Is the Detroit Lions defensive success a trick or treat?

Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions
Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions (Photo by Arizona Republic Syndication) /

The Lions defense didn’t ‘scale back’, it changed

Back in week three, the Lions traveled to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals. It was a game that featured an undefeated Cardinals team against the winless Lions who were looking very bad defensively.

Yet Matt Patricia has to be given credit for going completely against his own defensive tendencies. He created a winning game plan that his defense executed well against the dumbfounded Cardinals. They didn’t expect to see so much zone coverage nor the controlled blitzes the Lions threw at them.

The Cardinals still put a few points on the board, but the Lions defense forced turnovers and actually made some plays on third down to get off the field.

That game was the embryonic stage of what we have seen in the last two weeks.

We need to remember that they followed up that win against the Cardinals by going back to the more traditional ineffective Matt Patricia defense we have seen for the most part of his tenure in the Motor City against the New Orleans Saints and the end results were what we have become used to seeing.

There were a few players who said that they thought the bye week came too early, but it may have saved their season. It was during that bye week that Matt Patricia decided to ‘scale back’ his defense.

In truth what Patricia did was what he should have done awhile back, he didn’t just simplify the defense, he actually made changes to his beloved system that have allowed the defense to be more competitive and given them the opportunity to be on a two-game winning streak as they prepare to host the Indianapolis Colts.

By going more stout on the defensive line with the combination of Danny Shelton, John Penisini, and Nick Williams, the defense has found a combination that has been tough against the run.

Meanwhile, Romeo Okwara has reverted to his play of two years ago when he led Detroit in sacks with seven. Okwara, Trey Flowers, and the assortment of blitzes the defense are using have allowed the Lions to manufacture a little bit of a pass-rush which has certainly helped as well.

There also seems to be more of an emphasis on physicality. The defense has popped the pads like no other time under Matt Patricia.

So the question is simple; can the ‘new’ Lions defense sustain its recent success?