If this is it, Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones will be missed
Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down the Detroit Lions’ 37-35 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and looks at players who helped and hurt their stock Sunday at Ford Field:
QB Matthew Stafford: Lions fans may be ready to move on from Stafford after 12 seasons, but he showed again Sunday why he means so much to this team. Stafford nearly willed the Lions to victory while playing with rib, ankle and thumb injuries. Yes, he threw a bad interception, but he had 293 yards passing and three touchdowns and eclipsed 4,000 yards for the first time since 2017. If the Lions decide to trade Stafford this offseason, they should find a robust market.
GRADES: Lions’ dreadful defense, awesome offense. Coaching?
WR Marvin Jones: Jones turned in a dominant performance in what could be his last game as a Lion. An unrestricted free agent in March, Jones had caught eight passes on 11 targets for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He had a third touchdown overturned on replay, and consistently found creases in Minnesota’s secondary. Jones turns 31 in March, and should have a big contract awaiting for his birthday.
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DT Kevin Strong: Cut by the Lions coming out of training camp, Strong finished the season on a high note with three tackles and one sack on an otherwise dismal day by the defense. He missed a tackle for loss in the first half, but was active enough to leave a positive impression on the next Lions regime and whoever else was watching across the league.
Referee Adrian Hill: Adrian Peterson called it “probably one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen,” and it’s tough to argue otherwise. Hill whistled Tracy Walker for a roughing the passer penalty after Walker sacked Kirk Cousins on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the fourth quarter. The flag nullified a drive-ending sack and gave the Vikings a new set of downs from the 1. They scored the decisive touchdown two plays later. It’s not easy being an official in the NFL, but that was a truly brutal call.
WR Kenny Golladay: Golladay missed the final nine games of the season with a hip injury, and while no one should question whether he was truly hurt, it was striking to see players like Stafford, Frank Ragnow and Danny Shelton gut through or return from injuries for a relatively meaningless Week 17 game while Golladay was nowhere to be seen the final two months. He’s a good enough player that I still think the Lions bring him back in 2021, but maybe the franchise tag is the right move.
Lions’ linebacking unit: It’s seems like one or more linebacker makes “stock down” every week, and Sunday’s game re-emphasized the point that this unit needs a complete overhaul this offseason. The unit is too slow and poor in pass coverage. I can only imagine what Chris Spielman was thinking watching these last few games.
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions stock watch: Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones can still play
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long added to this report.