Lions Manage A Comeback Win, But Look Like A Completely Different Team Against Jaguars
Lions Bring Defense Back to the D
The Lions defense has ranked near the bottom in almost every category through the first nine games. The film matched their statistical rankings previous to week 11 match up versus the Jaguars.
The Lions played much improved on defense and looked formidable against a Jaguars offense that has exposed teams in the middle of the field this year. Though their offense has mostly been below average, wide receivers Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marques Lee are improving from a solid 2015 campaign. The Jaguars have been able to use these talented receivers and exploit match ups down the middle of the field, right where Detroit has been gashed for big plays this season.
This was not the case Sunday, however. The Lions were able to limit these three Jacksonville receivers to under 100 yards combined. This was done through tight man coverage and improved zone coverage. While Tahir Whitehead continues to be a liability in coverage, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has done a great job bringing in multiple defensive backs to help mitigate the zone deficiencies from the Lion’s linebacking corps.
Teryl Austin’s improved play calling and development of skill throughout this season should not go unrecognized. This Lions defense has slowly been improving this season and is large part due to Austin’s coaching and play calling putting them in the right position. These improvements lead to a Detroit defense that had it’s best game by far this year against the Jaguars.
Lion’s Offense Struggles To Find Consistency
Every game this season the Lions have been putting increased offensive line play on tape. This game was a huge step back for this unit. The Lions have to hope that this is a one game outlier and not an indicator of where this line is headed.
While young, the Lions recent wins have been in large part due to the offensive line playing above their experience level. Again, this was not the case Sunday.
The Lions have struggled running the ball this year, but had an almost non existent running game versus the Jaguars. They ran the ball 21 times for 14 yards. Of those 21 carries, 12 of them were for a loss. The offensive line could not stop penetration on running plays. Larry Warford was consistently lost and was getting blown off the ball on a majority of run plays. Warford easily had his worst game of the year Sunday. Warford’s tape against the Jaguars has followed a steady decline in play this season and will play a big role in contract talks for Warford, who is playing the last year of his rookie contract.
To compound with the blocking mistakes in the running game, the pass blocking was not much better. When the Jaguars would show blitz, quarterback Matthew Stafford would identify the mike linebacker to slide the protection to the blitz. Multiple times in this game however, the offensive line would not slide to the blitz and allowed unblocked sacks that killed offensive momentum.
With a stagnant passing attack and a non existent run game, the Lions faced many 3rd and long situations. This play led to a Lions offense that was only able to manage one touchdown.
Film Room Mentionable Players
Wide receiver Marvin Jones continues to struggle against more physical cornerbacks like Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey. While Jones runs great routes when he is not jammed at the line of scrimmage, he has been out-muscled by the bigger cornerbacks he has faced in recent weeks, which has not allowed Jones to get the separation he needs to get the ball thrown his way.
Running backs Dwayne Washington and Theo Riddick are partially to blame for the running game woes. While the instant penetration on some plays certainly was not their fault, there have been several plays this year where these two either run to the wrong hole or miss the hole completely. This week was no exception.
Washington’s run was swallowed up for no gain on a designed run the left where he ran to the right. Right tackle Riley Reiff pulled to the B gap and set up a great block on the second level linebacker to create a hole for the running back with only one man to beat. Instead of running to the play, Washington ran into the hole where Riley Reiff used to be for a one yard gain.
While Riddick had a bad day running the ball, he made the most of his receptions in the passing game. Riddick has an incredibly quick first cut that allows him to create separation in one on one matchups against linebackers. This play was essential to the success of the final drive for the Lions offense, as well as the go ahead drive late in the fourth quarter.
Miles Killebrew made the most of his limited touches. He played 12 snaps and made five tackles. He also set up the key block to spring Rafael Bush to a touchdown on his interception. This improvement is nice to see in a young player who has had a tough start to his rookie year.
Nevin Lawson and Darius Slay were both sticky in man coverage against a deep wide receiving corps. in Jacksonville. While they did not win every matchup, limiting these receivers was key to this win. Slay and Lawson deserve some credit for the improved defense.
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