The Detroit Lions definitely had their share of big plays on Sunday, but some of the biggest in my book were the ones they failed to complete. Much like the first game of the season against the Vikings the Lions left some big plays on the field, especially in the passing game. If they want to reach the top of the division there are two plays the Lions need to make going forward.
As I discussed last week, the cover 2 defense that the Bears run has weaknesses, and the Detroit Lions drew up several plays throughout the game specifically to beat it. On two separate opportunities the Lions tried to used the same corner route concept in order beat the Bears cover 2 defense, but came up short.
Early on Matthew Stafford looked to be forcing his passes a bit. The Bears defense had been turning the ball over in bunches in previous weeks so it makes sense that Stafford might have been overly cautious out of the gate. He eventually settled down and was able to complete some passes and move the team down the field. But ultimately a quarterback is judged on the plays he doesn’t make just as much as the ones he does.
This play is on the Lions first drive of the game. It’s 1st and 10 from their own 33. The Lions line up in their base personnel (3WR-1TE-1RB). Reggie Bush is aligned behind the left tackle with Calvin Johnson tight to the formation on the same side. At the snap Bush runs a short out pattern as Johnson runs a corner route.
The concept gives Stafford a two-way read either to Johnson or Bush. If the cornerback reacts to Bush entering the flat, Stafford has a lot of room to work toward Johnson running the corner route. If the cornerback starts toward Johnson, it gives Stafford an easy read to Bush in the flat.
The corner route Johnson runs is a perfect cover 2 beater because it attacks the natural whole in the zone about 20 yards downfield. The problem arises when, rather than stepping into his throw, Stafford falls away and turns his body as the pass rush closes in. The pass ends up inaccurate and incomplete. This is one of his more frustrating tendencies and one that turns a big gain into a missed opportunity.