Game Grades: Offensive ineptitude hurts Lions

Lions insider Mike Mady provides analysis and grades after Detroit's 23-16 loss to Atlanta.

The Detroit Lions have concluded their three-game home stand with a 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

After two-consecutive losses at home, the Lions have fallen to 5-2 on the season and are just 2-2 at Ford Field.

Each facet of the team contributed to the loss.  

Game grades below ...

OFFENSE

The trend that started during a Week-Three contest against the Minnesota Vikings has continued -- and worsened -- as the season has progressed.  The offense has been plagued with slow starts, which recently have turned into poor games.

The Lions finished the first quarter with less than 0 yards of offense and mustered only 88 yards in the first half.   They finished the game with only 263 yards, putting only 13 points on the board.

The Lions had only 13 first downs in the game, partly due to their complete inability to convert third downs (1-for-12).  

The third-down struggles stemmed from the offense’s overall inefficiency.

The passing game produced a season-low 159 yards while Matthew Stafford completed less than 50 percent of his passes.  

The Lions struggled with the Falcons pass rush for most of the game and Stafford was forced into quick throws on several occasions.  Still, the Lions failed to take advantage of the opportunities they had, leaving several potential big plays on the table.  

The Lions were 0-2 in the red zone and have struggled to convert touchdowns over the last two weeks.

The only bright spot was a somewhat efficient run game that produced 104 yards and a 5.2 yard- per-carry average.

Grade: D-

DEFENSE

The theme for this unit over the last few weeks has been feast or famine.  

The defense seems to either give up big plays or gets off the field.  

Ten of the points surrendered by the defense came in the first half and were a product of short fields.  The first points came on the Falcons third drive with Atlanta starting on the Detroit 26.  They gave up a touchdown on the next drive, after Stefan Logan fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Falcons to start on the Detroit 28.

The only other touchdown the defense allowed came on a 81-yard drive by the Falcons, on which the defense allowed several big plays – including a 30-yard reception followed by a 19-yard run.  The drive culminated with an 18-yard touchdown pass.  

Still, the defense gave the team a chance to win.  Down by nine points at the start of the second half, they allowed only nine first downs and six points in the second half, while producing an interception.

Outside of the big plays allowed, the defense hurt themselves with penalties.  They gave the Falcons seven of their 22 first downs by penalty.  

This unit needs to play better but their performance was serviceable.  They didn’t win the game themselves but they kept the game within reach for the offense.

Grade: C

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jason Hanson was three-for-three on field goals, providing more than half of the Lions points.  

That was the lone bright spot for the special teams unit.

Ryan Donahue was decent, downing two punts inside the 20 but the coverage units failed him, allowing 62 punt return yards – including a 37-yard return to Eric Weems.  

The kickoff coverage wasn’t any better, allowing 82 yards with a long of 37.

Logan averaged 28.2 yards per return, not a bad average.  Still, his fumble in the first quarter opened the door for a Falcons touchdown – which proved to be crucial in a seven-point loss.

Grade: D+

COACHING

The offense has been struggling with no resolution, the big plays continue on defense and the team had 10 penalties for 84 yards.  These are issues that the coaching staff is responsible for.

The problems on offense have more to do with the execution than they do with the play calling and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan made some decent adjustments to keep Stafford upright after he was sacked twice in the first quarter. 

The big plays on defense – especially in the running game – are a product of the pressure put on the linebackers and defensive backs to stop the run.  As long as the Lions continue to run this defensive system (it’s not likely a change is coming), the big plays will likely continue.  The key is limiting them in occurrence and damage.

The Lions did a good job of managing their timeouts to give themselves a chance to get the ball back at the end, they simply just didn’t make the plays necessary. 

Grade: C- 


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