Film review: Breaking down Lions LB Alex Anzalone in the Week 10 win over the Bears

This week’s Detroit Lions player spotlight film review focuses on someone who doesn’t normally get much credit for his play. Linebacker Alex Anzalone has typically been the target of scorn from fans, not praise.

But in the Week 10 win over the Chicago Bears, Anzalone quietly played a pretty solid game. It was the second week in a row that Anzalone has pieced together a good showing. Against the Bears and unique QB Justin Fields, Anzalone did a lot of impressive dirty work away from Fields.

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The methodology for the film evaluation here is pretty simple. Plays where the player wins his individual matchup or performs the role on the play correctly earn a plus; plays where he loses his matchup or does the wrong thing get a minus. Not every play earns a mark.

Being in on almost every single defensive snap (60 of 61), Anzalone was very busy.

This is a good example of Anzalone at his best in the run game, from the Bears’ second drive. He doesn’t overcommit, stays clean and finishes with control and power.

Alas, Anzalone earned a minus on the very next play for being late to get out on the tight end in coverage. Fortunately, it didn’t cost the Lions; Fields didn’t see it and kept the ball on a run.

The mixed bag continued on the third drive. Anzalone saved a touchdown by knifing under a block and pushing Fields out of bounds at the 1-yard line. He even forced a fumble with his hit. But three plays later, he was the front-side containment that Fields ran around after making three would-be tacklers miss on the legitimately spectacular touchdown run by the Bears QB.

Later in the game, Anzalone got too far upfield and lost backside containment on the long Fields TD run in the fourth quarter. In general, Anzalone played positionally responsible. But it was glaringly obvious when he didn’t. Asking a player of his caliber to pitch a perfect game is demanding way too much.

I noted that Pro Football Focus credited Anzalone with five missed tackles in the game. Not to call that out, but I only saw three. I’m not faulting No. 34 for getting inadvertently leg-whipped by a teammate when he’s about to make a play, which is the only other even questionable miss attributable to Anzalone. A Bears penalty wiped out another potentially missed tackle. His whiff on the Bears drive that ended with the long Cole Kmet TD reception was really bad, however.

The final tally

Anzalone racked up 19 plusses and 15 minuses, a very meaty total for 60 snaps on defense.

The plusses:

  • 9 came in coverage, including a PD

  • 4 came on between-the-tackles runs

  • Earned a plus on his only designed pass rush attempt, the final offensive play by the Bears, but he did also get a minus for a missed tackle on the same play

The minuses:

  • 11 were in run defense, with five of those on runs by Khalil Herbert (10 total carries)

  • 2 came in coverage situations where he was late to recognize his mark

  • Two minuses were negated by Bears’ penalties

This wound up being one of Anzalone’s best games in a Lions uniform and continues a steady upward trend in his play since the bye in Week 6. Still hard to ignore the misses in no small part because the Lions ask him to be so integral to the defense.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire