Analyzing the Detroit Lions Play Calling vs New England

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The Detroit Lions Got A Victory Over The New England Patriots Thanks To An Improvement In Playcalling. 


What a week it’s been for Detroit Lions fans! After two weeks of the same ol’ Lions, the team put on an outstanding showing to handle the perennial powerhouse, the New England Patriots. Let’s dive into the play calling that allowed the Lions to play a complete game from start to finish.

Let’s start by looking at one of the final Lions defensive stands. Trailing by 13, facing a 4th and 12 from their own end zone with 3:23 left in the 4th Quarter, New England desperately needs a score here to have a realistic chance of winning the game. Brady lines up in a shotgun formation with 4 WR split wide and 1 RB in the backfield. Lions play a cover 2 man defense, but lineup deeper downfield than usual as the Patriots are facing a 4th and long (Figure 1.1).

In addition, Patricia calls two DB’s to disrupt TE Rob Gronkowski right off the line of scrimmage (1.2).

This essentially took Gronkowski out of the play and by the time he recovered the ball was already in the air. The Lions DB played some great defense and everybody stuck with their man. As the coverage was good downfield, LB Devon Kennard was able to apply slight pressure to Brady, forcing Brady to throw the ball before any receiver was open(Figure 1.3).

Brady threw it downfield to WR Phillip Dorsett. CB Darius Slay was in tight coverage and was running with Dorsett during the entire route. Once the ball was in the air Slay was still stride for stride with Dorsett (Figure 1.4), and the resulting coverage led to an incomplete pass.

For the first time this season, the Lions offense showed how dangerous it could be if they played up to their potential. Let’s look at the very first Lions offensive drive. With 12:57 left in the first quarter, the Lions are facing a 2nd and 7. The Lions are lined up in a shotgun formation with a single RB in the backfield, 3 WRs, and 1 TE. The Patriots are playing a zone cover defense (figure 2.1).

Kenny Golladay is lined up near the top of the field and motions toward the center of the field. When he moves, the Patriots DB falls deeper into coverage (figure 2.2).

Stafford notices this movement of the Patriots defense and realizes that the Patriots are playing zone defense for this particular play. The resulting zone coverage shows an empty area of uncovered zone near the sideline. Stafford knew exactly where to throw the ball, even before the play as Kenny Golladay was the only receiver he looked at. Golladay runs an out route and found the hole in the coverage (Figure 2.3).

Golladay caught the easy pass and gained enough for the first down before he was finally taken out of bounds (Figure 2.4).

This play showed a much better prepared Lions team. From the previous two games, the Lions weren’t able to read coverage as well and take advantage of certain situations, but this play shows that the Lions were an extremely well-prepared team.

After watching the game tape, the Lions simply looked like the more prepared team. The team that did more scouting, the team that prepared better in practice, and the team with the better game plan. The steady improvement from the disastrous week one loss, to the unexpected week three win only shows Coach Patricia getting more and more comfortable in his role as a head coach and if this improvement continues, the Lions can be a very dangerous team.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow Saurav Kolli on Twitter @SauravKolliand leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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