Detroit Lions Film Review: Same Old Stafford?


Stafford Takes a Step Back

Last week, Matthew Stafford had a spectacular outing against a solid Giants secondary. He threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 32 attempts for a league high 97.5 Total Quarterback Rating (QBR).

I applauded Stafford for his noticeable improvement with his footwork, and the way he was able to work through his progressions and make the right decisions consistently throughout the course of the game.

Last Sunday was a different story, however.

The Detroit Lions arrived at Bank of America Stadium in hopes of their first 2-0 start since 2011. It would be no easy task going up against arguably the best front seven in the NFL.

At a crucial point in the game, it appeared as if Stafford was back to his old habits, deciding to force the ball to Calvin Johnson with two other receivers wide open on the first play of the drive at their 48-yard line.

On this play, Stafford drops back for a play-action pass and keeps his eyes focused on Johnson the entire play. At the point of release, Megatron is actually trailing both defenders. The play ends up in an interception on an under thrown pass from Stafford that is tipped to the trailing defender towards the left sideline.

Despite being double covered on the play, Megatron probably makes that catch if Stafford throws a perfect ball to him. But how often has Stafford made that throw throughout his career? He’s been very inconsistent on deep passes, and I’m not sure I trust him to make that throw more than half the time.

NFL Game Rewind

The Panthers are in a Cover 1 defense on this play. The deep safety is responsible for covering the entire field behind him, while the second safety is responsible for the zone below him, attempting to confuse the quarterback as if it was Cover 2.

If Stafford had checked all of his progressions, he would have seen a wide open Joique Bell in the flats, as well as Tate wide open in the middle of the field.

At the very least he could have turned his sight towards Bell or Tate and baited the deep safety into coming forward, leaving Megatron in single coverage for a much better opportunity.

Despite the poor performance, Stafford had a decent game overall and it’s not shocking to see him struggle against a top defense. I expect him to bounce back strongly against the Packers’ suspect defense and continue to improve as the year progresses.

Less Bell, More Bush

I’ve been a strong advocate for giving Bell more burn in the backfield over the last couple of years, but as of late it’s been clear that he’s struggling to find holes in the running game, as well as keeping the ball secure. Through two games, Bell has carried the ball 25 times compared to Bush’s 15 carries, and has fumbled the ball twice.

I strongly believe that Bush has come a long way as a runner and has greatly improved his ability to run between the tackles, rather than trying to bounce to the outside nearly every play.

In the play above, the Lions are in 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE). It’s a designed run straight up the gut with fullback Jed Collins and center Dominic Raiola attacking the second level, while the rest of the blockers take out the defensive line.

NFL Game Rewind

As the play develops, each blocker takes their assignment and does a solid job of creating a hole (yellow arrow) for Bell. If Bell runs through the lane that’s created by Collins and Raiola, then he probably has a big gain. Instead, Bell decides to cut back (blue arrow) and is stuffed for just a two-yard gain.

It’s way too early to give up on Bell as a runner, especially after he’s done such an excellent job for the Lions over the last couple of years. But I’d like to see Bush get some more carries going forward. Martin Mayhew signed this man for a reason, and that was to provide some explosive plays for the offense.