A Film Review of the Lions 2016 Passing Touchdowns
Boldin’s Strength and Savvy Route Running is Key
When watching the 2016 season in review, it is easy to see why Matthew Stafford targeted Boldin so often on 3rd down and touchdown situations. For most of his career, Anquan Boldin has been heralded for his ability to catch the ball. His hands are what allowed Boldin to find success wherever he has gone in his career. But what helped him stand out in Detroit was his knack for always being able to get open.
Boldin led Detroit in passing touchdowns (8) in 2016, accounting for a third of their overall touchdown production through the air (24). Boldin found success often against both man and zone. In man, Boldin used his big frame to out-muscle corners on breaking routes. Even when Boldin was covered he was still able to utilize his strength and win contested balls in the end zone.
Boldin has a great feel for the soft spots in zone as well. Younger wide receivers will typically run one speed throughout most of their routes. What Boldin does a really good job of accelerating to the hole in the zone and slowing as he enters it. This lengthens the window that Stafford is able to throw into and allows Boldin to catch the ball with less contact. Boldin does exactly this on his game-winning touchdown against the Washington Redskins in week seven.
Theo Riddick is a Match-up Nightmare in the Passing Game
In 2016, Theo Riddick scored five passing touchdowns which is more than any other Lion except Boldin. Like Anquan Boldin, Theo also scored his touchdowns large and part due to his ability to create separation. But Theo does it in a different way. Theo uses his great acceleration and agility to leave defenders in his dust to create separation.
The Lions set Riddick up well to take advantage of the defense. There are drives you see the Lions “set up” plays where Theo is designed to run an out to the flat several times earlier in the drive. Linebackers begin to cheat and play up trying to defend against the out, only for Theo to run an angle route and use his top-end acceleration to create great separation.
Theo also uses his great burst on running back screens. He is able to wait for his lineman to get to the second level and burst through it so quickly that defenders would struggle to get through their block before Theo passed by them for a big gain or a touchdown in 2016. Riddick’s ability to create separation in space was the key to his success in the screen game in 2016.