Detroit Lions Film Review: Matthew Stafford’s Decision Making, Creating Pressure, and More


Making Better Decisions

A few things were evident in Monday night’s game concerning Matthew Stafford.

One, his footwork and mobility has clearly improved since last year. And two, he’s learned to work through his progressions and make the right decisions rather than force the ball into double or triple coverage.

Throughout his career, it’s been a rare occurrence to see Stafford recognize pressure and step up in the pocket before making his throw. On 2nd and 18, the Giants decided to rush five players at Stafford, but he quickly recognized the pressure and avoided it by stepping up in the pocket and dumping the ball off to Reggie Bush, who was able to sprint down the left sideline for a gain of 24 yards to extend the drive.

Stafford did a great job of knowing when he was beat and instead of forcing the ball down field like he’s prone to do, he made the right decision to throw the ball away a few times throughout the course of the game.

Creating Pressure

There has been an ongoing narrative on how awful the Giants’ offensive line is and how their entire offense has suffered as a result. While that may be true, let’s not take anything away from how well the Lions’ defense played Monday night. They had a clear gameplan in place, and that was to put pressure on Eli Manning and make him panic.

The Giants converted on just 3-of-13 third downs all night against the Detroit Lions. This had a lot to do with the Lions disguising their defense, including several different blitz packages and even pretending to blitz at the line of scrimmage only to drop a few players back in zone coverage.

Source: NFL Game Rewind

On this specific play, the Giants needed six yards to convert on third down in Lions territory. The Lions have six men lined up on the line of scrimmage. Directly after the snap, George Johnson runs an inside stunt towards the “A” gap around both Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy while Stephen Tulloch and Ziggy Ansah drop back into zone coverage leaving Jason Jones to draw a double team from the left side of the line. Suh demands a double team from the right tackle and right guard while the running back picks up Levy. The Center fails to recognize the stunting George Johnson resulting in an easy sack on third down.

Under Jim Schwartz, you just did not see many blitz packages or innovation at all. Offenses knew exactly what they were going to see before they even saw it

This was just one of several plays where the Lions showed blitz on third down, only to drop back two in zone coverage and either sack Manning for a loss or force him to panic and dump the ball off quicker than he needed to. Under Jim Schwartz, you just did not see many blitz packages or innovation at all. Offenses knew exactly what they were going to see before they even saw it because they could look on film and see the same four-man rush coming each and every play.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Lions blitzed on just 18.34 percent of their defensive drop backs last year, which was the second least in the NFL.

The Calvin Johnson Effect

Source: NFL Game Rewind

As a Detroit Lions fan, it comes as no surprise that defenses pay a whole lot of attention to Calvin Johnson. In recent years, the Lions haven’t been able to punish teams for spending too many resources on Johnson, due to the lack of depth at the position. General Manager Martin Mayhew made it a point to improve the position and went out and acquired sure-handed receiver Golden Tate.

In the play above, Johnson has three defenders gravitating towards him while Tate is left wide open down the right sideline with the ball already leaving Stafford’s hand. This results in an easy 44-yard catch and run, and if you’re the Lions you’ll take this all game long if the defense gives it to you.