Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: C-
Without LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory, it figured to be a long day on the ground. It played out that way, as the Buffalo Bills averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. They stuck with the run, though, rushing 37 times. Marcus Murphy had 35 yards on 11 carries before leaving with an arm injury. Rookie undrafted free agent Keith Ford came in and gained a team-high 46 yards on 14 carries. Quarterback Josh Allen was largely kept in check, finishing with 16 yards on nine attempts. Allen, though, rushed for a touchdown and picked up the first down to seal the win on a quarterback sneak.
PASSING GAME: C+
Josh Allen started the game 9 of 14, but finished completing just 50 percent of his passes – 13 of 26. Still, he showed some progress, particularly when it came to knowing when to throw the ball away. There were a couple throws that weren’t quite where they needed to be, but probably good enough for the receiver to come down with. The touchdown pass to Robert Foster was an absolute dime. Zay Jones had just one catch for 11 yards despite being targeted six times, but he did draw a 23-yard pass-interference penalty. Allen was sacked only once, but it was a costly one that pushed the Bills out of field-goal range on their opening drive.
RUN DEFENSE: B
Lorenzo Alexander, playing in place of the injured Matt Milano, made six tackles, including a team-high two that went for losses. Cornerback Levi Wallace also had a tackle for loss in run support. Safety Jordan Poyer led all defenders with 11 tackles, while rookie Tremaine Edmunds had six. Shaq Lawson also had a tackle for a loss.
PASS DEFENSE: C
Cornerback Tre’Davious White had a tough game, giving up a pair of long catches and taking a defensive holding penalty. Wallace was beat for a touchdown. Poyer made one of the plays of the game when he stopped tight end Levine Toilolo in the open field on the Lions’ last offensive play, forcing a punt with 2:56 remaining. Detroit didn’t see the ball again. Shaq Lawson knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage. He’s done that a few times this season. No sacks for the second straight week.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
There weren’t any disastrous plays, which qualifies as a win for this group. Receiver Da’Mari Scott committed a block in the back on the game’s first play. Stephen Hauschka was passed up for field goals from 31 and 54 yards out, although it’s possible some of that was injury-related. He did make a pair of extra points, the second of which provided the winning margin. Isaiah McKenzie didn’t have much success as a returner, gaining just 29 yards on two kickoff returns and 11 yards on a pair of punt returns. Micah Hyde also got buried for no gain on a punt return. Punter Matt Darr had a 16-yard net punt in the first quarter.
It started off on a down note, with McDermott punting from the 36-yard line. To be fair, going for it on fourth and 18 isn’t a great option, either, but the problem came on the third-down play call. Allen has to be aware he can’t take a sack there, but the coaching staff should have called something that protected him a little better. Going for it on fourth and 1 to seal the victory was a gutsy, good call. The Bills had a much better day with penalties, taking only three of them for 20 yards.
Grading the Lions
RUNNING GAME: D
The Lions missed starting running back Kerryon Johnson, a rookie who was out because of a knee injury. Theo Riddick, who usually does most of his damage through the air, led Detroit with 47 yards on eight carries. That included a 19-yard rush. Zach Zenner rushed 10 times for 45 yards and a touchdown, with a long gain of 17 yards. He looked a lot better than veteran LeGarrette Blount, who was held to 9 yards on seven carries.
PASSING GAME: B-
Quarterback Matthew Stafford made some impressive throws, finishing 22 of 29 for 208 yards and one touchdown. “He can make every throw and he can make them confidently,” Poyer said. Stafford doesn’t have much help around him, although Kenny Golladay was impressive, with seven catches for 146 yards. Riddick had just two catches for 9 yards.
RUN DEFENSE: B+
Linebacker Jarrad Davis made nine tackles, including Detroit’s only one for a loss that wasn’t a sack. Fellow linebacker Christian Jones also had nine tackles. Defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison is tough to deal with in the middle of the defense. He had six tackles, five of which were solo. That’s a big number for a defensive tackle.
PASS DEFENSE: B
Top cornerback Darius Slay had three of the Lions’ five passes defensed, with safety Glover Quin and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson having the others. Linebacker Devon Kennard had the Lions’ only sack, which forced a Buffalo punt. The Lions let Foster get behind the secondary for the deciding touchdown. A pair of pass-interference penalties were also costly.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Kicker Matt Prater missed a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that could have put the Lions ahead. “I didn’t hit it where I wanted to hit it. I don’t have an excuse. I let everybody down, including myself,” he said. The Lions also botched an extra point in the first quarter on a bad snap from long snapper Don Muhlbach. Punter Sam Martin averaged 40.9 net yards, while returner T.J. Jones had a 12-yard punt return.
“Not very good on my end,” is how Matt Patricia analyzed his performance. We concur. Punting on fourth and 2 from the 50-yard line was weak. “There were a lot of plays that cost us the game,” Patricia said. Running a route short of the first-down marker on third and 9 with less than three minutes left was questionable. The Lions were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
Story topics: Chris Ivory/ Da'Mari Scott/ Isaiah McKenzie/ Jordan Poyer/ Josh Allen/ Keith Ford/ LeSean McCoy/ Levi Wallace/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Marcus Murphy/ Matt Darr/ Matt Milano/ Sean McDermott/ Shaq Lawson/ Stephen Hauschka/ Tre'davious White/ Tremaine Edmunds/ Zay Jones