Game Grades: Lions must correct penalties

Not many could have expected a cold-weather game between the Lions and a Packers team with nothing to play for and several starters inactive to result in a shoot-out -- but the teams combined for 86 points in a thrilling Week 16 contest.

Not many could have expected a cold-weather game between the Lions and a Packers team with nothing to play for and several starters inactive to result in a shoot-out -- but the teams combined for 86 points in a thrilling Week 16 contest.

The Lions lost the game after an interception in the dying minutes.  The loss moves the Lions to 10-6 on the season, and coupled with an Atlanta Falcons victory, bumps the team to the No. 6 seed in the NFL playoffs. They'll face the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night.

OFFENSE

The Lions held up their end of the bargain in this offensive slug-fest.  Fueled by an outstanding passing attack, the Lions generated 575 yards of offense and 41 points.  

Matthew Stafford, despite two interceptions, had another tremendous showing with 520 yards and five touchdowns.  

Stafford was able to hit his favorite target, Calvin Johnson, often as the Lions top receiver finished with 244 yards and a score. 

The offense had only two drives where they were unsuccessful in converting at least one first down and had four drives of at least 60 yards.

The biggest area of concerns was the offense’s three turnovers (Stafford’s two interceptions and a Kevin Smith fumble).

Many people will point to the fact that the team only rushed the ball 15 times (against 59 passes) as a factor in the loss but that is far from accurate.  The Lions averaged just under nine yards per pass attempt and – due to the success they were experiencing through the air – had no reason to stop passing. 

Grade: A-

DEFENSE

When a team gets involved in a shootout, it means the offensive side of the ball had a productive day while the defensive side of the ball did not.

That was the case for the Lions on Sunday.

The defense got shredded for 550 yards against a team missing it's No. 1 quarterback, top wide receiver and best running back.

The defense was able to force four three-and-outs by the Packers as well as generate two takeaways (a fumble and interception) but they were also susceptible to the big play, giving up four touchdowns of 30 yards or more (including an 80-yard screen pass which as perfectly called against a linebacker blitz).

The Packers were also able to convert on 50 percent (six of 12) of their third-down opportunities.  

Grade: D

SPECIAL TEAMS

The weather conditions were far from ideal but Jason Hanson did miss one of his two field goal attempts.

Ben Graham was solid with his three punts, averaging 47 yards with two of his kicks downed inside the 20.  

Stefan Logan had a strong day returning, averaging over 25 yards per kick return but his one fumble resulted in a Green Bay touchdown.

The Lions coverage units were solid, allowing no punt return yards and only 39 yards off of three kick returns.  The Lions also would have recovered a fumble off of a bobbled punt that was incorrectly called by the officials.  

Grade: D+

COACHING

This game got heated and emotional at times.

There were a large amount of penalties and some controversial calls but the Lions continued to fight and – despite noticeable angst and frustration from the sidelines – the team was able to keep its composure.

The challenges that head coach Jim Schwartz made were both the right call (despite only having one successfully overturned) however, Schwartz did burn a timeout for no apparent reason after a blown call on a touchdown took potential points away from the Lions in the first half.  

The coaching staff has two major areas of opportunity to address before the Lions participate in their first playoff game in 12 years.  

First, correct the penalties, as last week’s low penalty totals now appear to have been an aberration, not a trend (the Lions had 11 penalties for 101 yards today) and fix the defense (the pass coverage and pass rush have been lacking over the last couple of weeks).  

Grade: C


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