The defensive front seven aren’t good
I don’t think it took too long for fans to realize that something was afoot with the defense. They played well for three quarters against the Arizona Cardinals in the opener, but the fourth-quarter collapse, especially to a rookie quarterback, was a horrifying disaster. It was also a precursor of what Lions fans would be treated to this season.
The front seven played far below all expectations as they proved they couldn’t stop the run and needed a road map to get to opposing quarterbacks. That’s about as bad of a combination as it can get for a defense.
Early on as the Lions raced to a 2-0-1 record, it was the offense that carried the defense and the only facet of the defense that was playing well was the secondary. The problem is that it is absolutely unsustainable for a secondary to play well when the front seven play like they are non-existent.
For any defense to be successful, the front seven and the secondary have to play in harmony. Sure the secondary has to be able to cover opposing receivers in order to give the defense a chance to stop opposing passers from lighting them up, but it’s unreasonable to ask them to blanket their man for five, seven or ten seconds.
If the front seven can’t put any kind of pressure on the quarterback, then any passer worth a plug nickel should be able to eventually find someone to throw the ball to.
When you toss in the added bonus of having a linebacker corp that doesn’t consistently play their run fits well, then getting stops becomes virtually mission impossible. For the 2019 Detroit Lions defense, that is the very story of their season.
Before Matthew Stafford‘s back injury sidelined him, the Lions veteran signal-caller was playing at a near MVP level. Yet the Lions record was 3-4-1. That is the piece of the puzzle that truly condemns this defensive system, coaches and players.
Defense wins championships. Great defense can carry an average offense, even in the playoffs. Meanwhile, explosive offenses will eventually be unable to carry a poor defense. Sure they might outscore a few opponents to win some games, but it won’t last. Especially in the playoffs.