Lions’ Strength in Man Coverage Evident on Film Versus Eagles

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Tape Shows How Man Coverage Rewards Lions with game clinching interception vs Eagles: 24-23

Zone Coverage Continues to Be A Liability

The Lions are still hurting in zone coverage without Deandre Levy in the mix. Teryl Austin has had a bad habit of relying on zone regardless of whether its getting beat or not. However, Teryl Austin adjusted better this week versus Philadelphia. The Lions were much more balance in their man vs zone coverage play-call than weeks 2-4. On passing downs, the Lions ran man coverage 16 times and zone coverage 17 times.

The Eagles found great success against the Lions in zone coverage, like the Titans, Packers, and Bears the past 3 weeks. The biggest plays of the game for the Eagles were against the Lions zone defense. Without Deandre Levy the Lions have yet to find any linebacker on the roster who can find consistency in zone coverage. Middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead has continued to struggle in zone and let up another big play, to allow the Eagles to get into the Lions redzone on Sunday.

Eagles wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham starts this play lined up out of the slot at the top of the screen. He runs a simple drag route underneath the Cover 4 zone defense of the Lions. Tahir Whitehead does not make any attempt to slow down Green-Beckham. Lions nickle corner Quandre Diggs gets caught out of his zone running up the seam with Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. Both Lions were caught out of position on this play and the Eagles made the Lions pay. This set up an Eagles touchdown to cap off the drive.

Man Coverage is the Strength of the Lions Pass Defense

One of the biggest reasons the Lions won this game was Teryl Austin running more man defense in this game than they have in previous weeks. A breakdown of how the Eagles did against zone versus man on Sunday shows exactly how much better the Lions are at running man coverage, instead of zone coverage.

On this play, the Lions come out in their nickel formation, showing man coverage. Immediately after the snap you see every Lions defensive back on the hip of the wide receiver they are covering. Even the linbackers, who have struggled in zone, are playing sticky man coverage . This great coverage leads to a sack for the Lions.

This play is a summation of the game when the Lions run man. On the 10 catches made against man, only 3 were uncontested catches. The Lions great play in coverage is not limited to just film review as statistics also back up the Lion’s defensive strength.

Eagles versus Lions Zone Coverage: 15/17 pass attempts (88%) for 218 yards. They averaged 14.5 yards per catch and 12.8 yards per passing play.

Eagles versus Lions Man Coverage: 10/16 pass attempts (62%) for only 51 yards. They averaged just 5.1 yards per catch and merely 3.19 yards per passing play. The Lions also had 3 pass deflections, 2 sacks, and an interception running man.

Not only does this show exactly how efficient the Lions man defense was against the Eagles, it also illustrates just how opposing offenses will attack this defense. You will gain almost 10 yards more per play if you pass against zone instead of man. Opposing offenses will be praying that the Lions continue to run zone more than man.

However, if Teryl Austin notices this trend and understands this team’s ability to play man coverage, this defense could be in for a big turn around. The Lions would benefit greatly from a heavy man coverage defense. This is especially inspiring considering the offense has looked like the better unit through 5 weeks.

If we see these adjustments made on the Lions defense, we could see the Lions stay competitive throughout the rest of this season.

Film Room Mentionables

In last weeks preview I mentioned that the Lions needed consistently good play from their offensive lineman to have a shot against Philadelphia’s tough front 7. On the Lions first 3 drives, Stafford had a long time to throw the ball and a strong run game. This was in large part to great offensive line play from Taylor Decker and Travis Swanson. Fullback Michael Burton made great use of his limited touches. He had a stellar block on star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to spring Theo Riddick for a nice gain on the 1st drive.

Jim Bob Cooter’s play call in the fist half looked like a completely different playbook than we have seen from the Lions up to week 5. It caught the Eagles off guard and was well executed for 21 points. The 2nd half was lackluster, but if Cooter can maintain the 1st half showing throughout this season the Lions should continue to succeed on offense. Hopefully newly signed running back Justin Forsett can run the ball better between the tackles than Riddick has so far.

Stafford looked great again this week. He made great throws and smart decisions with the ball in his hand. Outside of the errant fumble, Stafford was in control this whole game. His ability as a runner has been highly underrated but is finally starting to receive recognition after another successful week scrambling.

The Lions really missed tight end Eric Ebron this week as the backup tight ends had an underwhelming performance. However, wide receiver Anquon Boldin had a great game stepping in for this lack of passing presence in the middle of the field.

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