Detroit Lions Game 1 Film Review
By Nick Pursel
Sep 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Steve Johnson (11) celebrates after a touchdown with wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) during the second half of the game against the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
The Lions offense stalled in the second half of the game, especially in the third quarter, they only had ten total offensive plays and were only able to gain two first downs (both on Ameer Abdullah swing passes). Stafford also threw his two interceptions on consecutive drives in this quarter which gave the Chargers new life. They couldn’t keep Stafford clean and the offense suffered.
Ameer Abdullah however was able to stay productive throughout the game. He had 52 of the Lions 58 yards in the third quarter and was the only consistent producer on offense. He started the quarter off with a huge play on the screen pass shown above. Stafford bobbled the snap and had to regain control before he throws a swing pass to Ameer Abdullah (play looks to have an option bubble screen on the other side of the field but the bad snap negated this possibility). After Ameer catches the ball watch how he sets up his blocks with the angles he takes downfield. His ability to find open field is remarkable, he makes a defender miss almost every time he touches the ball and always seems to take the perfect route to break open a big play. His first NFL action was all positive except for his 4th quarter fumble that was recovered by the Lions. He significantly outplayed Joique Bell who didn’t look much different from last year.
The run above is another example of Ameer’s amazing talent. As soon as he is handed the ball he has a defensive lineman in his face, he calmly cuts around him and then jump cuts again to get past Eric Weddle for a six yard gain. The speed he generates out of his jump cuts is almost inhuman. He’s the only player I have ever seen who can gain speed while cutting around defenses. Any other running back on the Lions roster gets tackled in the backfield on this play, but Ameer is able to give the Lions a solid carry and put them in good field position. He takes so much pressure off the offensive line because they know the play isn’t dead if they miss one block. Ameer creates outside of the context of the play at an elite level and shows a full understanding of where the defense will be. He is the perfect combination of athletic potential and mental ability.
However, these plays were mostly outliers for the Lions in the third quarter. They struggled to get anything going and couldn’t protect Stafford on third down. Both of his interceptions came on third down with heavy pressure in his face. The first pick (vine below) was due to a pass protection breakdown. The Chargers basically ran the exact blitz as they did on the sack by Kyle Emanuel. They again showed a double A gap blitz and dropped their linebackers into coverage to confuse the Lions offensive line. It worked to perfection and allowed Melvin Ingram to absolutely level Stafford. He was hurt on the play and had to wear an arm sleeve for the rest of the game. Again the Lions were fooled by the Chargers blitzing scheme and weren’t even close to picking up the free rusher. They had two men open over the middle of the field (Tate and Ebron) and could have easily completed a pass for a first down if they picked up the Chargers pass rush.
At first look it seems that the Lions offensive line had another key miscommunication on the second Stafford interception. The Chargers ran a stunt and the defensive end was allowed to go unblocked right through the hole that Laken Tomlinson was supposed to protect. It looks like Laken just missed the block and ignored the defensive end, but as my colleague Alex Stahl pointed out the defensive tackle actually holds Laken on the inside. He wraps both arms around Lakens shoulders and pulls him away from the defensive end. This definitely should have been a penalty and its a shame it wasn’t called. Still Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate had a miscommunication on the play that led to the interception. This is an option route that gave Golden the flexibility to run a number of different plays depending on the defenses coverage. The defensive back is sitting on the out route and is late to flip his hips up field. Golden Tate reads this and decides to keep run an out and up instead of a tradition out route. Stafford is flustered out of the pocket and forced to make a quick read. He fails to see the defensive back siting on the out route and throws the ball right into the defenders hands. The blame should be shared between Stafford and the refs, but Golden Tate made the correct read.
This is the point of the game where the defense started to get really ugly. The Chargers ran 18 plays for 127 total yards and completely controlled the time of possession this half. The Lions continued to get beat the same way they had been all night and failed to make any second half adjustments. Rashean Mathis was exposed by Kennan Allen throughout the game and Phillip Rivers toyed with the middle of the Lions defense with accurate short passes. The Chargers seemed to be able to get five yards any time they wanted too.
The play above is a great example of how the Chargers took advantage of the Lions two weakest performers of the day. Rashean’s footwork here is an absolute mess, he is trying to funnel the play inside and completely ignored the backside of the field. Then Keenan cuts exactly where Rashean’s body positioning wants him too, the middle of the field, but Rashean is still too slow to react to the play. The only reason Rashean would try so hard to funnel the play towards the middle of the field would be to move him into Stephen Tulloch’s underneath coverage. But, Tulloch bites hard on the play action fake and is nowhere near where he needs to be to make the play. Rashean looks terrible on this route, Allen could have beat him with a number of different route combinations, but if Tulloch is in the proper position this is either an interception or a incompletion.
It may seem like I am beating a dead horse with all the talk of Stephen Tulloch’s bad night, but he was absolutely awful. He couldn’t cover anyone and was a liability in run defense. Above is another play where the Chargers located Tulloch in the Lions pass coverage and attacked him. For some reason Tulloch has outside leverage on the play and tries to funnel Stevie Johnson outside even though Johnson’s first step is dead inside. He has his back turned to where Johnson is running his route until Johnson has already ran past him. This was way too easy of a touchdown and its embarrassing they allowed a team to get a redzone touchdown on an underneath pass. Its getting to the point to where Tulloch needs to be taken off the field for passing downs, he just doesn’t have the speed necessary to break on plays anymore.
At this point the Chargers have scored 17 unanswered points and have cut the Lions lead to 1 point. The Lions were thoroughly on their heels and couldn’t stop the Chargers offense. The game has been broken wide open and the Chargers have all the momentum.
Next: Fourth Quarter