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Detroit Lions Week 16 Report Card: Playoff hopes hit a snag

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The Detroit Lions looked unrecognizable in Week 16 as they laid an egg against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers dominated the game from the start as the Lions had no answer for their run game. The offense could not keep pace as they struggled in the red zone. The result was a 14-point loss that was not as close as the score indicates. Going position by position, let's see how each group graded out.

Detroit Lions' Offense:

Amon-Ra St. Brown Detroit Lions

Quarterback:

Statistically, Jared Goff had a productive game. He ended the day with 355 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, but the stats don't show the whole picture. Goff actually started off the game great with a near-perfect touchdown drive. After that, he hit a rough patch. Goff did not use his eyes well enough to manipulate the defense allowing the defensive line to knock down several passes. He picked it up later in the day to put up some yards, but a forgetful day for the quarterback.

Report Card Grade: C+

Running Backs:

The Lions' run game looks broken. After a great start to the year, the Lions have not been able to establish the run, and on Saturday, it did not get any better. Both running backs averaged less than 3 yards a carry as the Lions only rushed for 45 yards on the day. The rushing lanes have not always been there, but the backs need to do better at getting yards. If Goff is your leading rusher, it has to be a bad day for the runners, so hopefully, the Lions can get it turned around for the last two weeks.

Report Card Grade: D-

Wide Receivers:

With the struggles of the offense, the receivers did not have a huge impact on the game. Amon-Ra St. Brown did his thing making tough catches and moving the sticks. At this point, St. Brown could sleepwalk his way to 5 catches and 50 yards with 4 first-down conversions. With him, DJ Chark had several explosive plays on his way to 100 yards on the day. On a day when not much went right, the receivers did their job when given the opportunity.

Report Card Grade: B

Tight Ends:

Have a day Shane Zylstra! The Minnesota State product ruined several fantasy football players' days by grabbing all three Lions' touchdowns. He set career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns as he could not be stopped in the red zone. The other tight ends also contributed in the passing game with James Mitchell adding a career-high 31 yards. The tight end by committee is doing a solid but unspectacular job since the T.J. Hockenson trade.

Report Card Grade: B+

Offensive Line:

The offensive line is far too talented for these struggles in the run game. Despite having four incredibly talented linemen, they have been unable to open any holes in the run game. Hank Fraley and Ben Johnson need to go to the drawing board to maximize the strength of this group to get the run game going again.

Despite those struggles, the line had been nearly flawless in pass protection in the seven-game stretch. For the most part, they continued their success. Goff typically had plenty of time to pass, but Brian Burns did get two sacks off the edge. There is so much potential for the run game, but the offensive line needs to figure out how to get it off the ground.

Report Card Grade: C+

Detroit Lions Defense

Detroit Lions Aidan Hutchinson

Defensive Line:

Similar to the offense, the trenches have been where the defense has won. But this week, that was far from the truth. The interior of the line was blown off the ball opening huge holes for Carolina's backs. Hubbard and Foreman constantly got to the second level untouched allowing for some huge gains.

With such bad run defense, the Lions had no opportunities to allow their talented edge rushers to pin their ear backs and get to the quarterback. Hopefully, this game was just an anomaly, and the defensive line can return to form and shut down opposing run games.

Report Card Grade: F

Linebackers:

When the running backs did get to the second level, they did not face much resistance from the Lions' linebackers. The linebackers had bad run fits all game, and when they were in the right spot, they couldn't make the tackle. Just a horrible game for the ‘backers as they were useless in stopping the Panthers' rushing attack.

Report Card Grade: F

Secondary:

The secondary had a big part in the turnaround of the Lions' run defense. The corners and safeties were aggressive and did a great job making tackles. But judging from Saturday's performance, it would be impossible to tell. Without DeShon Elliot, the defensive backs did a horrendous job tackling as they whiffed all game on ball carriers. In particular, Jeff Okudah had a really rough game tackling, which was very out of character for the young corner. The young defensive backs, Okudah, Kerby Joseph, and Jerry Jacobs need to be better tacklers for the scheme to work.

Report Card Grade: F

Special Teams

It was a very quiet day for the special teams. Michael Badgley hit his only kick of the day, and Jack Fox had another solid day in the cold. Justin Jackson did add a nice kickoff return, but in such a lopsided game, special teams did not have much of an impact on this one.

Report Card Grade: B

Coaching

Like the rest of the team, it was a rough game for the coaching staff. The team came out flat and was outmuscled up front. After that, Aaron Glenn and the defensive staff did not make any adjustments to stop the run. The players did not help, but when a team rushes for 320 yards and puts up 37 points, the defensive staff deserves plenty of blame for not figuring out how to stop it. On offense, the passing game was effective, but the offense is far too one-dimensional to win in shootouts. There are only so many 3rd and longs the offense can be counted on to convert.

There is no sugarcoating it, Saturday was a very bad day for everyone involved. However, it is important to remember that the sky is not falling. The Lions have still won 6 of their last 8 after only winning 3 games last year. The team is very much improved with several young, exciting players. As a bonus, they are competing for a playoff spot AND should end up with a top 5 pick in the draft. The game was a total dud, but remember, good things are still happening in Detroit, and one week does not change that.

Report Card Grade: F

All stats via ESPN

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