A game that started with a plethora of optimism ended with an equal amount of dismay.
The Detroit Lions were unable to sustain their early momentum, and fell to the Los Angeles Rams, 28-19, Sunday. A game filled with emotions, featuring a return to his former home for quarterback Jared Goff, ended with a sour taste.
Here are the positional grades for the Lions after the loss.
For three quarters, Goff did everything he could to keep his team in a position to win. He was by no means spectacular, but made no mistakes and took care of the ball while leading his team downfield.
In the fourth quarter, this fell apart. He hurried throws throughout the game, including twice on key plays, but no mistake will be more magnified than the interception thrown in the end zone with Detroit down six. He threw another pick on the Lions’ final drive, on a pass that deflected off running back D’Andre Swift’s hands.
Goff finished 22-of-36 through the air for 268 yards, along with a touchdown to Swift and the two interceptions. He missed what could’ve been another touchdown to his running back on a key third down and another pass to T.J. Hockenson that would’ve converted a first down.
Running backs: A-
Swift proved he can be a gamebreaker, even in a depleted offense. He turned his third touch of the game, a short screen pass, into a 63-yard touchdown, thanks to athleticism and an open-field burst.
On the day, Swift finished with a career-high 96 yards receiving and 144 total yards. Time after time, the Georgia product came through when his team needed him most. Jamal Williams wasn’t half-bad, either, rushing for a team-high 51 yards.
Wide receivers/tight ends: B
Kalif Raymond had another career day, crossing the 100-yard plateau for the first time in his career and hauling in six passes. The young wideout showed off his speed on a big 37-yard reception, to set up the Lions’ final field goal.
Hockenson was his reliable self, catching six passes for 48 yards. However, outside of those two, the Lions didn’t get much more production from their wideouts. Just two other traditional pass-catchers -- tight end Darren Fells and receiver KhaDarel Hodge -- had receptions.
The Lions' receiving corps is still very much depleted. However, what the team has to offer hung in there, and avoided critical errors throughout the game.
Offensive line: C
It wasn’t going to be an easy day for the Lions up front, as Aaron Donald stood across the line of scrimmage. However, Detroit held up the best it could, and Donald was a non-factor for most of the day.
Rookie Penei Sewell held his own, but was penalized for holding on the team’s second series. Halapoulivaati Vaitai was also penalized twice. Vaitai’s second penalty negated a big run by Swift on the drive that ended with Goff’s first interception.
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Donald made an impact when it mattered most, putting necessary pressure on Goff to force a bad throw that Jalen Ramsey picked off.
Defensive line: C-
Detroit got its shine defensively midway through the third quarter when its line finally got a chance to get hits on Matthew Stafford. However, for most of the afternoon, Stafford had clean pockets, and was able to make all the necessary throws.
Rookie Levi Onwuzurike notched two tackles, and continued to show improvement. The unit did a nice job of stopping the run, allowing just 47 yards on 19 carries, but couldn’t get enough heat on Stafford to cause trouble for the Rams' offense.
Alex Anzalone and Jalen Reeves-Maybin have stepped up, following the release of Jamie Collins, to give the Lions a solid duo in their starting lineup. The two combined for 16 tackles, and each was able to get some heat on Stafford, thanks to double-A gap blitzes dialed up by Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
On the outside, Julian Okwara continued to show development. He notched the team’s only sack, and had a key pass breakup on a fourth down. Should the second-year player continue to develop, he could become a nice piece on a young Lions defense.
Defensive backs: D+
The Lions knew all too well what they were up against in Stafford and the Rams' offense. With plenty of options at wide receiver, Los Angeles could pick and choose how it attacked Detroit’s young secondary.
Tracy Walker continued his solid play and Amani Oruwariye limited damage his way, but the rest of the Lions' defensive backfield struggled. Undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs had a hard time getting his head around in coverage, resulting in a pass interference and later a touchdown.
A.J. Parker suffered a shoulder injury, and was replaced by Daryl Worley, who was immediately targeted on a 59-yard throw to Cooper Kupp. Worley was later beaten again on that drive by Kupp, which resulted in a touchdown.
Special teams: A+
Our first "A+" grade of the season is a deserving one. Jack Fox had as many punts as he had passing attempts, the latter of which was one of two perfectly-executed fakes. Detroit converted two trick plays on punt attempts, a nod to special teams coordinator Dave Fipp.
The Lions’ first kickoff was a successful onside attempt. The special teams unit had a mission to get or keep the ball with its offense, a mission that it completed successfully.
Fox’s pass went to rookie corner Bobby Price, who raced 17 yards. In the third quarter, C.J. Moore moved the chains, when he took a direct snap and ran for 28 yards.
The bold decision to onside kick and later fake a pair of punts wins over many. However, there was also a questionable decision to go for it on fourth down with the Lions down just a point, compounded with a bad play call.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell dialed up a play on fourth-and-1 that leaned on inexperienced tight end Brock Wright to throw the key block, a decision that didn’t work out. However, part of coaching is getting your players to believe in themselves against teams that are much better on paper.
Campbell did this, and as a result, his team was competitive. He grades as highly as he does, because of how well prepared his team was Sunday. The Lions were coming off their worst game of the season, and responded admirably.