One of our favorite things to do, as fans, in the face of a loss is to find our scapegoat. This week, Brandon Pettigrew, David Akers and Willie Young found themselves behind the crosshairs. But if we search a little deeper, we can find some other crucial mistakes made by the Detroit Lions that hurt their chances for victory against the Arizona Cardinals.
The first play we'll look at took place in the second quarter. It was a long 22-yard gain for Larry Fitzgerald. The Lions tried to fool the Cardinals with a disguised blitz package, but it didn't work.
The Lions attempt to overload the left side of the defensive line by sending Bill Bentley and Glover Quin on the blitz. On the other side, Young dropped back into zone coverage. This blitz isn't disguised very well, as you can tell from all three players' body language what they were going to do on this play. Young is leaning on his back foot, Quin is leaning forward, and Bentley's eyes are in the backfield.
Let's look at how Young did in coverage:
Willie is in no-man's land. He should have dropped deeper, and stayed true to his assignment on the right side of the field. This allows Fitzgerald to get behind him and make the easy grab. Of course, this is a defensive lineman we're talking about, so dropping deep into coverage is not exactly playing to his strengths.
As for the blitz: that failed, too.
Quin considers trying to jump his way inside the tight end en route to the quarterback. However, he sees the running back staring him down and instead tries to loop around the tight end. This cost him crucial seconds and didn't end up working in the end.
Bentley also struggled to get to the quarterback. Directly off the snap, he's interrupted by Fitzgerald's route and is forced to loop around him (again, costing him valuable time):
This gave the running back enough time to assess that he didn't need to help with Quin and could take on Bentley himself. Both players fail to get within 3 yards of the quarterback.
On the next play, Darius Slay loses his man, and the Cardinals score a touchdown. Ouch.
Let's jump all the way to the third quarter. The Cardinals had just kicked a field goal to come within 5 points. The Lions were facing a third-and-4, hoping not to go three-and-out and give the Cardinals good field position. However, multiple blunders were made, and the Lions were forced to punt.
Mistake No. 1: Matthew Stafford was not ready:
As you can see, Stafford's hands aren't even up when the ball is only a foot away from his face. Somehow, he makes the catch, but he clearly wasn't prepared for the ball. You would think this was on Dominic Raiola for snapping the ball early, but I put this on Stafford. If the ball hadn't been snapped then, the Lions would've been called for a delay of game penalty. Notice the play clock was at :01. Stafford had no idea, and it cost him.
Mistake No. 2: An unprepared Stafford missed a wide-open Pettigrew.
Three defenders collapse on Calvin Johnson's slant route, leaving Pettigrew wide open. "How open?" you ask. There is literally no one behind him. The safety bit hard on Johnson's route, and Pettigrew could have very well scored a touchdown on this play, if he outruns the safety on the other side of the field. But Stafford was flustered from the unsuspecting snap, never even saw him and just threw it at Calvin's feet. The Cardinals went on to kick a field goal on the ensuing drive.
There were hundreds of small tweaks to the game that could have turned this in the Lions' favor. But if they continue to mess up the little things in each game, they'll continue to find themselves on the losing side of the scoreboard.