The Detroit Lions suffered their worst loss of the season Sunday, falling, 34-11, to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Detroit was beaten in all aspects of the game. It was the worst performance of the season, one that head coach Dan Campbell called a collective effort.
Here are SI All Lions’ positional grades for the Lions after the losing effort.
Quarterbacks – F
Jared Goff struggled to lead the offense, which didn’t score a first-half touchdown for the fourth game in a row. Heading into the locker room, Goff had just 39 passing yards on nine completions.
The offense’s struggles don’t rest solely with Goff, as he’s had several playmakers go in and out of the lineup with injuries. However, after the game, Campbell said he wanted the quarterback to step up and shoulder more of the load.
It was a frustrating performance that saw Goff average just seven yards per completion and just under five yards per attempt. His limitations were once again exposed, as he completed just one pass over 20 yards.
Running backs – C-
It’s difficult to fairly evaluate the running backs, because not only did the Lions abandon the run for a large part of the second half, but they were also employing a patchwork offensive line. Without starters Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow, it was tough to get going.
Now, when the Lions did run the ball, it was not good. Between D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, Detroit got 35 yards on 17 carries. Williams was hurt the most by the flow of the game, as his action was reduced as the game got out of hand.
Wide receivers/tight ends – D-
The Lions are doing the best they can with what they have at wide receiver. However, what they currently have just isn’t that good. Without a pair of top options in Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus, the Lions are reduced to inexperienced players across the board.
T.J. Hockenson had a nice game, after being shut down for the better part of three weeks, hauling in eight passes for 74 yards. However, he also had a bad missed block that turned into a holding penalty.
The unit is very limited, and it’s been tough for it to create chemistry with Goff. This is an issue that will need to be fixed, before heading on the road to Los Angeles next week.
Offensive line – F
The book may be out on rookie tackle Penei Sewell, who has struggled for two straight weeks now. Early on, it was a false start on the first drive. As the game went on, he struggled to contain Cincinnati’s Trey Hendrickson.
The rest of the unit didn’t fare much better, as Jonah Jackson and Matt Nelson each committed penalties. Nelson’s time on the starting line may be numbered as Decker nears a return. It was a struggle in the trenches all day -- a big reason why Swift and Williams couldn’t get going.
Defensive line – C+
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Detroit’s defensive performance was a tale of two halves. In the first, the group was sharp and allowed just seven points. However, as the offense stacked three-and-outs, the defense wore out, and the walls came down.
This was evident on the defensive line, which did a solid job against the run in the first half. In the second, however, Joe Mixon and Chris Evans began to run all over the unit.
Alim McNeill made a nice play to stop Mixon in the first half. Austin Bryant and Julian Okwara each notched sacks, so it certainly wasn’t all bad. More than anything, this unit was a victim of circumstance.
Linebackers – C
After the first series, which saw Jalen Reeves-Maybin get cooked in single coverage for a touchdown, the unit collected itself, and had a good first half.
Among the bright spots Sunday was rookie Derrick Barnes, who led the team with nine tackles. The Purdue Boilermaker displayed good closing speed, and was sound for most of the afternoon. He left briefly with an injury but returned.
There will be growing pains as the team gets younger, and Sunday was far from perfect. Yet, there were good things that happened in the loss.
Defensive backs – D
Amani Oruwariye made the biggest play of the game for the defense, intercepting a tipped pass. Yet even his big return was negated by a taunting penalty on Tracy Walker III.
Undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs was assigned coverage duties on Ja’Marr Chase, and was good for a half. However, as the game wore on, Chase burned Jacobs twice.
An argument can be made for the second time not being entirely on Jacobs, as he surrendered inside leverage while expecting safety help. Still, the big play was on the secondary. There were two pass-interference penalties and plenty of missed tackles committed by the unit.
Special teams – B+
Jack Fox continued his special season with six more punts Sunday, averaging 55.3 yards per punt. He notched a long of 64. On the kicking side, Austin Seibert knocked his only attempt through, from 35 yards out.
Tom Kennedy made his debut as the kick returner, and had a long of just 28 on his returns. He also was called for an illegal block while covering a return.
Coaching – F
Campbell owned this loss and rightfully so. Everything starts with the man in charge, and the Lions' gameplan simply wasn’t good enough. The Bengals' defense is solid, but the Lions attacked them in the wrong ways.
Detroit offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn’s play-calling was much too conservative, as several third-down plays were throws dialed up short of the sticks. Entrusting inexperienced players with having to gain extra yards after the catch is never a good tactic.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s plan worked for a half. Cincinnati did little through the air in the first half, but attacked in the second, as the Lions ran out of gas defensively.