|DT Corey Williams (No. 99) and the Lions defense earns a B+ in our report card for an effective performance that slowed Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch in Detroit's win over the Seahawks on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
During Sunday's 28-24 win over the Seahawks at Ford Field, the Detroit Lions finally produced the complete performance they've coveted since the season began, and they handed Seattle its first loss to a team outside the NFC West.
The Lions' effort wasn't perfect -- 10 of Seattle's 24 points were the direct result of Detroit penalties -- but there were enough positives to suggest that Detroit may be close to finding a rhythm that could kick-start a playoff push.
The good: Matthew Stafford distributed the ball well from sideline to sideline, finally producing effective results against the two-high safety coverage that had stymied the Lions' offense since Week 1.
WR Titus Young had the breakout game Detroit needed him to have following the season-ending injury to Nate Burleson. He caught all nine balls thrown his way, scored two touchdowns and used his speed to split Seattle's tall defenders.
Ryan Broyles caught a touchdown for the second-consecutive game. His ability to create space makes him an ideal slot receiver and lessens the impact of Burleson's absence.
Detroit's tight ends had their best game of the season. Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew combined for 11 catches for 120 yards, and Pettigrew seems to have solved whatever problem was causing him to drop passes in key situations. Pettigrew and Scheffler's resurgence was a big part of the Lions' ability to spread Seahawks' defenders thin and create favorable matchups for Stafford to exploit.
The O-line continues to protect Stafford. Riley Reiff was only used as a sixth lineman on nine of Detroit's 73 snaps, and his absence didn't affect the line's ability to maintain the pocket long enough for Stafford to work through his full receiver progressions.
The bad: The running game wasn't as solid as it had been during the Lions' last two games. Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell averaged nearly five yards a carry in Weeks 6 and 7. They were a full yard behind that pace Sunday.
With the Lions trailing in the third quarter, Stafford made an ill-advised throw into double coverage that was intercepted. The play was an indication that Stafford's maturation as a passer is far from complete.
Calvin Johnson was held to just three catches. It's worth noting that Seattle's corners are among the league's best, and Johnson is battling knee issues. Still, he needs to play a bigger role. Previous game's grade: D
The good: Detroit's linebacking corps' outstanding ball pursuit was key. Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch were able to contain Seahawks' RB Marshawn Lynch for most of the afternoon, and until Seattle TE Zach Miller caught a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks weren't able to find much space at all over the middle. Ashlee Palmer filled in well in DeAndre Levy's absence, something that will allow Lions coaches the freedom to be cautious with Levy's hamstring injury.
CB Chris Houston anchored the secondary, and he continues to be a leader on the field. Houston finished with eight tackles and controlled Seahawks receivers for most of the game. Safety Ricardo Silva may have saved the game for Detroit when he made a pair of key plays on the Seahawks' drive immediately after Stafford's third-quarter interception. Silva made a touchdown-saving tackle on RB Robert Turbin, then made his first career interception three plays later.
The D-line's performance wasn't flashy, but it was effective. Detroit's front four limited Lynch's rushing lanes and combined for five tackles for loss. The line didn't sack Seattle QB Russell Wilson, but they were in the backfield often enough to change his throwing rhythm.
The bad: Cornerback Jonte Green's 41-yard pass interference penalty in the second quarter led directly to Seattle's first touchdown, and he continues to struggle in coverage. Green has made enough plays over the last three games to prove he can play in the NFL, but he needs to be more consistent.
Lynch's 77-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was Detroit's worst play of the day, and it illustrated the Lions' continued vulnerability to big plays. Previous game's grade: B-
Special Teams: B+
The good: Detroit's coverage teams held Seattle to an average starting field position of its own 23-yard line, and no Seahawk return ever threatened the end zone. Coordinator Danny Crossman made good on his promise to reform the coverage units by using some starters --including Houston -- on the coverage teams.
The bad: DE Willie Young was called for an illegal formation penalty on a Seattle punt. The foul extended the Seahawks' drive and resulted in a score. The call was admittedly questionable, but that doesn't mitigate the fact that it happened. A team with the Lions' reputation for discipline issues can't ever allow their fate to be placed in the officials' hands, and Young's positioning on the play did exactly that. Previous game's grade: C
The good: Jim Schwartz and his staff designed a near-perfect game plan Sunday, and the Lions executed it well. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan used a two-to-one pass-run play ratio that was similar to the way he ran the offense last season, resulting in the offense's most solid performance to date. Linehan's play-calling helped Detroit convert 12 of 16 third downs, doubling its 2012 average.
The bad: Not much. The only way Lions' coaches should face criticism over their Week 8 performance is if they don't use similar game plans in future weeks. Previous game's grade: D+