Sports news

Lions grades: Offense hits another level, lifts defense to win over Chargers

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Detroit Lions (7-2) beat the Los Angeles Chargers (4-5) 41-38 in Week 10 action from SoFi Stadium. This post will run through Lions beat writer Ben Raven’s grades from the game.

Quarterbacks: Jared Goff was back in his native California for one of his best starts of the season. And that’s saying something, considering the impressive year he’s already enjoyed.

Goff completed 23-of-33 passing for 333 yards and two touchdowns. He protected the ball while pushing the issue, threw a handful of tight-window dimes and led a high-octane attack to the win.

And with the game on the line? The Lions passed on fourth-and-2, speaking to the trust in Goff’s ability to make the correct read and throw at the right time. He proved his coaches right time and time again against the Chargers. This was Goff’s 34th 300-yard passing game, the fifth-most in league history among quarterbacks through eight seasons.

It’s hard to say anything negative about Goff right now. He’s throwing with confidence and skill, with a lethal connection with Amon-Ra St. Brown getting deadlier by each passing weekend. Goff has this team looking like more than a cute story and playoff hopeful. This team is an NFC contender, and it starts with the starting quarterback. Grade: A

Running backs: Jahmyr Gibbs continued his hot stretch. And David Montgomery was back like he never left.

Montgomery ran 12 times for 116 yards, with a 75-yard touchdown highlighting his day. He looked like the same strong, sturdy and reliable running back that opened the season as the team’s bell-cow option. But it’s at the point where it’s impossible to keep the ball out of Gibbs’ hands.

And it was nice to see the team’s vision of using their new one-two punch come to life. We’re still waiting to see those looks with both on the field. But there were defined roles and chances for each in the shootout at SoFi.

Gibbs continues to look better every week. His explosiveness has breathed new lift into this offense. And his growing ability to run behind an NFL offensive line makes him an even more dynamic threat to watch. This team will be hard to stop with these two healthy and running like that behind that O-line. Grade: A

Wide receivers: Amon-Ra St. Brown put the receivers on his back and took them to the promise land on Sunday. The Sun God notched his fourth-straight 100-yard day, catching eight balls for a career-high 156 yards and one touchdown. St. Brown is the first Lions receiver to have four straight 100-yard games since Calvin Johnson.

St. Brown got one of the game balls, with Dan Campbell calling him a rock who helps them in every phase. He’s one of the best wideouts in the NFL, slot or not.

Kalif Raymond caught two passes for 46 yards. Josh Reynolds added 15 yards on two receptions. And Jameson Williams secured both of his looks for 18 yards. Williams was impressive with his limited looks in Los Angeles. He had a touchdown negated by an illegal low block penalty. Williams took the screen and torpedoed into the end zone in what would have been a highlight-reel score. And while he didn’t get the score. Williams made two memorable downfield blocks on Montgomery’s 75-yard touchdown run. It was a nice step in the right direction, no matter how small. Grade: A-

Tight ends: Sam LaPorta had another strong game, with some big plays in vital spots. The rookie tight end was the target on the crucial fourth-and-2 conversion. LaPorta had three of his four catches in the fourth quarter. And he had some help this week, with Brock Wright catching the then-go-ahead dime from Goff on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter. It was a productive day with mostly clean day blocking. Grade: A

Offensive line: Now, that was an impressive showing. When the Lions poured all those resources into this group, you have to imagine days like this are what they envisioned. Center Frank Ragnow and guard Jonah Jackson were back, with Graham Glasgow joining them in the new-look starting lineup.

Goff wasn’t sacked once. And the Chargers only touched him twice, and that’s impressive in a high-scoring outing with so many snaps on both sides. Oh, and that’s not all, as you already know. But the Lions ran for 200 yards as a team, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt with three touchdowns.

Jackson was all over the field, twice leading the way for touchdowns into the end zone. The lone blip on this group’s radar was the goal-line stand by the Chargers. Grade: A

Defensive line: It’s a shame the defensive line’s showing on the 1-yard line will be mostly forgotten. The Chargers ran five plays at the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter, failing to move the ball on four rushes and one pass attempt before an iffy defensive pass interference call gave them new life. So, after running seven plays inside the 10-yard line, Justin Herbert hit receiver Quentin Johnston for the game-tying score.

The Lions didn’t notch a sack, and after a pressure-filled first half, they failed to disrupt the pocket much across the final 30 minutes. Austin Ekeler was contained to 67 yards on 19 attempts, so that’s not too shabby. There were missed opportunities for this group, mainly in that first half. Because there just wasn’t much resistance in the second half, as the Chargers scored touchdowns on the last five times they touched the ball. Grade: C-

Linebackers: Alex Anzalone had another ultra-productive game. And he was putting on a show in the first half, with multiple pressures and quarterback hits making life hard for the other side. Anzalone finished with nine tackles, two quarterback hits and one pass deflection. He’s a rock for that group. And Anzalone continues to look like one of the most improved players across the league for the second straight year, earning more fans every week.

Derrick Barnes missed out on a third-down sack in the second half. He added five tackles, though. Jack Campbell added five tackles while continuing through his growing pains. And Malcolm Rodriguez showed up on the would-be goal-line stand before the penalty. Rodriguez continues to see work at fullback and on special teams. Grade: C-

Secondary: Cam Sutton did fine work in the first half on stud wideout Keenan Allen. But then the Chargers changed their course, utilizing more pre-snap motion and no-huddle looks in the second half. Allen made a tough catch with Jerry Jacobs in coverage for his first score. Then he had an easy one for his second score, with the play-action look making the Lions look lost back deep.

There were three penalties that moved the chains. And while the win and Kerby Joseph’s toe-dragging interception are obvious high points. Those 175 yards surrendered to Allen, the penalties and Herbert’s dominating day are hard to ignore.

It’s worth noting the Lions used Brian Branch at deep safety more in this game. Tracy Walker saw his fair share of action. But the defense was trying out some new looks. Grade: D

Special teams: Jack Fox dropped his lone punt inside the 10-yard line. And Riley Patterson made both field-goal attempts, including the game-winner at the horn and five extra-point attempts. It’s worth noting the Lions were also operating with new long snapper Jake McQuaide after Scott Daly’s injury.

And it was a clean, impactful day on this phase. Grade: A

Coaching: There is something to be said about this coaching staff’s feel for their roster and the moment, not to mention the trust they have in their stars. And it wasn’t just about Dan Campbell’s aggressive nature on fourth down. It was the fact that he knew Detroit’s best chance at winning was making sure LA didn’t get the ball back, period. Aaron Glenn’s defense had surrendered touchdowns on five straight series. And there was little evidence to induce optimism about getting a stop.

So, on fourth-and-2 after the two-minute warning, instead of trying the long field goal or punting. The Lions head coach put the trust in his best players, with Goff standing behind that offensive line and hitting LaPorta for the first down. The Chargers used their final timeout, then Goff kneeled three times before Patterson’s game-winning kick.

Ben Johnson’s offense was at its best in Los Angeles, too. The Lions dominated the first half on the ground, then did it through the air to keep one step ahead of Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen. The red-zone woes still need cleaning, but it’s hard to argue the offense after a 41-point, 500-plus yard outing. Glenn’s defense took their lumps from Herbert and Co. in this one. They got early pressure. But struggled with LA’s pre-snap motion and no-huddle looks.

In all, the Lions beat a very good team on the road with their best offensive showing of the season. The defensive issues and concerns remain. But that schedule eases up moving forward on the postseason push. And it’s difficult to doubt this coaching staff. Grade: B+

If you purchase a product or register for an account through a link on our site, we may receive compensation. By using this site, you consent to our User Agreement and agree that your clicks, interactions, and personal information may be collected, recorded, and/or stored by us and social media and other third-party partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button