Detroit Lions film review: Why have star receivers been feasting on team's secondary?

Why have star receivers been feasting on Lions secondary

Full story at the above link.

The Detroit Lions have been playing quality football in recent weeks, winning three of their final four regular-season games prior to bouncing the Los Angeles Rams last weekend for the team’s first playoff victory in 32 years.

But if there’s a concern bigger than others heading into the divisional round against Tampa Bay, it’s a leaky defense that’s been allowing more than 400 yards per game the past four. And within that, the team has particularly struggled bottling up star receivers in each of those contests.

Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson torched the Lions for 18 catches on 24 targets for 333 yards and two touchdowns in two late-season meetings.

Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson torched the Lions for 18 catches on 24 targets for 333 yards and two touchdowns in two late-season meetings. Daniel Mears, The Detroit News

Between Puka Nacua, CeeDee Lamb and two matchups against Justin Jefferson, Detroit has surrendered 40 catches on 51 targets for 741 yards and four touchdowns. When you factor in an interception on one of those throws to Lamb, the opposing quarterbacks have still managed to post a 136.7 passer rating when targeting their stars. For context, 158.3 is perfect, and Aaron Rodgers posted the greatest single-season rating in NFL history with a 122.5 mark in 2011.

Needless to say, the Lions could stand to be much better this coming Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who like the Rams, offer not one, but two top-tier pass-catching threats in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

For this week’s film review, we rewatched every target to Nacua, Jefferson and Lamb from the past three games to look for common themes with the struggles, areas that can reasonably be cleaned up, and why there is hope for a quick turnaround.

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As many have said in various threads regarding Mayfield…he isn’t Stafford.
From the linked article regarding Nacua’s performance

Nacua also benefited twice from quarterback Matthew Stafford’s ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes. Both against zone looks, the QB was able to get Campbell to drift, opening a lane for Nacua to get open behind the linebacker, where Stafford delivered a patented no-look throw for gains of 21 and 22 yards.

Those five plays accounted for more than 82% of Nacua’s production. With Campbell, it’s just going to take experience to not get baited, and even that might not be enough against a QB with Stafford’s unique abilities, capable of manipulating even elite defenders. The other three letdowns are just examples where the game plan and play calls were fine, but the execution lacked.

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the article concludes:

My main takeaway is the Lions remain talent deficient in the back end, especially on the outside, and are still dealing with too many execution lapses overall, as they’ve transitioned into more of a zone-heavy scheme this season with the absence of shutdown corner on the roster. Glenn does what he can to put his players in the best positions to succeed, often leaning on the blitz to cover up some of those weaknesses, but there’s only so much he can do.

Some of the biggest mistakes, including all three long touchdowns in the reviewed games, are avoidable. And optimism can be rooted in the Lions doing an effective job against Evans and Godwin earlier this season, although it should be acknowledged Evans was dealing with a hamstring injury that limited him during the week of practice leading into that matchup.

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Stafford is a cheat code.

Mayfield (god willing, against our secondary) is not.


I noticed Mayfield making a lot of mistakes in the Eagles game. A lot of stuff that Goff did early in Detroit too. Drops that are too deep for example.

With our vulnerable secondary we will need turnovers. This is a game we really need the real Ceedy to show up. We also need our emerging safety to show up and for the love of God… Kirby…please show up too!!

Every game is a new opportunity for this secondary to get better. If we can get a few plays from this defense that would be huge.

Nice post!

Whew. I’m not so sure how correctable this is at this point of the season. Some of this is just pure physical ability. The other are instincts. You kind of either have speed or you don’t. Jefferson strides by Vildore (much in the way that we’re supposed to be using Jameson’s physical ability but aren’t) and Campbell’s instincts following Stafford’s eyes are like a full second behind what Stafford’s eyes are doing (I don’t know whether to laugh or cry).

On this particular play Stafford had two guys literally wide open because three guys get stuck covering short and leave Sutton one on one w Nacua forcing the high safety to pick one side or the other. I’m not sure if it’s Campbell or Anzalone that get caught on this one.

Great schemed up play by McVay/Stafford here. You can easily see all the moving parts clearly here.

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You can see Jack Campbell make a poor decision to share to his right while I think Cupp blows past him as he isn’t deep enough and his feet stop moving. Sutton makes a HUGE mistake while Vildor does a nice job on top. Great play design.

To me you can see LBers and safeties not working well together. We have a safety covering nothing to the trips side too. Multiple mistakes and all the Lions thinking the ball will come out quick. Excellent job by McVay.

What was iffy doing on this play… he is covering the short flat with a guy busting past sutton on his side… wonder how his responsibility was drawn up onnthat play

I think the Rams did a terrific job with all their motion in a super loud environment. That in turn made the noise a factor against our D. But our D is what it is at this point. Hopefully they can continue to at least hold the scoring to one point less than our offense can get.

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Which Curious Husker has been talking about, and i kinda agree with him

Defense has looked better recently with the DB blitzes, but AG can only do so much with what he has, Players fail to execute or get outplayed

Campbell needs another year, but he has shown really good potentiall, espically at the MIKE (which he likely will get when Anzalone’s contract ends)

we need DB’s badly, more so than another pass rusher

gonna be an intersting draft and offseason regardless.

For as bad as the lion’s manage this, you have to give a ton of credit to McVay/Stafford here. Everything about the play design is great. I think it’s 3rd down and 2 so Sutton is aware of giving up the short first down here. The Rams probably saw Sutton get beat deep on similar plays like this just like we have many weekends here watching on TV. So they’re like let’s get in Cam’s and every other LB/DB’s head and exploit the hell out of the third and short situation (truthfully they probably don’t need him to even bite due to opposing receivers literally blowing by him weekly like this head up) to get a big play. On top of it, the other guy is wide open to the other side of the field so Stafford has a smorgasbord of big play options here.

I wish the broadcast replay would show the bigger picture in real-time. The beauty and precision of the game gets lost some time. These guys are phenomenal athletes and being able to process information this quickly and make decisions and convert them into precision motor skills are off the charts.

Covering modern receivers is probably the hardest job in all of sports.

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I actually think once Sutton goes deep, Iffy has to cover the short to medium route to that side of the field. It looks like two LBs get caught also covering that same guy where one should peel off and follow the other guy that’s also wide open.

Again, put yourself in the deep safety’s position. He’s got to pick and choose which side he goes to to help. The human body only goes one way at a time and they eyes can only see one thing at a time. Stafford’s ability to see all that peripherally knowing what the play design is ahead of time in a split second gives him the ability to pick his poison if the athletic ability or instincts of his guys are better than us.

It’s the beauty of the game.

Great points.

The noise factor definitely hurts our defense in terms of communication.

I actually am at the point where Glenn probably is. Pick and choose your battles early and hope you win some while simultaneously hoping the offense jumps out to a lead in the first half. After that stop worrying about first downs. Instead go zone and worry about the big play and let your better redzone D shine. aka Bend don’t break. Take some chances along the way. If you’re behind the eight ball start taking chances / roll the 8 ball and throw the kitchen sink. :wink:


One there was no reciever available in that area and two linebackers in that short zone… it just looks like he is confused.

Also, based on how sutton played it i believe he was expecting a safety over the top.

What this video shows me is that it may be more blown assignment/communication but who knows

I guess cooper kupp isnt elite anymore? Glad to know

Notice in this play that 3 lions are covering Cupp! Leaving Nacua one on one. He’s serving a role and our guys think he’s still elite.

Ok - I stated upon the kneecap thing we were making a team that leadership wise was the anti patriots way a long time ago but now I think they are similar with regards to play of the feild

We slap our defense around but in the end we win more than we lose and look where we are today: a game from the championship

No one has used this term but I see it almost every week by our defense: bend but don’t break…

I now believe and openly say we mimic the older patriots defense with this scheme and most importantly trust! Leaderships trust it players and scheme and it’s reciprocal

Read this old ass article tell you don’t see where you can swap “Patriots” with the Lions

We can get after players all day using this play as a microcosm but it is also worth saying McVay was looking for a big play while Glenn looked for a short play. I think the Lions were thinking WR screen or quick out.

Credit McVay for understanding that he is likely using two downs to get his yards so take a shot on 3rd.

Going single high safety against two deep outside routes left the Lions exposed. A great play call on offense and a poor play call on defense.

However, Glenn knows we have talent issues in the secondary so his job is tougher as he tries to hide weaknesses. McVay took Glenn’s lunch money this play.

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Yeah, with our talent deficiencies on that end, we’re really forced to play a certain way. Usually when that happens it doesn’t work so well, but kudos to Glenn, we’ve actually improved of late overall (see the Solak article I posted earlier about defensive numbers).

And one tenet of the way we’re playing now is understanding we’re gonna get burned now and again. We don’t have a choice. And elite receivers do a lot of burning. As long as we keep them out of the end zone as much as possible, we should be alright.

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Yup. I think MCDC, AG, BJ collectively know this pretty well at this point. The pressure’s on everybody. But I think it’s more so on BJ to make sure there are enough points to win with this complimentary strategy going forward. If the D can take a few chances and force a TO, strip sack or pick six, that would be huge difference makers in any upcoming games outside of their role as Bend don’t Break.

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Absolutely. And we have to come to terms with the fact that sometimes it’s gonna make us look terrible. I think that’s the real reason for the negative national narrative, it just looks really, really bad sometimes when we’re bending. WRs tend to be very open. And I think this is exacerbated by Sutton playing through an injury.

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