Although the Detroit Lions offense certainly deserves praise for its performance on Saturday against the San Diego Chargers, what the defense did should not be overlooked. While the defense did have some struggles on a couple drives in the third quarter, it played lights out for most of the game and shut down the Chargers offense, which had been on fire in recent weeks. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that it was not too difficult to select five top plays this week. Let's take a look at them.
No. 5 - Lions' stop of Chargers on third-and-one in first quarter
Despite not recording any sacks or turnovers in the first half, the Lions didn't allow any points and never really came close to giving up any. This was because Detroit was excellent on third down, starting with the Chargers' first offensive drive of the game. They faced third-and-one, and a pass from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates fell incomplete. Really any of the Lions' third-down stops from the first half could be featured in this spot, but this one set the tone for the rest of the game.
No. 4 - Chris Houston's pass break-up on third-and-goal in fourth quarter
Get ready for a whole lot of Chris Houston on this list. He had quite the second half on Saturday, making clutch plays when the defense needed to make stops. One of those stops came in the fourth quarter when the Chargers got down to the two-yard line. Houston broke up a pass in the end zone to force a fourth down, and San Diego turned the ball over on downs after another incompletion.
No. 3 - Chris Houston's interception of Philip Rivers and return for 43 yards in fourth quarter
Although the game was already well out of hand by this point, Houston helped put the final nail in the coffin with a nice interception on a long pass from Rivers. Houston also had a nice return by taking the pick back 43 yards to the Detroit 44.
No. 2 - Chris Houston's pass break-up on third-and-goal in third quarter
Houston's first big play of the second half came on the drive after San Diego's successful onside kick. The Chargers had cut the lead to 17 points and quickly moved down the field just like their previous drive. It looked like this was going to become a 10-point game, but Houston made a big play on third-and-goal from the four by breaking up a pass in the end zone intended for Malcom Floyd. The pass break-up forced San Diego to settle for a field goal and took away some of the momentum the Chargers had been building up. After the kick cut the lead to 14 points, the Lions quickly answered with a touchdown on their next offensive drive to put the game out of reach.
No. 1 - Cliff Avril's interception of Philip Rivers and return for a touchdown in fourth quarter
Although the game was essentially over when Avril recorded his first career interception, I had to put it No. 1 on this list simply because of how awesome it was. Avril read that San Diego was going to do a screen and jumped up and caught the ball with one hand. He then ran four yards to get into the end zone for a touchdown that put the exclamation point on this big victory and sent Ford Field into a frenzy as the playoff-clinching celebration began.