Game Grades: Stafford, Johnson lead Lions

The Detroit Lions strengthened their grasp on one of the NFC's wild card spots after a comeback victory against the Oakland Raiders.

The Detroit Lions strengthened their grasp on one of the NFC’s wild card spots after a comeback victory against the Oakland Raiders.

The Lions (9-5) were aided by the Raiders' (7-7) failure to execute in key moments of the contest and also helped themselves with numerous big plays.   

The end result, a 28-27 victory, is Detroit's second sloppy victory in as many weeks but also puts them firmly in the driver’s seat for their first playoff berth in 11 years. 

OFFENSE

The Lions offense generated 432 yards and, at times, it seemed as if they could only move the ball through the air.

The team struggled to run the ball, averaging three yards per carry while totaling only 73 rush yards.  However, the Lions passing attack was potent as Matthew Stafford led the charge with 391 yards, four touchdown passes and a 105.5 quarterback rating.

Stafford’s big day would not have been possible without Calvin Johnson, who had a career day with nine catches, 214 yards and two touchdowns (including the game winner).  

Despite a solid statistical output, the Lions offense struggled through some moments in the game.  The unit failed to score points on eight of their first 10 drives.  Also, a fourth-quarter fumble by Stafford was recovered by Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry in the end zone for a touchdown.

But the bottom line remains the offense was able to score when needed. The Lions were down by 13 points in the fourth quarter when Stafford and Co. produced a 71-yard touchdown drive to move themselves within six points.  After the defense held, the 23-year old quarterback led a 98-yard drive to win the game.  

Grade: B-

DEFENSE

The Lions defense got shredded for 477 yards and seemed to struggle to stop the run, giving up 132 yards on the ground and six yards per carry.

Despite the high yardage totals, the unit allowed only 21 points and only three in the second half.

Without the defense’s ability to keep the Raiders off of the scoreboard, the late-game heroics of the offense are not possible.  

Still, the unit was aided by two significant missed opportunities by the Raiders.

On the Raiders' first offensive drive, they had moved the ball to the Detroit 24 yard line and were faced with a fourth-and-short situation.  Opting to attempt to convert the first down, the Raiders gambled and took at shot at the end zone.  Cornerback Eric Wright had single coverage but fell, leaving an open receiver but quarterback Carson Palmer overthrew his target, turning the ball over on downs.

Fast forward from the Raiders first drive to their second-to-last and a similar decision played a significant role in game’s outcome.

The Raiders were faced with third and three with 2:32 left in the game.  The Lions had no timeouts left and the Raiders had been running the ball with great success.  Seemingly, they would be able to run for a first down with ease, however, even failure to convert would run the clock down to the two-minute warning.  Rather than running the ball, the Raiders took a shot down the field and Palmer slightly overthrew a receiver, who had beat his mean.  The incomplete pass stopped the clocked and forced the Raiders to punt.

Grade: C

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jason Hanson converted on all his extra point opportunities but had no field goal attempts.

Ben Graham averaged a respectable 42.8 yards per punt, while having two punts downed inside the 20. 

Stefan Logan averaged 11 yards on three punt returns and 17.5 yards on two kickoff returns while the Lions coverage units allowed only 8.5 yards per punt return and 16.8 yards per kickoff return.

Also, the Lions blocked a last-second, potential game-winning field goal as the clock expired in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A

COACHING

The Lions clearly were not prepared to stop the Raiders rushing attack and potentially could have watched the game slip away as the Raiders ran out the clock.  Luckily, the Raiders gambled and lost, opening the door for the Lions comeback.

Also, the penalties continue to be too frequent.  Detroit committed nine penalties for 72 yards, something that might be overshadowed by the comeback victory but if the Lions are to have a realistic opportunity of playoff advancement, they must correct this issue.

Lastly, the Lions failed to convert a fourth-and-inches in the third quarter, turning the ball over on downs.  They opted to rush up the middle with Keiland Williams.

The coaching staff must be aware of the team’s strengths and recognize power running is not one of them.  Generally, when teams are expecting the Lions to run, they are able to stop them.  

Grade: D+


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