Game Grades: Lions Loss Was Inevitable

Brandon Pettigrew (Mike Carter, US Presswire)

The Detroit Lions finally lost their first game, and have a poor offensive performance to thank for it.

 

It was bound to happen eventually.  The Detroit Lions were – at some point in time – going to lose a game.
 
The date of their first loss since December of 2010 was going to be accelerated if the offense continued its inconsistent play.  That date came when the Lions hosted the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on Sunday.
 
Game grades below ...
 
OFFENSE
The Lions offense struggled against the 49ers defense, a unit featuring one of the league’s best groups of linebackers. 
 
The Lions produced 310 yards on offense and only 19 points.  They were only successful in scoring touchdowns on two of their four red zone trips, proving to be a significant factor in the loss.
 
Four of the team’s first six drives ended in punts.  
 
They scored a field goal on their second drive, but were aided with a short field due to a defensive turnover.  They moved the ball 69 yards on their fourth drive – for a touchdown – but were helped by a 49ers pass interference penalty.
 
The Lions gave up a safety on a play where the ball was snapped outside of the 10-yard line on their seventh drive, and it its two drives in the final two minutes of the game, produced only five yards on eight plays.
 
Common theme? Short drives, resulting in poor field position.
 
When it was all said and done, the offense failed to get a first down on eight of their 16 drives.
 
The 49ers focused on taking Calvin Johnson away – especially in the red zone.  But the Lions are too good to not take advantage of that with their other weapons.
 
Grade: D
 
DEFENSE
 
The defense wasn’t perfect, getting burned for some big runs.  Still, they gave the team a chance to win. The 49ers won the field position battle for most of the game, making it difficult for the Lions defense.  Their average field position was their own 36, while Detroit's was its own 26.  
 
The 49ers barely outgained the Lions, putting up 314 yards on offense.  Like the Lions, they converted only two of their four red zone visits.
 
The difference wasn’t the Lions defense, instead it was a safety against the Lions and a missed field goal attempt (the Lions would have never surrendered the late field goal had they not been put in a situation to turn the ball over on downs).  
 
The defense forced six three-and-outs as well as created two turnovers.  They did give up 141 yards rushing to Frank Gore but more than half of those yards came off of only two plays. 
 
It is true that the defense did have an opportunity to win the game. Had the defense stopped Delaine Walker a few inches shorter on fourth-down late in the fourth quarter, they probably win.   
 
Still, this unit kept the Lions in the game.
 
Grade: B
 
SPECIAL TEAMS
 
Jason Hanson’s missed field goal certainly hurt the Lions.  The usually reliable Hanson was only successful on one of two attempts, missing from 52 yards.  
 
Ryan Donahue did a decent job punting, averaging 43.8 yards but should have kicked out of bounds a few more times, as Ted Ginn Jr. had 72 yards on three punt returns.  
 
Also, the Lions had an opportunity to down a punt on the one-yard line late in the game and failed.
 
Grade: D+
 
COACHING
 
The coaching staff certainly wasn’t the cause for the loss but they could have done more.
 
The Lions were unsuccessful in taking advantage of the extra attention paid to Johnson – something that may be more on quarterback Matthew Stafford than the play calling – but there could have been more done to help out the quarterback.
 
Primarily, the Lions did not do a good job in adjusting to the pressure applied by the 49ers, forcing Stafford to be more uncomfortable than he needed to be. 
 
The Lions were successful in winning a challenge and had good time out management (allowing them to get the ball back to their offense on more time at the end of the game).
 
They should not be scrutinized for the two point conversion in the fourth quarter.  
 
Grade: C+

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