NFL Week 7 Grades: Lions get an ‘A’ for big road win; Falcons get ‘B+’ for victory over Giants

For most of Matthew Stafford’s career, the Lions offense has been pretty one-dimensional. Since drafting Stafford in 2009, Detroit’s offensive strategy has basically been to just let him throw the ball as many times as possible and hope that something good happens. 

However, that could all be changing this year thanks to rookie running back Kerryon Johnson. 

In an unusual development, Stafford’s right arm actually got somewhat of a rest on Sunday as Johnson went off for 158 rushing yards in Detroit’s 32-21 win at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Johnson’s performance was surprising, but only because rushing performances like that is so rare for the Lions. Before Sunday, the Lions hadn’t had a back go for over 150 yards since 2011. 

As a matter of fact, Stafford has had to throw the pass so much over the past seven years that he’s ranked in the top-nine in the NFL in passing attempts in every season since 2011. That could change this year, though, if Johnson keeps running through defenses like he did in Miami. 

A big chunk of Johnson’s yardage came with the Lions needed it most. With Detroit pinned inside of its own 10-yard line in the second quarter, the rookie broke away for a huge 71-yard run. 

The run set up a Matt Prater field goal that gave the Lions a 10-0 lead. 

Johnson’s big day helped the Lions rush for a total of 248 yards, which is notable because that’s the most yardage that Detroit has ever rushed for in a game during Stafford’s 10-year career. The Lions rushing attack was so impressive that even Golden Tate gave it a big shout-out after the win over the Dolphins. 

The thing about the Lions rushing attack is that it doesn’t need to produce 248 yards every week for the team to be successful. If we’ve learned one thing from Stafford’s career, it’s that he doesn’t need a lot of help on offense, he just needs some help. When the Lions rush for more than 150 yards, Stafford has a 12-1 record. 

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The win over Miami was a perfect example of how a strong running attack could make the Lions more successful going forward. With the Lions steamrolling the Dolphins on the ground, that opened things up for Stafford to pick apart Miami’s secondary through the air, and he definitely took advantage of that. Stafford had a highly efficient two-touchdown performance, completing 18 of 22 passes for 217 yards. 

Stafford throwing only 22 passes is almost unheard of: The showing in Miami was the third lowest total of his career. 

Of course, if Johnson keeps running like he’s been running, that might become a regular thing. After ending the Lions’ 70-game streak without a 100-yard rusher earlier this season, the Lions would love if Johnson were to help them end another streak: Their 26-year streak without a playoff win. In a wide-open NFC North, it’s not crazy to think that the Lions and their suddenly diverse offensive attack offense could end up earning a postseason spot. 

Los Angeles Chargers 20-19 over Tennessee

Titans: B+

The Titans didn’t make many mistakes in this game, but that ones that they did make hurt badly. Not only did Marcus Mariota throw the first red-zone interception of his entire career, but the Titans also had to deal with a missed field goal in the fourth quarter from the normally reliable Ryan Succop. Every Tennessee receiver from Corey Davis to Taywan Taylor to Tajae Sharpe also seemed to have at least one crucial drop. It’s going to be a long flight back from London to Nashville. 

Chargers: B+

The Chargers didn’t have Melvin Gordon, but they didn’t need him thanks to two long bombs from Philip Rivers. The Chargers quarterback threw for 306 yards, with 125 of those yards coming on just two passes: A 75-yard touchdown to Tyrell Williams and a 55-yard score to Mike Williams. It’s a good thing that Rivers had his long ball going in London because he got no help from a ground game that produced just 47 yards. This game marked just the third time since 2010 that the Chargers have won after finishing with less than 50 yards rushing.  

Detroit 32-21 over Miami

Lions: A

Kerryon Johnson wasn’t the only Lions running back who had a big day. As a matter of fact, every back who touched the ball seemed to do some damage. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Golden Tate also got in on the rushing action with one carry for 30 yards. Although the Lions’ 248-yard performance on the ground was surprising, the biggest shock of the day might have been the play of Michael Roberts. The Lions tight end, who’s probably not on your fantasy roster, caught both of Matthew Stafford’s touchdown passes.  

Dolphins: C

The Dolphins’ biggest problem in this game is that their defense couldn’t get off the field. After forcing the Lions to punt on Detroit’s second offensive possession, the Dolphins wouldn’t force another punt for the rest of the game. The Dolphins got bulldozed by a Lions rushing attack that went for 248 yards. The yardage total was the most that Miami has given up at home since 2007. The Dolphins surrendered 7.08 yards per carry, which is even uglier when you realize that Detroit ran the ball 35 times. 

Minnesota 37-17 over N.Y. Jets

Vikings: B+

It seems that Adam Thielen might actually be uncoverable. The Vikings receiver caught nine passes for 110 yards and is now just the second player in NFL history to go over 100 yards receiving in each of his team’s first seven games. Thielen’s biggest catch came in the first quarter when he hauled in a 34-yard touchdown from Kirk Cousins. Latavius Murray also came up big for the second straight week with 69 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. 

Jets: D

Sam Darnold going up against the Vikings defense almost wasn’t fair. The rookie quarterback struggled early and often, going 17 of 42 for 206 yards. Things got especially ugly in the second half with Darnold throwing all three of his interceptions over the final two quarters. Darnold’s three interceptions led to 13 points for Minnesota and killed any hopes of a Jets comeback in the second half. Of course, it’s not like the Jets really had any other options on offense. On the ground, the Jets were held to to just 71 yards. 

Tampa Bay 26-23 over Cleveland (OT)

Browns: C

The Browns seem to find a new way to lose every week. In this week’s edition of “how did the Browns lose,” Jabrill Peppers fumbled away a punt in overtime that set up a game-winning field goal by the Bucs. It was Cleveland’s only turnover of the game. The Browns offensive line also had some trouble protecting Baker Mayfield, who got sacked five times. The Browns have now lost 24 straight road games, with the past four coming by four points or less. 

Buccaneers: B-

Although Jameis Winston put up a big passing number (365 yards), he almost gave this game away by personally accounting for three of Tampa’s four turnovers (two interceptions and a lost fumble). Of course, everyone on the Buccaneers’ roster seemed to have an up-and-down day, including the man who nailed the game-winning kick, Chandler Catanzaro. After missing an extra point in the second quarter and a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation, Catanzaro redeemed himself by hitting a 59-yarder to win it in overtime. 

New England 38-31 over Chicago

Patriots: B+

Bill Belichick is probably going to want to give a game ball to his special teams after what they pulled off against the Bears. The Patriots special teams scored TWO touchdowns in Chicago. The first one came on a 95-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson, who made up for a lost fumble earlier in the game. The second special teams TD came on a 29-yard return off a blocked punt by Kyle Van Noy. Offensively, the Patriots also thrived, despite the absence of Rob Gronkowski. With Gronk out, Josh Gordon stepped up and caught four passes for 100 yards in a game where Tom Brady threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns. 

Bears: B-

The Bears offense actually played well against New England, except for two small mistakes by Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears quarterback threw two interceptions in the second half and they were both backbreakers because the Bears had driven into Patriots’ territory on both drives. Of course, the bigger problem for the Bears was that they gave up two special teams touchdowns. You can’t do that against the Patriots and expect to win. 

Houston 20-7 over Jacksonville

Texans: A

All the sudden it’s starting to look like the Texans might have the best defense in the AFC South. In this divisional showdown, the Texans beat the Jags at their own defensive game. The Texans defense forced three turnovers, which led to 10 points for Houston. The Texans also threw a sack party in Jacksonville with Jadeveon Clowney leading the way. Clowney racked up two of Houston’s four sacks, which all came in the second half. The most encouraging for the Texans might be the fact that Lamar Miller (22 carries, 100 yards) hit the 100-yard mark for the first time since 2016.  

Jaguars: F

You’d think that that seven weeks into the season the Jaguars would have their quarterback situation figured out, but apparently, they don’t. Blake Bortles (6 of 12, 61 yards, two lost fumbles) was so bad against Houston that he got benched in the third quarter for Cody Kessler, who’s never won a single game in his NFL career (0-8). Carlos Hyde didn’t play for Jacksonville, but the Jags probably could’ve used him. Bortles LED the team in rushing (30 yards) even though he spent nearly the entire second half on the bench. 

Indianapolis 37-5 over Buffalo

Bills: F

This game is what happens when you start a quarterback (Derek Anderson) who’s been on the team for less than two weeks and your best offensive player (LeSean McCoy) goes down with an injury in the first quarter. The first half was a total disaster for the Bills as every single one of their possessions ended with either a punt or a turnover. The Bills defense has been good enough to keep most games close this season, but not this week. Buffalo got steamrolled for 220 rushing yards. 

Colts: A

This game was basically just one gigantic highlight reel for the Colts. Not only did Andrew Luck throw four touchdown passes, but Marlon Mack also rushed for a career-high 126 yards. Thanks in large part to Mack, the Colts totaled 220 yards on the ground, which was their highest rushing total since 2007. Of course, the only thing more impressive than the Colts’ offense might have been the Colts defense. The Colts forced five turnovers against the Bills, the team’s highest total since 2010. In somewhat of an oddity, the only player who wasn’t perfect was Adam Vinatieri, who missed two extra points. 

Carolina 21-17 over Philadelphia

Panthers: B+

After a rough start to the game, Cam Newton put the Panthers on his back in the fourth quarter and carried them to victory. With Carolina trailing 17-0 after three quarters, Newton got hot in the fourth, throwing for 201 of his 269 yards and tacking on two touchdown passes. Newton’s performance allowed the Panthers to score 21 points over the game’s final 10:41 to pull off the stunning comeback in a game where Carolina only had 83 yards at halftime. 

Eagles: B-

For three quarters, it seems like the Eagles were going to run away with this game, but then the fourth quarter happened. After surrendering 138 yards and zero points through the first three quarters, the Eagles defense got torched for 233 yards and 21 points in the game’s final quarter. Offensively, the Eagles still have zero running game to help out Carson Wentz. Philly totaled just 58 yards on the ground, which is now the team’s lowest rushing total in a home game during Wentz’s career. 

New Orleans 24-23 over Baltimore

Saints: A

It took 18 years, but Drew Brees has finally beaten every team in the NFL. Although Brees wasn’t perfect (22 of 30 for 212 yards and two touchdowns), he was great when he had to be, leading the Saint to 17 points in the fourth quarter. Against the NFL’s top defense, Brees went 11 of 14 for 118 yards and a touchdown on the three scoring drives that produced those 17 points.  

Ravens: B

Joe Flacco almost led an impressive comeback, but no one is going to remember that because the improbable happened: Justin Tucker missed a game-tying extra point. Before Sunday, Tucker had never missed an extra point in his career (222 of 222). 

Los Angeles Rams 39-10 over San Francisco

Rams: A+

The Rams are an unstoppable juggernaut who can embarrass you in every phase of the game, which the 49ers found out on Sunday. In this game, San Francisco’s offense had no chance against a Rams defense that absolutely abused C.J. Beathard. Aaron Donald tallied four of L.A.’s seven sacks and the Rams forced four turnovers. The Rams defense was so good it overshadowed that fact that Todd Gurley scored three touchdowns and they got a blocked punt for a safety. 

49ers: F

C.J. Beathard is probably going to have nightmares of the Rams defense for the rest of his life. The 49ers quarterback got sacked seven times and when he wasn’t getting sacked, he was throwing interceptions. Beathard threw two picks and even lost a fumble in a game where the 49ers weren’t really able to get anything going on offense or defense or special teams. 

Washington 20-17 over Dallas

Cowboys: B-

Jason Garrett coached not to lose and then lost anyway. With one timeout left and 12 seconds to go a game Dallas was trailing 20-17, the Cowboys could have done anything: Take a shot at the end zone, try and get your kick closer, but instead, they ran Ezekiel Elliott up the middle. On the field, the Cowboys only made one real big mistake against Washington and it was a costly one. With under five minutes left to play, Dak Prescott lost a fumble near the end zone that the Redskins ended up recovering for a touchdown. 

Redskins: B

The Redskins defense almost single-handedly won this game for Washington with a performance that included four sacks and a touchdown. On the scoring play, Ryan Kerrigan came up with a big strip and then Preston Smith picked the ball up in the end zone for a touchdown. 

Kerrigan came up big for the Redskins, racking up two of their four sacks. The Redskins also held Ezekiel Elliott to just 34 yards, the second-lowest total of his career. 

Kansas City 45-10 over Cincinnati

Bengals: F

If the NFL learned one thing from this game, it’s that you should never put the Bengals in primetime. The Bengals wilted under the lights in Kansas City in a blowout where nothing went right. The defense gave up 551 yards, Andy Dalton threw a pick-six and Cincinnati could only muster 10 points against a Chiefs defense that had been giving up 28.7 points per game going into Sunday night. The Bengals are now 0-6 on “Sunday Night Football” since drafting Dalton in 2011. The 35-point loss was the team’s biggest loss since the 2009 season and tied for the fourth-biggest loss in team history. 

Chiefs: A+

The Chiefs offense has put up some huge numbers this season, but nothing tops what they did on Sunday night. Against the Bengals, the Chiefs put up a season high in points (45) and a season high in total yards (551). The yardage total was the Chiefs’ highest ever under Andy Reid and the team’s highest overall since 2004. Although Patrick Mahomes put up some eye-popping numbers (358 yards, four touchdown passes), Kareem Hunt stole the show with 181 total yards and three touchdowns. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Chiefs defense also had their best performance of the season, holding the Bengals to just 10 points and 239 total yards. To put that total in perspective, this game marked the first time all season the Chiefs even held an opponent under 350 total yards.  

Falcons 23-20 over Giants

Giants: C

For once, the Giants offense actually looked somewhat functional, especially in the second half when they put up 17 points. However, poor decision-making continues to be a problem for the Giants and anyone who saw the end of this game would probably agree as New York totally botched their clock management over the final 90 seconds. The Giants biggest problem on Monday is the same one they’ve had all season: Their offense is putting up big yardage numbers, but not actually producing any points. Eli Manning threw for 399 yards and a touchdown, but that TD didn’t come until the Giants’ final offensive play of the game. Although Odell Beckham (143 yards) and Sterling Shepard (167 yards) both had a big night, the Giants ground attack was completely shut down as New York rushed for just 61 yards. 

Falcons: B+

The Falcons didn’t get inside the red zone a single time in this game, but they were able to pull out the win thanks to an offense that came up big when it had to and a kicker who couldn’t miss. Even though the Falcons never drove inside the Giants’ 20-yard line, they still managed two touchdowns thanks to a 30-yard run by Tevin Coleman and a 47-yard TD pass froM Matt Ryan to Marvin Hall. The rest of Atlanta’s scoring game from kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who came up clutch. In his first game ever with the Falcons, Tavecchio hit three field goals, a 40-yarder, a 50-yarder and a 56-yarder that iced the game with under two minutes to play. 

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