwartz won't tolerate frequent mental mistakes.

Grade: A


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