Turnovers + bad coach = Thanksgiving disaster.
Another Detroit Lions game. Another complete embarrassment on the field. For the fourth time in past five games, the Lions were absolutely blown out, and in three of those losses, they were facing a team that is currently well below .500.
There is no saving this coaching staff—even if this game, in particular, wasn’t completely on them. Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong on Thanksgiving, so we can’t exactly let the players off the hook for their mistake-prone play against the Houston Texans.
Let’s take a closer look at the entire team’s performance with our Week 12 report card.
Matthew Stafford continues to look uncomfortable out there without Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola in the lineup. He’s holding onto the ball far too long, he’s taking unnecessary sacks, and just doesn’t look like he can get into rhythm with the guys that are out there.
Even worse, he had another back-breaking interception in this game when Detroit should have been jumping out to an early lead. Sure, it was a phenomenal play from J.J. Watt, but it’s still on Stafford to secure the ball and keep it out of harm’s way.
Running backs: F
Two turnovers from one unit is enough to get a failing grade regardless of performance elsewhere. There’s no doubt that fumbles from Kerryon Johnson and Jonathan Williams changed the course of this game when the rest of the offense was actually moving quite nicely.
There were some good things in this game from Adrian Peterson (two touchdowns and 55 yards), and Kerryon Johnson had 98 all-purpose yards, but all of that is overshadowed by two extremely costly fumbles.
Tight ends: A-
T.J. Hockenson was phenomenal in this game, both as a receiver and as a blocker. He did have a drop late, but considering the game was essentially over at that point, I’m not going to drag him too much.
Hockenson undoubtedly had the play of the game for Detroit, in which he snatched a ball headed for the turf, immediately got up, and scampered for 17 yards:
This is beautiful to watch
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 26, 2020
Throw in a 51-yard trick play, and Hockenson had the best day of his 2020 season: five catches, 89 yards.
Wide receivers: D
Another quiet day from a shorthanded unit. Marvin Jones’ six catches went for just 48 yards. Marvin Hall had just two for 16. Mohamed Sanu didn’t have a catch until the very end of the game.
But, hey, that was quite some pass, Jamal Agnew!
Offensive line: B
For the most part, Matthew Stafford had a comfortable day in the pocket. The box score shows four sacks allowed, but at least half of those are on Stafford for holding onto the ball too long. In truth, the offensive line held up well enough to execute two long-developing trick plays, opened up holes that even Adrian Peterson could run through, and overall just looked like a competent unit.
Defensive line: C
Once again, the Lions were able to shut down the opponent’s running game. Everson Griffen continues to look solid as a pass rusher, and Romeo Okwara added a QB hit of his own, too. Even Nick Williams notched an impressive sack, giving Detroit some much-needed pass rush from the middle.
Still, the pressure wasn’t consistent enough, so the front four only gets an average grade this week.
The Lions linebackers continue to be just god awful in coverage. In zone coverage, they’re far too susceptible to play action. In man-to-man coverage, running backs have been abusing them all season. Jamie Collins Sr., specifically, allowed Duke Johnson to run right by him for a 33-yard touchdown reception.
That being said, the linebacking corps also was responsible for some of the biggest plays on defense. Jarrad Davis had a very impressive pass rush rep that earned a half-sack. Collins forced a fumble and it was recovered by Jahlani Tavai. And despite getting burned by Duke Johnson, Collins had a pass breakup earlier in the game.
The Lions were beat up at cornerback, and that meant it was Amani Oruwariye’s turn to get picked on this week. Oruwariye, who, to be fair, was dealing with a back injury, just could not keep pace with the speedy Will Fuller V. Nor could Desmond Trufant, who had to leave the game with another hamstring injury. Fuller finished wit ha season high 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Tracy Walker was out there missing tackles. Duron Harmon was late coming over as help over the top on one deep touchdown. I’ve just got nothing new to say about this unit. They are not good.
Special teams: C-
Not a great day from Jack Fox. He pushed a kickoff out of bounds that led to a touchdown. His first punt went for a touchback. Though he recovered nicely, pinning the next two inside the 15, it was still a down day for the Lions punter.
Coverage teams continue to be reliable, but the Lions aren’t getting much from their return game this year.
I actually thought the overall gameplan going into the game was solid. They got Hockenson and Kerryon Johnson involved early, and it was working. They were able to start the game defensively with two stops, as well. Player execution was really the main issue in the first half. Three turnovers are not on the coaches, and if not for them, I think Detroit heads to the locker room at halftime with the lead.
But after coming out for the third quarter, that’s where the coaching mistakes started to take over. Consider this: The Texans are up two possessions to start the third quarter. Now let’s look at the play calls for each team in the third quarter.
Sure, the Lions were mildly successful running the ball to start the second half, but they also bled 7:36 off the clock in a game they were playing from behind… and they ended that drive with just a field goal.
Which leads to yet another coaching problem: A huge reluctance to go for it on fourth down:
—> HOU (20) @ DET (14) <—
DET has 4th & 6 at the HOU 49
— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) November 26, 2020
—> HOU (23) @ DET (14) <—
DET has 4th & 4 at the HOU 11
— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) November 26, 2020
Of course, the one time they did go for it, they gave the ball to Jason Cabinda for his first carry of the season. It didn’t work.
As pointed out nicely by Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire, the Lions went away from what worked on offense. Hockenson and Johnson combined for 164 yards in the first half. In the second half, those two combined for 23.
So if you want to point to blame in this game, in the first half it was the players. In the second half, it was all coaching.