MIN-DET grades: Secondary wins it for Lions

Darius Slay, Lions' defense stifle Sam Bradford's and the Vikings' short passing game.

| 7 months ago
(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

MIN-DET grades: Secondary wins it for Lions

Detroit Lions 16, Minnesota Vikings 13

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Lions’ 16-13 Thanksgiving win over the Vikings in Week 12:

Detroit Lions

Quarterback grade: Matthew Stafford, 69.2

Stafford finds success staying short

Matthew Stafford’s best work in this game came on shorter throws, with the former No. 1 overall draft pick completing 18 of the 20 passes he attempted either behind the line of scrimmage or 0-9 yards downfield. Throwing the ball downfield he was less impressive, though, with Stafford completing just five of the 16 passes he attempted 10 yards or further downfield. Credit where it is due to Stafford, however, as he was able to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers, which helped the team pick up the win.

Top offensive grades:

OT Riley Reiff, 85.2

WR Anquan Boldin, 81.0

TE Matthew Mulligan, 74.,8

G Larry Warford, 74.1

WR Golden Tate, 73.0

Playmakers come up big, particularly in the slot

With the Lions offense finding most of their success on shorter passing routes, it was up to their playmakers at wide receiver to make some big plays. With a varied attack, all three of Anquan Boldin, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones had their moments, with none of the three dropping a pass. Both Tate and Boldin did their best work out of the slot, averaging 4.50 and 2.16 yards per route run, respectively, and picking up 117 yards combined on receptions out of the slot.

Top defensive grades:

LB Tahir Whitehead, 90.6

CB Darius Slay, 87.4

LB Josh Bynes, 86.5

CB Nevin Lawson, 79.8

S Tavon Wilson, 77.9

Lions pounce on Vikings’ short passing game

Prior to Thanksgiving, the Detroit defense had missed 66 tackles this season but added only four against the Vikings, with only one of those coming in the passing game. Vikings QB Sam Bradford peppered the short area of the field, and rather than allowing his receivers to create after the catch, he only served to inflate the defensive statistics for the Lions’ linebackers and safeties. MLB Tahir Whitehead racked up eight stops, more than a quarter of his stop total entering this week’s game (29). Rookie SS Miles Killebrew registered a defensive stop on a third of his defensive snaps (three on nine snaps, all in coverage). Cornerback Darius Slay added the big play the Lions had to wait almost a full 60 minutes for, pouncing on Bradford’s coverage misread to set up the shortest game-winning drive of Stafford’s career and Matt Prater’s game-winning field goal.

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback grade: Sam Bradford, 54.1

Bradford gets caught on short passes

Only three of Sam Bradford’s 33 targeted passes in this game were aimed 10 or more yards down the field (his 3.5-yard average depth of target ties for the shortest of any QB in a single game this season), and the Lions’ defense simply didn’t allow Minnesota’s receivers to create after the catch. The Vikings’ longest passing play came on a busted coverage, and when they were on their assignments, the Lions missed only one tackle in the passing game. In the end, the Vikings created no margin for error, and then were sunk by Bradford’s catastrophic coverage misread at the end of the game, resulting in the Darius Slay interception.

Top offensive grades:

TE Rhett Ellison, 76.1

LG Alex Boone, 76.0

RG Brandon Fusco, 75.2

RT Jeremiah Sirles, 74.7

RB Jerick McKinnon, 74.4

Lions take space away from the Vikings offense

Without any credible downfield threat, the Vikings’ offense was clamped down on by the Lions’ defense. Running back Jerick McKinnon did as much as he could, adding 23 of his 31 rushing yards after contact, exploiting what space he could find. But without any attempt to stretch the defense, the Lions were able to put seven or more defenders in the box on more than half of the Vikings’ offensive plays, stalling the Minnesota offense before capitalizing in the last minute.

Top defensive grades:

S Andrew Sendejo, 82.6

LB Chad Greenway, 81.3

CB Xavier Rhodes, 79.8

LB Eric Kendricks, 78.2

LB Anthony Barr, 77.4

An up-and-down day for Waynes

It was an active day for second-year cornerback Trae Waynes. Targeted 12 times in coverage, Waynes allowed six receptions for 63 yards, including the touchdown to Anquan Boldin on the opening drive, but he also had a pass breakup. He was also beaten deep on what would have been a huge play for the Vikings offense, but Stafford and wide receiver Andre Roberts weren’t quite in sync enough to make him pay. Most of his work came against Marvin Jones, who picked up three catches for 47 yards from seven throws into Waynes’ coverage.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Darius Slay

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • cka2nd

    Bradford’s ball placement seemed off today, with several passes thrown behind the receiver resulting in either incompletions or minimal gains after the catch.

    • DaStrongSKRAWN

      Lol. Because this is new by Bradford.

    • GordonGekko

      STFU, you moron. Bradford is a stiff.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Jim Caldwell may have been on shaky ground when the season started but I think this win ensures that he will remain HC in Detroit. Hopefully fans in Michigan will have another chance to celebrate Saturday when the Wolverines go up against their arch rivals.

  • James Peters

    Sendejo had the best marks defensively? What game were you guys watching? He was clearly the weak link in an otherwise good defensive performance.