Detroit’s road win in Week 10 should have been by a much bigger margin. That was clear from watching the game live the first time. The breakdown on All-22 and another refresher on the broadcast feed reinforced that overarching takeaway. The film breakdown took some interesting turns in this one.
Thanks to a glitch in the NFL’s app, the film study got delayed a bit; watching the same second-quarter play on loop was fun for a minute or two, but not six hours. Better late than never!
Here’s what I learned from the film review of the Lions win over the Chargers in Week 10.
The O-line completely dominated
It was pretty easy to identify the Lions’ offensive line dominance in real-time. The film review only reinforced just how awesome OL coach Hank Fraley’s unit performed.
It started on the very first drive. A fairly simple run design saw left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Jonah Jackson and center Frank Ragnow all drive their blocking marks a good three yards up the field. Right tackle Penei Sewell savvily pushed his man outside and locked that door, too. Because of the surge and the defensive setup, right guard Graham Glasgow didn’t have anyone to block on a run play because the other four guys (and TE Sam LaPorta) took them all out.
Sewell’s performance against All-Pro EDGE Joey Bosa is worthy of an OL clinic. The quickness off the snap, the hand placement, the weight shift and balance into contact — perfection.
Zone defense was a really bad idea
The defense was very good early. Really, it was. Some of that is attributable to the pass rush being more effective early on, but the coverage scheme focusing more on playing man behind the rush was working well enough.
As the game progressed, the defense played more zone. The concept, in and of itself, wasn’t a bad idea by coordinator Aaron Glenn. It’s a good idea to try and contain throws out of the backfield to Austin Ekeler and also to keep Justin Herbert from running. In theory, it should have better limited the quick throws to Keenan Allen that were crushing the Lions.
Watching the All-22, it was pretty clear that the linebackers and safeties fizzled and failed miserably in executing the zone calls. Specifically, LBs Derrick Barnes and Jack Campbell just weren’t quick to identify their responsibilities in coverage. Campbell’s stiffness in his initial movement was not easy to watch. Tracy Walker didn’t have a great day in carrying his receiving marks through his zone either. Outside CB Cam Sutton has never been confused for a great zone corner, and that was really true in this one. Against bigger targets like Allen or Quentin Johnston, Sutton needs to get his hands on them early. Zone takes away from that, and it sure did on Sunday.
A better pass rush would have helped, no doubt. More on that in a second, but the most discouraging part of breaking down this defensive game tape was how incapable of executing the zone coverage the Lions defenders proved. We generally want more zone against QBs (like Herbert) who are running threats, but if the LBs and secondary can’t execute the coverage part of the zone, it’s pointless because the QB won’t ever need to run. See: Baltimore game. See: Chargers game too.
Chargers offense and OL deserves some credit for Detroit's bad pass rush
Ah, the pass rush. Other than Aidan Hutchinson and a couple of blitzes from Anzalone, it was pretty nonexistent. It was certainly disappointing from a Lions standpoint, but the Chargers offensive line and blocking scheme deserves some credit for that, too.
Left tackle Rashawn Slater is an All-Pro and played like it. I had him for one loss in pass protection, a play where left guard Zion Johnson got in his way as Slater tried to push Julian Okwara inside. Herbert got the ball out quickly enough that it didn’t result in a pressure. Slater is the best left tackle the Lions have seen–or will see–all season.
I won’t profess to have watched every Chargers game this season, but I’ve seen enough to know that the right-side combination of guard Jamaree Salyer and tackle Trey Pipkins had their best game together. Hutchinson got Pipkins a few times, notably with the quick inside spin, but in general I thought Pipkins had a pretty good game. Salyer was in concert with him better than they’ve looked in other games, too.
Herbert, as well as Chargers OC Kellen Moore (yeah, him) had a good plan for handling the Lions looks, especially when Detroit went to odd-man fronts. Herbert and center Will Clapp smartly identified the scheme and worked to use the movement against the Lions rushers. Joshua Kelly was exemplary in pass pro at RB, too. Not many teams can pull that off; the Chargers typically aren’t one of them either, which is frustrating.
I don’t think the Lions adjusted well. Coach Campbell was correct in noting postgame that the players weren’t winning 1-on-1s. I don’t think John Cominsky or Josh Paschal (too predictable in his attack) played well at all. But sometimes the other team does well and that needs to be recognized here.
–I thought this was Jameson Williams’ best all-around game. The production doesn’t show it, but Jamo was more consistently open than he’s been in other games.
–I watched Jared Goff and David Montgomery sell the play fake on the TD pass to Brock Wright at least 15 times. For my money, that’s the best play-action fake in the NFL all year. Underappreciated contributor on the play: FB Malcolm Rodriguez. His mad dash into the fray like he was blocking held the backside safety just a tick, too.
–The Lions defense didn’t use a traditional NT very often in the game, and when they did, it was something of a tip-off that a blitz was coming. If I can see that off game film, you’d better believe NFL OCs can, too.
–L.A. only tried one kick return, and it was a deliberate short kickoff by Jack Fox. The Lions got very lucky on the play; Anthony Pittman, Derrick Barnes and Tracy Walker all lost against their blocks, and Chase Lucas overran his containment gap.
–On the 4th-and-goal play where Goff threw the ball away, David Montgomery misread his pass pro assignment and allowed the pressure. If he picks up his mark, Goff had LaPorta for an easy target crossing on the back line, but the pressure made that throwing lane impossible.
–Flawless snapping game from Jake McQuaide in his first regular-season game in a Lions uniform.