By Chris Morgan
The Detroit Lions came into Sunday’s game against the New York Jets without their starting middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, and with Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in the NFL, dealing with injury issues. While Johnson did play, he was limited to two catches for 12 yards. In the past, that could have done the Lions in, especially on the road. However, Matthew Stafford and company handled their business on offense, and the defense managed to do just enough to help lead the Lions to a 24-17 win, their first road victory of the season. Detroit stands alone atop the NFC North, at least for now. Here are the grades for the Lions based on this performance.
Offense: As expected, the Lions weren’t able to do much on the ground against the Jets’ tough run defense. That being said, both Reggie Bush and Joique Bell did reasonably well, and Bush also had four catches for 19 yards, and Stafford had a rushing touchdown. With LaAdrian Waddle still out, the Lions continued to have issues on the offensive line, as they gave up four sacks to a team that doesn’t have a terribly fearsome pass rush.
However, the passing game did well, even with Johnson being banged up. Golden Tate stepped into the void, catching eight passes for 116 yards. Jeremy Ross and Eric Ebron both caught touchdowns, with Ebron notching his first touchdown of his career. Given the circumstances, and with no turnovers on the day, it was a nice outing for Detroit’s offense. Grade: B+
Quarterback: Maybe Stafford just needs to play against teams from New York every week. Just like in the season opener, Stafford was very good in this game. He went 24-for-34 for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He also had that rushing score, and picked up a crucial first down with his feet that sealed the game for the Lions. The Jets don’t have the most formidable secondary, but there is no room for complain here, really. Grade: A-
Special Teams: While Ross usually gets his work done on special teams, he did his real damaging as a receiver in this game. Sam Martin remains a plenty serviceable punter, even if punting is something you don’t really get excited about as a football fan, generally speaking. In truth, all eyes were on Alex Henery, the Lions’ new kicker who replaced the struggling rookie Nate Freese. While Henery missed a kick, he also made a 51-yarder, something Freese never did. The special teams handled their business, which was enough. Grade: B
Defense: Without Tulloch, the Lions’ run defense was not the wall it had been the first three weeks. It’s only one game, but that’s also concerning. The Jets gained 132 yards on 27 carries, and they got a rushing touchdown from Chris Johnson. The Lions only had four tackles for loss, but they also had two sacks, which is something.
However, and thanks in part to the general lack of acumen from Geno Smith, the Lions were strong against the pass. The Jets only got 209 yards through the air, Darius Slay got his first career interception, and Smith fumbled twice, losing one that the Lions picked up. Grade: B
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Chris Morgan has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com. .