Detroit Lions Game 1 Film Review

3 of 5


The Lions offense was very up and down against the San Diego Chargers and the second half was a perfect example. They had two drives where they couldn’t get anything going, they had one first down (from a face mask penalty) and couldn’t keep the pressure off Matthew Stafford. Every once in a while a player will get beat, but it’s concerning to see all the miscommunication along the Lions offensive line. They gave multiple unblocked rushers free shots at Matthew Stafford, he was under pressure on 32.3% of his snaps (6th most in the NFL) and struggled to get anything done when he was pressured.

On the play below, the Lions think the Chargers are going to bring a double A gap blitz (a play the Lions really struggled with last season) but instead they drop both their linebackers into coverage and rush four instead. The Lions try to plug the A gap with Joique and Swanson, but end up blocking nobody as Kyle Emanuel sacks Matthew Stafford. This is great play design, the Lions knew they struggled protecting against the double A gap blitz last season and probably thought it would be a big part of the Chargers pass rush game plan. But, the Chargers pulled off an impressive bluff and were able to blow up the Lions third down play. Stafford has no chance on this play, Golden Tate was open for a first down but Emanuel was already chasing Stafford down for a sack. It’s hard to tell who is at fault on plays like these, we have no idea what the protection call was or who called it (most likely Stafford), but if they can’t clean up the miscommunications teams will continue to take advantage.

The other unsuccessful drive was very similar, the Lions allowed Stafford to be pressured and couldn’t get much going despite the favorable looks the defense gave them. Below is one of the few downfield opportunities the Lions had against the Chargers. The Chargers came out in a dime package with a two deep safety shell, it looked like they were going to play the deep portion of the field and defend against the deep ball. But the Chargers bluffed and ran a cover 1 robber concept, giving the Lions two favorable match ups on the outside portion of the field. Stafford was scared off by the pre snap read and never really seemed to take his eyes off of Golden Tate who catches the ball for a 6 yard gain short of the first down. But downfield, Calvin Johnson has single coverage and the other outside wide receiver has a step on his man. Calvin is being covered by a sub 6 foot corner, any throw towards the sideline is a potential big play with his size advantage. The other outside receiver creates separation just as Stafford releases the ball, he would of been wide open down the field if Stafford hit him. Both were better options than Tate over the middle even though he was the initial read. This could of been a huge play for the Lions but Stafford checked the ball down and didn’t recognize the robber coverage. Weddle was in the perfect position to make a play on Ebron or Golden Tate and stops the Lions from getting a first down.

Sandwiched between these two terrible drives was another easy touchdown drive were the Lions looked unstoppable. They went 55 yards in four plays and gave Stafford the time necessary to make plays in the pocket. Stafford had an impressive throw to Lance Moore on third down, but the Ebron touchdown showed some genius play design. Its hard to tell but this play looks like a read option pass, Stafford has to read the linebackers and decide whether or not to throw the ball. The linebackers bite on the play action which allows Stafford to deliver the ball right over their heads to Ebron for an easy touchdown.


The defense started out with a bang in the second half, their first two series ended in a pick six and a 3 & out. The pick six was a wonderful play by Glover Quin, the Lions ran a cover 3 cone coverage (James Light describes it beautifully here) and were able to get pressure on Phillip Rivers with only four rushers. This coverage technique would come back to bite the Lions later in the game but it worked to perfection on the pick six. Phillip Hunt and Tyrunn Walker both got quick pressure and forced the throw. It could of ended a lot differently if the Lions didn’t have pressure. Travis Lewis failed to pick up Ladarius Green moving over the middle of the field, if Rivers has more time and is able to locate the open receiver this is a huge play for the San Diego Chargers.

But after those two drives it started to get ugly. The Chargers offense started to get into a grove and were driving the ball on the Lions defense without much trouble. The Lions continued to leave the underneath portion of the field open and the Chargers continued to ruthlessly exploit it. When the Lions where in position to make play saving tackles they failed to execute. The play below is on 2 & 8, the Lions do a good job protecting the first down line and are in good position to make a tackle. Tulloch bursts downfield at Ladarius Green and gets embarrassed by a stiff arm. He takes a poor angle and doesn’t really have a chance to make anything other than a leg tackle. This wasn’t the only time a slow reaction from Tulloch ended in a big play for the Chargers, they seemed focused on exploiting the Lions lack of athleticism at the linebacker position.

The Lions failed to adjust to the Chargers misdirection throughout the game. Below the Lions are in great position on 2 and 15. It looks like they will be able to hold the Chargers to a field goal if they can just play some fundamental defense. San Diego fakes a run to the left side of the formation, Phillip Rivers barely even executes a ball fake yet the entire Lions front 7 (and the nickel corner who is assigned Stevie Johnson) bite on the outside run. Rivers then delivers a quick ball to Stevie Johnson who has nothing but free space in front of him. Luckily the defense was bailed out by a bad throw later in the drive from Phillip Rivers or this drive could have very easily ended in a touchdown. The lack of discipline the Lions showed on defense was very concerning, last year discipline was one of the Lions biggest strengths on defense and a large part of their historic season. If they cannot play disciplined defense teams will continue to beat them with the same strategy that San Diego used.

The half time score is 21-10 the Lions looked to be in control of the game but the Chargers had already proven they could march the ball down the field and found a way to stymie the Lions offense. The Lions were surviving solely off of splash plays and turnovers.

Next: 3rd Quarter