ReFo: Lions @ Vikings, Week 17
This game may not have had any postseason implications but divisional matchups always have some intriguet to them. Despite the fact neither coach may be back next year it’s still worth assessing how the young players are coming along and whether to expect a complete rebuild or not in 2014. That’s certainly unlikely to be the case for Detroit who consistently underperform thanks in large part to their bad discipline. At some stage Jim Schwartz has to be held accountable for that problem. In some ways Leslie Frazier is the opposite. He comes across as a somewhat passive person and his teams seem to play like it at times. There’s no doubting the potential of some players on the Vikings, Matt Khalil and Erin Henderson to name a couple, but a massive part of a head coaches’ role is having them fulfill that potential. Nick Farley should be placed in that category for the Lions. He could be one of the most dominant at his position but all too frequently looks more concerned with racking up the sack total then doing the dirty work in the trenches. The same was true though of Ndamukong Suh though early in his career but he’s improved at that recently. Here are some key performers from the game …
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
A very good season for Dominic Raiola ended with a bang against the Vikings (+4.6). The veteran center had his best game of the year, finishing with three games of at least +4.0. To put Raiola’s form in context he recorded a +12.0 in the past five games, leaving him second at the position as of this writing. He once again recorded a perfect game in pass protection, his tenth of the year, allowing his QB to be knocked down a total of just four times all season. Still it was his work in the run game which made him stand out (+2.9) as he consistently won his battles up front. Overall he didn’t have any stand out blocks but Raiola consistently executed his assignment such that he only graded negatively once. Whether it was linebackers at the second level or defensive tackles on the line, Raiola consistently got the better of his opposing number. 2012 undrafted free agent Chase Baker in particular suffered at Raiola’s hands. His seal at [13.10 in the third] is just one example. Really strong end to the year for the 12 year pro.
Who is the real Matt Stafford?
This was the year it finally looked like Matt Stafford had put it all together and would lead his team to the postseason. When it came down to crunch time though, he was unable to elevate his play and instead became the quarterback of previous seasons. In the last four weeks he combined for a –9.4 grade including three in the red leaving the Lions sitting up home in the sudden death knockout. This was one of his worst as he missed open receivers throughout. Overall he threw 23 catchable balls (no drops/throwaways/batted passes) on 29 attempts for 217 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions — but just four of those completions came beyond ten yards. It was under pressure where he performed especially poorly, completing just two of six targets for 12 yards and five sacks. It’s all the more concerning considering he was only under pressure on 11 of 38 drop backs. He missed a glorious opportunity for a big play with 8.02 to play in the fourth when he overthrew his man running a fly in open space. Pocket presence was another glaring issue as the former first overall pick looked antsy when he was clean, consistently drawing pressure onto him. Next year could be make or break for Stafford.
Glover Struggles to Cover
Glover Quin (-3.2) has been a good addition to the Lions’ defense this season but he played one of his worst games against the Vikings. He graded negatively in every aspect of his play (ignoring penalties) and in particular had issues when Matt Cassel dropped back to pass. Although the numbers say only one of two for 12 yards, the tape told a different story. The incompletion came on a play where he completely vacated his zone and only a poor throw by the QB saved what would have been a touchdown. He also bit hard on a play fake leaving the tight end open in the flat for a long gain and finally missed a tackle on the running back after a teammate had already allowed a completion. In the run game Quin was put on his back a couple of times. He was pancaked as the edge defender on a pitch play (13.20, Q2) and on a run blitz on another outside run (9.27, Q2).
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
A plethora of injuries to the Vikings’ front seven has made it difficult for their defense, but it’s also allowed the organization to see who might be able to help next year. It was a rocky start for Robert Blanton but he ended on a real high note against the Lions (+3.7). He played 51 very impressive snaps grading in the green against both the run and pass. Overall he made a ridiculous nine stops, with four of them coming in the run game. He was unblocked the majority of the time but showed good speed and control to drive into the box to make the play. In terms of coverage he allowed four of five targets for 25 yards but only two were for first downs with a number of tackles short of the markers on third downs.
Phil Loadholt (+3.6) has enjoyed an outstanding year with Minnesota in his fourth season. This game capped a six game streak of grading in the green and he hasn’t graded negatively since Week 7. Showing equal capability in the run and pass game (+1.6 in both) as he’s done all year, Loadholt once again stood out in a positive way. As a pass rusher he allowed just the solitary hurry on 38 drop backs. That play came early in the game as Willie Young was able to beat him outside to force Cassel to move (Q1, 13.51). Although he didn’t see a lot of action in the run game, he made his blocks count when he did get an opportunity. Loadholt didn’t grade negatively once, and did an especially good job on Suh. He was able to move him significantly on one double team in the third quarter (9.52). Despite that the quality of tackle play has been so high this year that Loadholt (+24.5) couldn’t even make it into the top ten at the position.
Cracks in the Wall
The Williams wall came down when Pat retired but now even Kevin Williams (-2.0) is starting to look human. He isn’t bad by any means but this isn’t the dominant player of years past. Williams got a 0.0 grade as a pass rusher, recording a sack and batted pass in 31 rushes but graded negatively in the categories aside from that. He also didn’t beat a block on his QB takedown as Stafford just mistakenly scrambled into him on a three man rush (Q4, 15.00). As a run defender he was uncharacteristically inconsistent (-0.7) showing signs of wearing down. The left side of the Lions’ line was able to generate some seriously good movement on him on one second quarter play (2.14). To be fair he responded well winning a similar matchup in the third (11.54) but overall Larry Warford ended up winning more battles against him than he lost. With a poor play in the screen game and a penalty to boot, Williams will be hoping for a better start to 2014 than he ended 2013.
– Viking runners combined for 117 of their 169 yards after contact.
– Viking safeties and linebackers failed to force a single incompletion in coverage.
– None of Detroit’s defenders had a grade better than +0.4 against the run.
This honour could go to a number of players but in the end Blanton deserves it for stepping up when called upon.
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