Detroit Lions Film Review: Examining the #1 Ranked Run Defense


The Detroit Lions have the number one ranked run defense in the NFL. I’m sure most of you already knew this, but not only are they dominating right now, they may be one of the best against the run in the history of the game.

Our very own Kent Platte touched base on the historical greatness of the Lions’ run defense so far already. Today I’ll be digging a little deeper and taking a look on film to examine why the Lions are so dominant against the run.

Strangely enough, the Lions normally don’t line up defensively as if they’re focused on stopping the run. Against the Bucs, I consistently saw them lining up in their infamous wide-9 formation with just six men in the box.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

If you take a look at the image above, you’ll see a perfect example of this.

The Buccaneers have the ball at their own 23-yard line on first-and-10. The Lions throw in some fresh bodies at defensive end with Devin Taylor (left) and Darryl Tapp (right) both lined up in the nine-technique (outside shoulder of the tight end).

Cassius Vaughn is split-out as the nickelback, so the Lions have just six men in the box. It’s a perfect opportunity for Tampa to run the ball and gain some yardage.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

After the ball is snapped, Charles Sims does a nice job of following his blockers and has a pretty nice lane if he decides to cut back to the right. This should be easy yardage for the ball carrier.

As you can see, Sims did the right thing by cutting to his right and following the lane presented to him. Unfortunately for him and the Bucs, the Lions still manage to hold them to a minimal gain of three yards.

CJ Mosley and Ndamukong Suh both shed their blocks at the perfect moment to stop Sims from gaining any additional yardage.

Even with Nick Fairley out, their is a huge trust factor between everyone in the Lions’ front-seven. The cohesion of this unit is unbreakable no matter who steps in. You can thank the coaching staff and the players alike for both the scheme and the results.

Speaking of trust, take a look at the image below where the Lions place just two players from their front-seven to the left side of the center, including DeAndre Levy who is forced to cover a massive gap.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

It’s an obvious passing play on third-and-nine, but it still speaks volumes that the Lions are comfortable putting Levy in that situation. Tampa could easily audible into a sweep to the left and give themselves a man advantage.

Starting with coaching and ending with players executing, this unit has been a real treat to watch. And they may be on the road to historical greatness.

The fact that Levy is constantly forced to cover large gaps in the run game can attest to why he’s seemingly lost a step in coverage. When you focus so heavily on one aspect of the game, you may take a step back somewhere else. Against the Bucs, Levy did a solid job against both the run and the pass.

Levy still holds the highest run stop percentage via Pro Football Focus. He has been responsible for a defensive stop on 15.9 percent of his snaps against the run. The only other 4-3 outside linebacker that comes near that mark is Lavonte David (13.8).

But this article is not all about Levy or any one man. Everyone is playing their part on defense. Starting with coaching and ending with players executing, this unit has been a real treat to watch. And they may be on the road to historical greatness.