Game Grades: Lions earn zero style points

If style points were awarded in the NFL, the Detroit Lions would have earned none for their 34-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

If style points were awarded in the NFL, the Detroit Lions would have earned none for their 34-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The team's offense was largely ineffective while the defense – despite making big plays themselves – were victimized for almost 400 yards.  They allowed a two-win team to hang around and the game came down to a final play from the one-yard line.  

Regardless of how the victory looked, the Lions did manage to record their eight win of the season, securing their first non-losing record since 2000, while keeping themselves very much alive in the NFC playoff picture.

OFFENSE

The Lions offense did not have a strong outing and failed to turn the defensive’s hot start into a blow-out victory, allowing the Vikings to keep the game close until the final possession.  

The unit managed only 280 yards and 20 points despite frequently receiving decent field position.  The Lions punted on five of their seven drives, while failing to record a first down on three drives.

The running game was a major contributor to the offense’s struggles, as the team produced only 72 rushing yards.  The Lions had favorable matchups – with the Vikings committing a safety to Calvin Johnson – for the majority of the game but failed to take advantage on the ground, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry.

The absence of the running game also was a major contributor to the team’s struggles on third-down and in the red zone.  The Lions converted only eight of 16 third down attempts, while scoring only one touchdown on their three red-zone trips.

Detroit had opportunities in both the running and passing game due to the opposition’s focus on Johnson but they are not executing with consistency.

Whether it’s running or passing the ball, the Lions need to establish more consistency on offense if they hope to be a legitimate playoff contender.

Grade: D

DEFENSE

The Lions defensive unit struggled immensely at times but was ultimately the reason for the team’s victory.  

They scored a touchdown on the first play of the Vikings’ first drive.  Defensive end Cliff Avril stripped the ball from Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and Stephen Tulloch recovered it in the end zone for a score.

On the next drive, Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith intercepted Ponder on the third play.  The Lions forced a three and out on the Vikings’ third drive and despite surrendering a touchdown on the Vikings’ fourth drive, they scored their find touchdown on the following drive.

For all the good they accomplished, the Lions defense surrendered a total of 384 yards, 29 first downs and 28 points.  

The defense allowed the Vikings to convert on eight of their 14 third-down attempts and all three of their fourth-down attempts.  

The unit’s inability to get off the field opened the door for some long drives against with the Vikings sustaining drives of at least 10 plays four times – highlighted by an 18-play drive that brought the Vikings down to the one-yard line with a chance to win the game.  However, the defense ended the game in the same manner as it started, forcing a fumble to end the game and seal the victory.

Grade: B

SPECIAL TEAMS

This contest was the Lions best of the season in the return game.  Stefan Logan recorded season-long punt and kickoff returns as the Lions racked up 28 punt-return yards and 119 kick-return yards.

The coverage units allowed 63 yards against on two kickoffs and 22 yards against on two punt returns.

Ben Graham averaged 47.7 yards per punt but the team failed to down two punts inside the 20, letting them bounce for touchbacks.

Jason Hanson was 2-for-2 on field goals but did have one of his kickoffs bounce out of bounds, giving the Vikings good starting field position (which they turned into a touchdown).

Grade: C+

COACHING

The Lions were penalized 10 times for 76 yards.  This is becoming a re-occurring theme for the team and even though the Lions were not penalized for after-the-whistle fouls they must eliminate the holding penalties which are major factors in stalled drives.   

Also, the Lions struggled to adapt when the Vikings replaced Ponder with Joe Webb.  

Webb scored a 65-yard touchdown and the Lions struggled to find an answer for him.  

During the game’s last drive, the Lions rushed three defensive linemen on many plays with Avril acting as a spy, and the adjustment forced Webb to throw more often but also significantly reduced the Lions pass rush – allowing the Vikings to have a chance to win the game from the one-yard line.

Grade: D


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