By Chris Morgan
Maybe it was the officiating, which wasn't great. Maybe it was the attrition of losing too many players due to injury. Plus, in the end, the Detroit Lions were playing a team that finished with a better record on the road. None of this really matters. What matters, in the end, is that the Detroit Lions went to Dallas and lost to the Cowboys in their playoff matchup. After taking a 14-0 lead, the Cowboys came back to win the game by a score of 24-20. They still have not won a playoff game since 1991, and coming close doesn't count. Here are the grades for the Lions' final game of the season.
Offense: Things were certainly looking good early, when the Lions had their lead. Golden Tate was making big plays, and the running game was working. They finished with 397 yards and 20 points, and they had a couple long drives that ended up in points. All this despite the fact they were dealing with an offensive line that was down to their second string right tackle and third string right guard.
Joique Bell rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries while also catching four passes for 42 yards. Reggie Bush only rushed eight times, but gained 37 yards and scored a touchdown. Tate finished with six catches for 89 yards and a nice touchdown. It wasn't a great game by any means. Dallas doesn't have a good defense, and had Detroit only been able to score more than 24 points, which isn't unthinkable, they could have won. It was a decent outing. Grade: B
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford threw for 323 yards on 28-for-42 passing with a touchdown. However, he also threw an interception on a deflected pass. He had multiple passes deflected on the line of scrimmage, and also lost two fumbles, including on the final play of the game. While it would be overstating it to say Stafford cost them the game, his turnovers were a huge deal. He made some good throws, but he made some mistakes as well. Grade: C+
Special Teams: On the one hand, Matt Prater made both of his field goal attempts. On the other hand, Jeremy Ross muffed a punt and was fortunate to fall on top of it. He also took a kick out of the end zone and ended up tackled on the five-yard line, which is partially the fault of the coverage. Additionally, Sam Martin absolutely shanked a punt before the drive that led to Dallas' winning touchdown. This also came after Jim Caldwell refused to go for it on a fourth-and-1, which is a problem in and of itself. Maybe it's the special teams that is to blame for this loss. Grade: C-
Defense: All year long, the defense of the Lions carried the team. Here, they had to go up against a great offense on the road, and they mostly held their own. They did give up 24 points, but they only gave up 315 yards. DeMarco Murray rushed 19 times for 75 yards. The Lions had six sacks, six tackles for loss, and 10 quarterback hits. They were all over Tony Romo, but that just wasn't enough unfortunately. It was a good game for them. It just needed to be a great game. Grade: B+
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Chris Morgan has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports "expert." His work can be found on Examiner.com. .
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