Detroit Lions Offensive Film Review: Week Four

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Oct 5, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws the football during the third quarter in a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Stafford had a pretty clean game against the Seahawks, he only made one glaring mistake (a bad decision into underneath coverage) and otherwise protected the ball well against their formidable defense. He completed a large amount of his passes (74%) and finally started to take some deep shots down the field (4 which accounts for half his passes over 25+ yards this season). They couldn’t connect on any of their deep shots, but were able to be reasonably successful on passes 10-25 yards downfield.

The biggest positive from this chart is the fact the offensive line only allowed 13 total pressures (which is still pretty bad and above average) and most importantly Stafford only took 3 hits throughout the game. While this was an improvement, it certainly doesn’t mean the offensive line had a good game. A number of times they ruined easy first down conversions simply because they couldn’t maintain blocks. They also had a number of drive killing penalties that halted scoring opportunities and forced them into unfavorable down and distances. The unit is still the biggest hole on the team and needs to be better.

(link to the rest of the games and season total here)

Much has been made of the Lions offensive line this season, but few people are talking how well Stafford is avoiding pressure. He has been pressured on 48.77% of his attempts, but has only given up a sack on 3.7% of the time. This is a true testament to his quick release and his improved footwork/pocket presence. He had a tendency to get “happy feet” in the past, which forced some inaccurate throws and poor decisions under pressure. Instead of trying to force the ball downfield to covered receivers, he has gotten a lot better at taking what the defense gives him and has accepted that throwing the ball away is ok.

Both of the plays in the tweet above should of been sacks by the Seahawks, but Stafford makes a great play and bails out the offensive line. On the first play, the Lions offensive line fails to pickup the blitzing linebacker and instead tries to double team Michael Bennet. The free rusher has an open shot on Stafford, but he is able to spin out of the tackle and evade the pocket to safely throw the ball away right over Ameer Abdullah’s head. If the blocking scheme holds up the Lions have an easy first down, Golden Tate is breaking open over the middle of the field for a big gain. On the second play, Stafford feels the edge collapsing and bounces out of the pocket. He then does a great job of locating Theo Riddick and dumping the ball off to him. He evades a safety and creates a positive play out of nothing on third down.

I already mentioned that the Lions finally attempted some deep attempts in this game. It was promising to see the offense try to earn some chunk plays, but Stafford was unable to take advantage of some favorable opportunities. The best chance the Lions had on a deep ball is shown in the video above. Stafford has time in the pocket and Calvin Johnson is able to gain separation deep. Stafford throws the ball a little outside and away from Calvin forcing an incompletion. You don’t get many clean deep shots like this against the Seahawks and the Lions absolutely needed to take advantage of this opportunity. If this ball is completed it is almost certainly a touchdown and would of tied the game up going into the second half. Stafford has really struggled hitting receivers downfield throughout his career and that hasn’t changed this season. For him to take the next step towards being a great quarterback he is going to need to improve his touch downfield and stop missing these game changing throws.

Just like always, Matthew Stafford turned into a completely different quarterback on the last drive. He was aggressive and had a number of impressive throws. Both of the above passes could of easily been pick sixes if Stafford doesn’t throw a hard accurate ball. He explodes out of his backpedal and unloads perfect balls in both scenarios, theres just not much a defense can do to stop these throws. One of the biggest things missing from this Lions offense is the willingness to take risks against good coverages. Sometimes you need to try to thread a window instead of just safely checking the ball down.

The throw above might of been Stafford’s best throw of the year. The Lions were able to be aggressive due to the down and distance (2nd and 1) and Stafford took advantage. This is the definition of a tight window throw, he drapes it right in between three defenders who have zero chance of making a play on the ball. Plays like this are why Lions fans everywhere are screaming for a more aggressive offense. Stafford is an aggressive quarterback, turning him into a check down machine isn’t going to help the team win. Spread the field, give him options, and let him do what he does best.

We all know how the game ended and I can’t put myself through any more conversations about the “bat rule”, it was a terrible call and theres no point analyzing it. All together Stafford had a pretty respectable performance against one of the best defenses in the NFL. He had to do it completely on his own (only 53 rushing yards) and constantly faced terrible down and distances due to penalties or terrible run plays. He missed some big opportunities but definitely played good enough to win and showed everyone why they should want Matthew Stafford to be their quarterback. He does his best work when the game is on the line and has proven to be a clutch performer throughout his years in Detroit.

Next: The Run Game