Lions grades: Trench play can't overcome QB, DB issues vs. Bears

 mlive.com  11/23/2018 02:43:00   Nate Atkins | natkins@mlive.com | Posted November

DETROIT -- The Lions had a game played to their kind of script, with the lead at home and the more experienced quarterback entering yet another critical fourth quarter, and yet it all slipped away.

Detroit had some real positives emerge in a 23-16 loss to the first-place Bears at Ford Field. It also had some glaring issues hold it back and drop it to 4-7 on the season.

Here's how each position group performed along the way:

Quarterbacks: D

Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

Quarterbacks: D

A week ago, Matthew Stafford organized a hodgepodge receiving corps and orchestrated a safe, efficient and clutch gameplan to pull out a gutsy win. This week, he faced a similar fate in the fourth quarter and it all fell apart. Stafford threw a pick-six to break the tie with six minutes to go, and he threw an interception in the end zone to seal the loss a few minutes later, though I attribute that one more to the tight end (which we'll get to in a moment). I think Stafford was held back by  really overly simplistic play design (which we'll also get to), as his connection with Kenny Golladay should have opened up more due to scheme than it ever did. At the same time, it's hard to point to too much Stafford did really well in this one. His team gave him a running game, and his offensive line gave him the time expected against a front like the Bears, and he just didn't make any special throws or scramble plays. The pick-six was a good defensive play but one where he also misread the risk in a low-reward throw. He should have taken better command of the huddle at the end to run more of the tempo that has him most comfortable and that sparked his comeback wins in the past. Stafford didn't have the best weapons to throw to in this game, but he also did very little to elevate what he was working with either and cost his team in a very important moment.

Running backs: B+

Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

Running backs: B+

This matchup looked disastrous for Lions running backs from the onset, given that Kerryon Johnson was out, nobody behind him had done anything this season and the Bears offer the best run defense in the NFL. It didn't start out the greatest, with LeGarrette Blount running into blockers again and gaining little yardage, but then he proved that there is a volume element to his game and he can get stronger as a game wears on. Blount played by far his best game of the season, turning 19 carries into 88 yards and two touchdowns. He did a great job finishing at the goal line, which is exactly why he was brought here, and he gave the Lions their best chance of winning by wearing down the beat-up Bears with his physical finishes. Zach Zenner, Theo Riddick and Nick Bellore added solid relief with a combined 14 touches for 85 yards. Given the circumstances and the opponent, this group played as well as it possibly could have today.

Wide receivers: D+

Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

Wide receivers: D+

One week after Kenny Golladay carried the Lions to a victory over the Panthers, the question was about how he'd handle increased attention from a much better Bears secondary. To start, the answer was that he'd be invisible for a half. For a second straight week, he did break out in the second half, and he finished with a solid stat line of five catches for 90 yards. He wasn't able to hold on to a potential game-tying touchdown, though, and he got absolutely no support. Detroit's other wide receivers combined for eight catches for 47 yards. They weren't able to provide any consistency of separation or plays after the catch, and it turned Detroit's offense pretty one-dimensional. It was a short-handed group without Marvin Jones out there, weeks after the Golden Tate trade, and it looked that way.

Tight ends: F

Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

Tight ends: F

Lions tight ends are having a tough season, and Sunday was another tough day. Detroit seemed to focus more on them with how much Chicago blanketed its wide receivers, but the final stat line of four catches for 20 yards was uninspiring. Worse, though, was the play in the clutch, as Michael Roberts failed to finish his route for a physical score to tie the game on the final drive, allowing a smaller cornerback to push off him and pick off the pass in 1-on-1 coverage. The pick-six wasn't his fault, but this was another week where the group did nothing to elevate the offense and instead had a play to really hurt it down the stretch.

Offensive line: B+

Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

Offensive line: B+

The Lions weren't going to win this game by airing it out with their wide receivers. They needed to win in the trenches against a defensive line that admitted to struggling to feel its quads in pre-game warmups, and the offensive line did a pretty good job of that considering the talent on the other side. The Lions averaged 4.6 yards a carry on 24 attempts against the No. 1 run defense, mostly built on steady gains throughout the game. The pass protection allowed two sacks and four quarterback hits on 38 attempts, though the quick passes again helped neutralize that pass rush. The linemen won near the goal line, though the coaches didn't trust them enough on other 3rd-and-short situations. Whether that says more about the deficiencies in play calling or in the offensive line is debatable, but I'm blaming the coaching more in this one. This group did its job.

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