It wasn’t always smooth sailing and it was far from guaranteed, but the Detroit Lions emerged victorious when the clock struck three in their second preseason game.
The Lions, led by second-year head coach Dan Campbell, defeated the Indianapolis Colts 27-26 on Saturday. Both teams rested a host of their starters, meaning the game was a showcase for those on the verge of making the final 53-man roster.
Without further ado, here are the ratings for the performance of each position in the group in Saturday’s win.
Quarterback – B
With Jared Goff out, the onus fell on David Blow and Tim Boyle to perform as they continued their battle for the backup quarterback position. Blow started while Boyle played the entire second half.
Both were good in the eyes of their head coach, with Campbell expressing his satisfaction after the game. Blow made the only mistake, an interception that came on a deflection. Meanwhile, Boyle produced just two triples and a strikeout for the team.
Still, each signal-caller did a good job leading the offense. Blow led three scoring drives, including a two-minute drive to end the first half that ended with a touchdown pass to Tom Kennedy.
Boyle, meanwhile, led the team to a touchdown on his first drive and then did it again in crunch time. With the game tied at 20 in the fourth quarter, he led an 18-play, 9:00 odyssey that ended with Godwin Igwebuike’s game-winning score.
It wasn’t perfect as neither of them topped 100 yards in the air. But it was enough to get the job done. Blough looked to have the upper hand in the battle after his first-half performance, but Boyle could close the gap with his performance.
Running Backs – B+
Craig Reynolds started, but the touches were spread evenly among the running backs. Reynolds, Jermare Jefferson, Igwebuike and Justin Jackson each carried the ball seven times.
Jackson was most explosive, breaking off a 19-yard run on his first carry and later recording a 21-yard dash to finish with a team-high 54 yards. Reynolds, meanwhile, flashed his power while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Igwebuike scored the team’s only touchdown on the ground and finished with 32 yards on his share of carries. Meanwhile, Jefferson totaled 25 yards on the ground and negative one yard on two receptions. His stock may have suffered the most because of the performances of those around him.
All four running backs make a case for the third spot behind starters D’Andre Swift and Jamal Williams, which could prompt the Lions to allocate an additional spot on the final roster.
Wide receivers – B+
Campbell said Saturday during the Lions’ pregame show that he hopes Trinity Benson shows up “when the lights come on.” As the starters at his position watched from the sidelines, Benson delivered his best performance to date as a Lion.
Although it’s only the preseason, the former Denver Broncos quarterback caught four passes for 44 yards and showed the athleticism that Detroit general manager Brad Holmes saw when he traded for him before last season.
Perhaps the factor that most detracted from Benson’s performance was the performance of Tom Kennedy, another strong player fighting for a roster spot. Kennedy caught two touchdown passes in the game, finishing with five catches for 24 yards.
Undrafted free agent Kalil Pimpleton fell off a fade route into the end zone, but returned to have a solid performance. Meanwhile, Maurice Alexander caught three passes while having a nice day as a returner.
Narrow ends – B
Shane Zylstra was the top target all afternoon, tying for the team lead in catches with five and securing 34 receiving yards. He showed some ability as a blocker as well, helping pave the way for Detroit’s running backs.
Rookie James Mitchell, recovering from a knee injury suffered in his final college season, saw his first action as a pro and had two catches for nine yards. Derrick Deese Jr. also had a victory reception.
Starter TJ Hockenson will be a much more important part of the Lions’ passing game once the regular season begins. But with him and Brock Wright out, the Lions didn’t ask their tight ends to do much. Still, they were reliable when called upon in the passing game.
Scroll to Continue
Featured articles on Lions
Offensive Line – B+
If not for the three sacks allowed, Saturday was as good a performance as Campbell could ask for from his second-team offensive line. With Evan Brown at center, Logan Stenberg and Tommy Kramer at guard and Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper at tackle, the Lions moved the ball at will early.
Each of Detroit’s first two drives lasted at least five minutes and ended in a field goal. For the game, the Lions averaged 5.3 yards per carry. When the defense around Blough broke down, he extended the play with his mobility.
Boyle also showed mobility late in the game, with a nine-yard scramble on a critical third-and-6 play. The big battle is between Kramer, whom current Lions management really likes, and Stenberg, a fourth-round pick under the previous regime, for the backup guard spot. Both helped in their cases.
Defensive line – A
No, Jonathan Taylor did not play for the Colts on Saturday. Still, the Lions’ defensive line, made up mostly of second-team players, shut Indianapolis down the field for most of the day.
Eric Banks and Isaiah Buggs clogged the running lanes early, allowing Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez to shoot and make tackles. Banks left later in the game with an injury, but the momentum carried throughout the day.
The Colts ran the ball 18 times for 30 total yards, ending with a long run of just five yards. John Kominski, a waiver wire addition, finished with a team-high six tackles and was credited with the sack that Austin Bryant also had a hand in.
Bryant also had an excellent day, finishing with a sack of his own in addition to the one he assisted on Kominski. When the Colts elected to go for two and try to win the game, that unit generated pressure that forced the deciding incompletion.
Linebackers – B
Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes again started at linebacker. The former, who made a lot of noise during training camp, ended up with two fights, while the latter had four.
Barnes had a stretch in the first half where he made one-on-one tackles at the line of scrimmage. That’s optimistic, as he struggled to find a suitable position as a rookie last season.
This unit was strong throughout as James Houston IV, Anthony Pittman and Josh Woods got in on the action all afternoon. Houston made one tackle at the line of scrimmage while Pittman blew up a pass on the opening kickoff.
Secondary – D+
Although the Lions’ front seven held firm for most of the afternoon, the secondary surrendered too many big plays when their counterparts couldn’t generate pressure.
On the opening kickoff, Mike Hughes took the bait on a fake bubble screen and allowed a big completion from Nick Foles to Desmon Patmon. The Colts hurt the Lions with crossing routes that kept the corners and safeties from making plays in the open.
Mark Gilbert was beaten for Indianapolis’ first touchdown, although replays showed that receiver Mike Strachan did make the fumble.
Later in the game, Patmon’s cross confused cornerback Bobby Price and defensive end Kerby Joseph. This allowed the receiver to get wide open and eventually catch Sam Ehlinger’s 50-yard punt.
The Colts pulled to within one point on the game’s final drive when Samson Naqua hit behind Cedric Boswell for a 26-yard score with 38 seconds left. This is the second game in a row that Boswell has been beaten late in the game for the deciding score.
Jeff Okuda and Will Harris started and weren’t much of a concern, although the physicality of receivers like Alec Pierce and Patmon caused problems early on.
Special Teams – B+
Alexander was the star of the show in this block, staking his claim as a comebacker. He took all the snaps in Saturday’s return and averaged 38 yards on his four carries.
His highlight moment came on his second return when he weaved his way through the defense for a 61-yard punt return. The Lions couldn’t capitalize, however, as kicker Austin Seibert missed a 55-yard field goal.
Seibert finished two for three on the day with a long of 40 yards. His counterpart, Riley Patterson, did not attempt a field goal, but did make both of his extra point attempts. On the punt side, Jack Fox hit two punts of 62 yards.