It's really hard when writing the Detroit Lions Week 9 report card to not be extremely biased after such a big win against the Green Bay Packers. Though it was a rather sloppy game, there were some definite bright spots deserving of a game ball. In a 15-9, nail-biting victory there were a ton of things learned about this team and their resiliency. At the end of the day, the Lions were able to stave off Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and secure their second win of the season and moving them to 1-1 in the NFC North. Here are the final marks for the Lions in their Week 9 victory over the Packers.
Detroit Lions Week 9 report card: Offense
When it comes to grading out the Detroit Lions, as we've done in the past we'll break them up into three different sections: Offense, defense and special teams, and coaching. So let's get out those red pens and start grading the Detroit Lions position groups on their Week 9 performance.
Jared Goff did not play a great game against the Packers. On the surface, only digging into the stats he was 14/26 for 137 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. But there has to be a deeper look, and that doesn't get any better. This was Goff's worst performance according to Pro Football Focus on the season, grading him at 48.0. While it is true, and some will belabor, he was without weapons on offense, that doesn't account for just bad quarterback fundamentals–pocket presence, timing, accuracy, etc. It wasn't a great day for Goff and it's probably time to think of life after him while saving a ton of money.
Overall Grade: D
With the poor quarterback play, it was necessary for the Lions to get something going on the ground to help chew up the clock and keep possession of the ball. With D'Andre Swift limited, only accounting for 10 of the offensive plays (eight passes and two rushes) it became incumbent on Jamaal Williams to carry the load. Justin Jackson and Craig Reynolds only accounted for 14 offensive plays, leaving Williams's total at 38 offensive snaps (six catches, seven pass blocking, and 25 rushing attempts).
Accruing only 81 yards on the ground isn't spectacular for Williams, 3.4 average per rush, but it was enough. Adding to that Swift added 40 yards in the passing game and Jackson rushed four times for 27 yards (6.8 ypc), the backfield did exactly what they needed to do for the Lions to pull out the victory.
Overall Grade: B
There's no denying the wide receiver corps was a bit depleted this week with D.J. Chark and Josh Reynolds both inactive. These inactives led to the main receiving options being: Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Tom Kennedy. At the end of the day, there wasn't a lot for Jared Goff to throw to, however, some of the throws weren't even close. None of these receivers really stepped up in a way that would make you feel good should Chark, Reynolds, and even Jameson Williams continue to be stymied by injury.
Overall Grade: C-
The tight-end room took a hit earlier in the week when T.J. Hockenson was traded to the Minnesota Vikings. In his stead, James Mitchell and Shane Zylstra stepped up well, both ranking as top-six offensive players this week, with Mitchell earning top honors with a PFF grade of 84.8. Each of these two caught a goal-line touchdown from Goff, for their first career touchdowns. Brock Wright, on the other hand, was not great earning the lowest grade of any offensive player. Mitchell could soon make people forget the hole at tight end if he continues to use his big frame around the goal line and grading out well.
Overall Grade: A-
The offensive line is the heart and soul of this offensive unit and has been playing quite well together all season. They have kept Goff upright, giving up only 8 sacks on the season. However, against the Packers they struggled to get the run game going, allowing Jamaal Williams less than four yards per carry, and garnering a -26.5% DVOA, meaning they were 26.5% below the League average in Week 9. When you are missing pieces in the passing game, and have a sub-par quarterback, you have to overcompensate with a good run game, which could've been part of the problem in scoring only 15 points on Sunday.
Overall Grade: C-
Detroit Lions Week 9 report Card: Defense and Special Teams
To say the defense stepped up this week would be an understatement. In all, the Packers made five trips into the red zone and only converted on two of those opportunities. It wasn't until the third quarter that they were able to break the goose egg and finally put points on the board when Rodgers connected with Allen Lazard for a 20-yard touchdown. Three red zone trips for the Packers ended in turnovers, with the Lions' defense creating three on the day. Here's how they graded out.
The defensive line did what they needed to do to secure the win. In many situations, they were able to get pressure on Rodgers and stuff the run game. They were aided in many ways by the pretty decent linebacker play, which allowed them to get home and create 10 pressures by themselves. Not to mention the first career interception around the goal line by Aidan Hutchinson. In all, along with the linebackers, they stuffed the run game to the tune of 25 attempts for 106 yards on the day for the Packers' running backs.
Overall Grade: B
For good reason, the linebacking corps of the Lions has been oft-maligned this season. Aside from standout, sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez, the linebacking corps has left a lot to be desired through the first half of the season. Rodriguez only played 19 snaps on Sunday, leaving with an elbow injury, which paved the way for Derrick Barnes to have his best game as a Lion–12 tackles, one sack, and a pass deflection leading to an interception.
While Alex Anzalone and Chris Board still left some things to be desired–Board being much better than Anzalone–the linebacking corps made a formidable front with the defensive line to hold the Packers' offense at bay and only allow 9 points on the day.
Overall Grade: B+
The star of the day was third-round rookie, Kerby Joseph. He was all over the field collecting 10 tackles, two interceptions, and three pass breakups–none bigger than the post route at the goalline in the third quarter. The rest of the secondary graded out well in pass coverage, though they did allow 285 yards and a touchdown to Rodgers. Even amid the distraction of firing their position coach, the secondary definitely has a game on which they can build for future matchups. They still have holes to clean up, but it was a good effort nonetheless.
Overall Grade: B-
The special teams unit did exactly what they needed to do when they were called up. Jack Fox took the times he was called upon to change field position and dropped dimes. None was better than the punt he dropped at the one-yard line. Michael Badgely wasn't needed often but did do a fantastic acting job to earn a running into the kicker penalty on Jaire Alexander on the Lions' first touchdown, leading to a two-point conversion.
Overall Grade: A-
Detroit Lions Week 9 Report Card: Coaching
There is no doubt that Dan Campbell needed this win. The high-energy, sound-bite-giving head coach of the Lions has not won much in his tenure. He has been overly aggressive to a fault on fourth downs this season, almost in a way that feels desperate. None more obvious than this past Sunday. On the first drive of the game, he went for it inside the ten-yard line and failed, taking a near-guaranteed three points off the board. This was the wrong choice.
He also was successful in challenging a fourth-down reception and won the challenge which got the Packers off the field. In the fourth quarter, he chose to go for a fourth-and-three and was stuffed, turning the ball over on downs. While many may balk at this decision, analytically it was the correct decision to make.
All in all, the gamble paid off and the defense stood tall when the Packers inevitably got into the red zone and threatened to take the lead in the game. However, a miscommunication between Rodgers and his receiver led to the ball falling harmlessly to the ground and the Lions walked away with the victory, their second of the season and Campbell's fifth of his tenure.
Overall Grade: B-