ReFo: Cowboys @ Lions, Week 8

John Breitenbach sorts through some of the game's notable performances and awards the PFF Game Ball to one that particularly stood out.

| 4 years ago

ReFo: Cowboys @ Lions, Week 8

2013-REFO-WK08-DAL@DETThe Lions under Matt Stafford have had a knack for seizing victory from the jaws of defeat and they did so again against the Cowboys in dramatic fashion. The final stanza featured 41 points as both offenses finally came alive. This was only the second win in 57 games for a team with a -4 turnover differential as Detroit continuously shot itself in the foot until towards the end of the fourth quarter. Calvin Johnson dropped a pass that led to an interception, Matt Stafford stared down his slot receiver running a slant allowing Sean Lee to pick one off and both Reggie Bush and Megatron lost fumbles. Credit the Lions’ defense for keeping them in it.

The Cowboys’ offense took advantage of the field position and, along with some big plays from Dez Bryant, seemed to have enough points to win. However, their failure to run much time off the clock in their four-minute offense ultimately had a big part to play in the loss. After starting the season red hot, Tony Romo has cooled of late and that play continued against Detroit. Dallas’ offensive line has been better than expected this season but they had only an average day against the Lions and without DeMarco Murray the Cowboys didn’t have enough firepower to make up for it.

Dallas – Three Performances of Note

Pass Pro Woes for Leary

Ronald Leary (-3.3) has been something of a pleasant surprise for the Cowboys at left guard, stabilizing a position that was a concern heading into the season, but he had his worst game against the Lions. That’s not surprising considering they have two of the best pass rushing 4-3 defensive tackles in Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh, but his most egregious errors also came against the likes of Willie Young and C.J. Mosley. Overall, he allowed a pair of hits and a pair of hurries in 33 drop-backs. Leary had no answer for Mosley’s swim move with 3:18 to go in the second quarter. I’m not even sure he made contact with the defensive tackle as he made it into the backfield immediately. Leary also struggled in the run game, where he graded negatively more often than positively. He made a crucial mistake with the Cowboys trying to run the clock out (Q4, 3:24) when he missed an assignment on DeAndre Levy to allow a tackle for loss. There were some bright spots, though, such as the block he threw on a screen pass where he was able to seal the aforementioned linebacker, the primary coverage defender on the play, to the inside opening a big lane.

Free in Fine Form

Doug Free (+2.3) has seemingly come back from being forced to take a pay cut with a new mind set and is reminding us all of 2010 when he looked so dominant. This game was no different as he gave up just the solitary hurry in 33 drop backs. Willie Young recorded that pressure — generating good movement on a bull rush — but Free was able to sustain the block and allow Romo to escape the pocket. It was a very quiet day for him in the run game, but on one play he did a good job getting to the second level to seal Stephen Tulloch away from an outside run. Free currently stands seventh in the NFL in Pass Blocking Efficiency with a PBE of 96.5. He sits third among right tackles.

Carr Crash

It’s never easy covering Calvin Johnson but limiting yards after the catch is a must. Giving up receptions is acceptable, but subsequent missed tackles often lead to big plays. That was exactly the case for Brandon Carr (-6.4) who missed a whopping five against the Lions. Johnson wasn’t the only one breaking away from him, however, as Reggie Bush also escaped from his grasp a couple of times. Overall he allowed 12 of 15 targets for 284 yards and a touchdown. A stunning 124 of those yards came after the catch and he had a QB rating when targeted of 141. Carr simply couldn’t handle the power of Johnson’s stiff arm as he twice used it to turn medium range receptions into big gains. The routes breaking over the middle caused him fits as he allowed big gains on a slant, dig and post. The only time Carr graded positively in coverage came on the Lions’ first drive when he had good position on a Johnson double move. The rest of the game however was something of a nightmare.

Detroit – Three Performances of Note

A Hidden Gem?

LaAdrian Waddle (+4.8) put in a very impressive performance in his first NFL start. After struggling somewhat against the combination of Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson it was an easier, but by no means easy, test going against George Selvie. The former Jaguar has made some plays as a pass rusher this season (five sacks, seven hits, 22 hurries) but was kept relatively quiet by the undrafted free agent Lion. Waddle allowed just a solitary hit and hurry in 52 drop backs, one of which came after the quarterback held the ball for three seconds in the pocket. His work in the run game was even more impressive. Waddle consistently not only sealed holes but generated some serious vertical and horizontal movement. Whether he can sustain this level of performance remains to be seen, but it’s an intriguing start to a young career.

Stafford Special

This was a game to remember for Stafford. The crucial play in the comeback was when the Lions had the ball with about a minute left and the Georgia quarterback threw an absolute laser right in stride to his receiver running a ‘Go’ down the left sideline. This was no jump ball as Stafford put it where it needed to be between defenders to give his team a chance at the comeback. He hit Johnson to the 1-yard line on the very next play and then showed great intelligence to fake the spike and sneak the ball in for the win. Overall, Stafford was 33 of 41 on targeted passes that weren’t dropped with a touchdown and an interception (+3.0 passing grade). While he struggled under pressure (25.7 QB rating) and when blitzed (61.0) he was lethal facing a four-man rush (96.5) and when he had time in the pocket. Aside from the touchdown Stafford also gained another first down with his legs proving the awareness to take what the defense gives him. The former first overall pick looks ready to take that next step, but it all depends on whether he can sustain the consistency he’s shown through eight weeks.

Safety Struggles

The Lions’ safety play over the past few years had been horrendous so they decided to go out and add Glover Quin in free agency. He’s been a solid addition but, along with Louis Delmas, he struggled against the Cowboys. Each had a part in Dez Bryant’s touchdowns as the former crushed his own teammate Darius Slay leaving him no opportunity to break up the pass as the Cowboy receiver landed in the end zone. Quin also failed to stop Terrence Williams from taking a slant to the end zone as he took an initial bad angle and then was stiff armed to the ground in pursuit. Delmas, meanwhile, made the crucial mistake of going all out for the ball when he was out of reach allowing Bryant to simply turn upfield and run the extra yardage for the score. The pair had a combined -3.0 grade in coverage as they failed to clean up the mistakes of their fellow defensive backs.

Game Notes

–  Chris Houston only allowed two targets to be complete for 10 yards with a pass deflection.

–  Tony Romo completed just one of 11 attempts for a yard when facing pressure (13 drop-backs).

–  Suh and Fairley combined for three hits and three hurries.

PFF Game Ball

It simply can’t go to anyone else than Calvin Johnson and that’s despite dropping a pass (leading to an interception) and fumbling.


Follow John on Twitter @PFF_John


| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Matthew Malek

    I don’t understand your grading sometimes. Really? J.J. Watt played a better game than Calvin Johnson? Watt is an all time great. But come on boys. Use this week to put your scale in perspective. Also….what would Calvins grade have been if he didn’t fumble or drop? 7?


      J.J. Watt has an opportunity to make an impact on every defensive play. Megatron only has a chance when Stafford throws him the ball.

      • Laimbrane

        Flawed logic. The idea between having a superstar receiver is that it opens things up for the rest of the offense. Of course, if you don’t bother allocating resources to covering him…

        • Darnell Barbour

          Well said.

    • AvsFan

      I don’t think their system is sophisticated enough to compare grades between deffirent positions.

    • Stephan Behuniak

      Yeah, to me this is their biggest flaw. Pass rushers always have super inflated grades. Look at least season. Watt, Atkins, and Von Miller were their three highest graded players by a lot. Now, they’re all great players, but were they the three best by far? I don’t think so.

  • Buhlitz

    This is how i see it on the game ball thing.

    1. Yes Stafford doesn’t have his monster game without CJ but CJ doesn’t have his without Stafford.

    2. CJ had 2 turnovers to Staffords one. Stats be damned…we all saw the game we know what’s what.

    3. CJ’s two mistakes nearly cost the Lions the game.

    4. Most imporant Staffords heads up play at the very end is surely what won the game.

    Stafford more deserving of the game ball