Detroit Lions Game 1 Film Review
By Nick Pursel
The Lions offense only had two drives in the fourth quarter, they were able to score when they were down two scores at the end of the game but couldn’t move the ball when they needed it most. The first drive came right after the Chargers scored the go ahead touchdown to put the score at 26-21. The Lions had 11 minutes left on the clock and needed to at least salvage a field goal. They started the drive with three consecutive first downs before being forced to punt again.
This is the first down play on the Lions last set of downs this drive. The offensive line finally picks up a blitz giving Matthew Stafford great protection and have Calvin Johnson in single coverage against Eric Weddle. Calvin Johnson might of been open, but Matthew Stafford stares down the route from the start of the play. This allows Eric Weddle the opportunity to jump Calvin’s out route and make a play on the ball. The better option on this play is to throw the ball to Ameer Abdullah who gained separation on his route out towards the flat. Ameer was open on the play and had plenty of room to run after the catch. The next play Ameer Abdullah got stuffed on his carry up the middle and fumbled on the play. Matthew Stafford threw an inaccurate pass on third down to no one in particular and the Lions were off the field and giving the ball right back to the San Diego offense.
The Chargers were able to score on their next possession and the Lions got the ball back down 33-21. They were down two scores and only had one timeout remaining so they need to score quickly and recover an onside kick. The first play of the drive (vine below) was one of the few bright spots from the game. Matthew Stafford does a fantastic job of moving in the pocket as he feels it collapse. He finds an opening in the pocket and then delivers a hard low ball where only Ebron can catch it. Ebron makes a great catch, he locates the ball and uses his arms to shield it from hitting the ground. He made a number of great catches on the day and was especially impressive on the last drive. The next play he had another very impressive low catch away from his body. He did not let the early drop rattle him and his hands looked improved from last season.
They made a couple of good plays on this drive and were able to quickly drive down the field to score. They finally picked up the pace and used the no huddle offense to try to score quickly. Its frustrating the team never tries to mix up the pace of their offense to keep defenses guessing. Especially considering how successful their no huddle offense has been over the years.
The defense in the fourth quarter completely came unraveled, they gave up two long clock consuming touchdown drives that completely took the Lions out of the game. They made mental mistake after mental mistake and couldn’t get off the field. The defensive coordinators made some questionable play calls and continued to play a prevent style defense with their linebackers deep in coverage. They were beaten by the same delayed runs, screens, and underneath passes that had been successful all day long. The Lions couldn’t adjust and they lost the game because of it.
The first touchdown drive almost ended on this play above. The Lions forced a 3rd and 10 early in the drive and were in prime position to get the ball back. The Lions came out with a conservative coverage but do a very good job picking up the Chargers routes. However, Rashean Mathis gets burnt again by Keenan Allen deep downfield on an in route. He was in good position until the break point of Keenan’s route, he was just flat-out too slow to react to Keenan’s change of direction. It’s a disappointing play because outside of Rashean’s breakdown the defense looked very sharp on this play, they got pressure on the quarterback and were in good position to cover the rest of the field.
The touchdown play on San Diego’s first drive of the fourth quarter should look familiar. The Chargers ran basically the exact same play as the earlier Eric Ebron touchdown. They run a play action fake (possibly a read option pass) and the Lions linebackers bite hard on the play fake. This give Ladarius Green an opening in the middle of the field and an easy touchdown. The Chargers ran this play a number of times and the Lions had no answer even though they have obviously been practicing it. The linebackers consistently bit on play action fakes and it was a huge problem throughout the game.
The second drive of the fourth quarter looked very similar to the first. The Chargers were able to march down the field and the Lions defense could not get off the field. The Lions were missing tackles all over the field and Rashean Mathis couldn’t do anything to stop Keenan Allen. Screen passes killed the Lions throughout the game and the last drive was no exception. Below is a vine of a particularly damaging screen pass the Chargers converted on their final drive. The Lions defensive line is slow to react to the screen pass and can’t make a play on Stevie Johnson. Both Stephen Tulloch and Glover Quin do a lazy job trying to bring down Johnson. They both get sealed off by offensive lineman and allow Johnson to get into the second level for a huge gain. The Lions had absolutely no answer for the Chargers screen game, no adjustments were made and the Chargers continued to exploit this hole in the Lions defense.
Right after this play the Chargers made a huge mistake when Gabe Wright bursts through a gap and forces Chris Watt to hold him. The Chargers were stuffed on the next two plays which set up a pivotal 3rd and 19 on the Lions 42 yard line. The Lions used the same “cone coverage” that caused the Quin pick six, but they used two deep safeties instead of one. The problem with this is Ihedigbo is the farthest player from the man he is assigned to cover. They also blitz the linebackers giving Ihedigbo zero support when he misses the tackle. Keenan Allen is able to get the first down and the Chargers score the game winning touchdown four plays later. If Ihedigbo is able to make that tackle the Chargers would be forced to kick a long field goal (around 53 yards) and could have even punted the ball away.
- Matthew Stafford had a solid statistical performance (8.2 yards per passing attempt, 7.52 yards per drop back, and 12.95 yards per completion) but his biggest gaffes don’t show up on the stat sheet. He messed up multiple protection calls which allowed the Chargers free rushers. He will need to do a much better job in the future for the Lions to be a successful team.
- Ameer Abdullah was the best player on the Lions offense. Even when the rest of the team was flat, Ameer was constantly busting out big plays and making an impact on the field. He was incredibly impressive in his first performance and is going to continue to steal carries from the rest of the Lions running backs as the season progresses. He is just to good to keep off the field.
- The Chargers defense did a beautiful job copying the New England Patriots game plan from last season. They double covered Calvin and used Jason Verrett as their Darrelle Revis to shut down Golden Tate. The Lions were reluctant to throw into double coverage and Jason Verrett did an amazing job covering Golden Tate, so the Chargers were able to shut down the Lions top two receiving options.
- The Lions defensive game plan was troubling. They weren’t able to adjust to what the Chargers were doing. It almost seemed like they were playing prevent defense the entire game. They didn’t protect the first down line and consistently gave the Chargers plenty of space to run for first downs. The two pictures below are both unacceptable coverages on third down plays. They need to protect the first down line and not just worry about giving up a big play.
- Gabe Wright was very under the radar against the Chargers but he made a couple of big plays. He looked quick and strong off the line of scrimmage and had his best game by far in his young professional career.
All together this was a very disappointing game for the Lions. They started off strong and did everything possible to lose this game as it progressed. This was very different from the Lions team we saw last season that was able to finish games when they got ahead early. Lions fans can only hope that this game was an outlier and that they will take a step forward next season, but this game was a horrendous way to start a season.
Next: Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings: What to watch for
More from SideLion Report
- Top 5 revenge games on the Detroit Lions 2023 schedule
- Lions center Frank Ragnow optimistic about continuing to play through toe injury
- Detroit Lions 2023 preseason schedule: Dates, times and opponents
- A new contract extension projection for Lions quarterback Jared Goff
- 4 wide receivers the Detroit Lions could still look to acquire this offseason