The Detroit Lions have been a solid run defense for most of the 2012 season. While they have been susceptible to the occasional big rush, overall the Lions have held most opposing running backs in check. However, in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's game, the Lions allowed the Green Bay Packers to score what would be the game-winning touchdown with seven straight rushes. Here's what went wrong:
It's third-and-2, and the Packers are running a simple draw. Nick Fairley is the lucky defensive tackle to be double-teamed on the play. Every other defensive lineman is single-teamed and Stephen Tulloch is being blocked by the tight end.
Pretty much every one of the defenders is in pass-mode. The defensive tackles both try to loop around the linemen, creating a huge hole up the middle. DeAndre Levy drifts to his right into coverage and is now realizing that the play is likely a run. But it's too late, as he is already far enough out of position to be out of the play. The only player with a chance to stop this play before an easy first down is Tulloch, but his hesitation has cost him, and Jermichael Finley gets to him before he breaks for the running back.
On the next play, there were no fancy misdirections or delays. The Lions just got straight up outmanned.
This time, it's Sammie Hill (camera left) who is doubled, while the other offensive guard chip blocks Fairley then heads to the second level to take care of Justin Durant. Ndamukong Suh is lined up as a defensive end but is a non-factor on this play.
This screenshot pretty much says it all. Every Lions defender is accounted for and blocked to perfection. The hole to the left is starting to emerge and no Lions player looks to be close to getting off of their block.
When the offensive tackle leaves Kyle Vanden Bosch, he is left being blocked by a tight end. This is the matchup that the Lions need to win. Unfortunately, Vanden Bosch fails to get off the block and, again, there is a huge hole. It is really tough to see a "dominant" defensive line get manhandled like they were on this play against a banged-up Packers offensive line.
Finally, to cap off the drive, the Packers went back to the draw and made it look easy.
The small, extra wrinkle of the play is that the Packers pull the left guard to act as the lead blocker for the draw to the right. Suh was the player to get double teamed on this play, but his aggressive move to the inside allows the right tackle to immediately head to the second level.
Again, the Packers linemen have gotten in prime position to take out most defenders on the play. The one exception is Levy. DeAndre is licking his lips as the play is heading straight toward him and there's no one in front to stop him. At least, that's what he was likely thinking. However, the pulling guard is headed his way, and Levy never sees him.
The guard executes a perfect cut block and Levy is done. Suh almost works himself back into the play but just can't get there in time. Hidden behind Suh is Tulloch being taken out of the play by the right tackle. The last line of defense, Don Carey, had drifted to the center of the field to play middle-zone, and by the time he realized it was a run, the back was five yards from scoring.
Overall, there were plenty of factors that led to the Packers' success on the ground. First and foremost, it was the Packers' ability to catch the Lions off guard with the draw. The play-fake caused just enough hesitation in the defense for the linebackers to find themselves in vulnerable positions to be taken out of the play. Secondly, the Packers caught the Lions defensive line being overly aggressive. Oftentimes, the Packers' jobs were made easier by Detroit's linemen going into full pass-rush mode, leaving running lanes wide open. Finally, and probably most disappointing, the Lions occasionally were just outmanned. Seeing Lions players get dominated by backup Packers linemen was shocking and terribly disappointing.
Much like the entire team, the Lions rush defense's problems run deep. The defensive ends, the defensive tackles, the linebackers, the safeties: they're all culpable. Obviously, not all need to be replaced next year, but they'll need to perform better.