Despite being gashed on the ground by the Carolina Panthers, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn would not change anything he did in Week 16.
Two big runs which totaled 65 yards right off the bat skews things some, but the Carolina Panthers set a franchise record with 320 rushing yards against the Detroit Lions in Week 16. It was also the second-most rushing yards for a game in the Super Bowl era.
Pro Football Focus credited the Lions with 13 missed tackles in the game, and there were failures across the board for a run defense that had been very good the previous several weeks.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has an odd affinity for zero blitzes, and it also seems at times he is slow to adjust when things aren’t going well. His stock as a head coaching candidate has taken a hit this year, for sure.
Glenn spoke to the media, as usual, on Thursday. Via Kyle Meinke of MLive, he naturally had to talk about his unit’s awful Christmas Eve outing.
"Obviously not a good week for us defensively,” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “And I’m talking about defensively overall. That’s in the run game and the pass game, but most noticeably in the run game and execution, technique, assignment, just a number of things involved in that situation. And we talked about them."
Aaron Glenn has no regrets about his scheme choices vs. the Panthers
Despite being gashed in the run game like they were, the Lions never stacked the box against the Panthers. Not even once.
As Jeff Risdon of Lions Wire passed along from Zebra Technologies, D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard did a big chunk of their damage in the first half.
"In the 1st half of Saturday’s game alone, the Panthers gained +130 rushing yards over expected, the most by any team in a 1st half over the last 5 seasons. Chuba Hubbard contributed 109 yards on 6 carries (+72 RYOE) and D’Onta Foreman chipped in 104 yards on 10 carries (+52 RYOE) just in the 1st half. The duo finished the game with a combined +139 RYOE (Foreman with +76, most this week, and Hubbard with +63 RYOE, 2nd most). Foreman finished the game with 165 rushing yards (most this week) while Hubbard gained a total of 125 on the ground (3rd most). Neither of the 2 RBs faced a stacked box on a single carry."
Glenn was asked if he had any regrets about his scheme choices, with never stacking the box to theoretically try to stop the run better inherently at the top of the list.
"Not at all,” he said. “Not at all. Obviously, as a coach, the first thing you look at is yourself. But when you’re just playing down-safety defense, when that’s been the talk the whole week as far as stopping the run because we know exactly who they are."
Glenn did go on to point to “execution, technique, assignment” as bigger reasons for the Lions’ run defense being so bad against Carolina than pure scheme failure. But to never put a third linebacker on the field, and put no extra bodies in the box, was a curious choice. But Glenn has no regrets.
What was working so well the prior seven games, with a nickel defense base and defensive backs playing big roles defending the run for the Lions, did not work right away against the Panthers–there was no slow build up to failure. Glenn never adjusted, and apparently made a conscious decision not to try something, anything, different–especially in the first half.
Trying something different may not have worked either. It’s fair to assume the Panthers saw something on tape with the Lions’ defense they felt they could exploit on the ground, and they went ahead and did so, over and over. But that Glenn doesn’t think he should have tried something different says a lot, and none of it is good.