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Play-By-Play Breakdown Of Lions' First-Team Defense Against Steelers

The second and final part of this week's play-by-play breakdown (first part is here) takes a look at how the Lions' first-team defense performed against the Steelers this past Saturday. It should be noted that the defense was without starters DeAndre Levy and Louis Delmas, who were replaced by Jordon Dizon and rookie Randy Phillips, respectively. Even without the two starters, the first-team defense played well, giving up only a field goal, which was because a Matthew Stafford interception occurred deep in Lions territory. Here's is a rundown of every play involving the first-team defense from the game:

Drive #1 - Starts at PIT 21 with 15:00 to play in the 1st
  • 1st & 10 (PIT 21): The Lions came out in their base 4-3 set and Cliff Avril made a tackle on Rashard Mendenhall, who cut to the right, after he picked up five yards.
  • 2nd & 5 (PIT 26): Byron Leftwich found Mike Wallace on a come-back route for a gain of 11 yards and a first down. Chris Houston was playing off Wallace, and all he had to do was come back for it.
  • 1st & 10 (PIT 37): Jordon Dizon got right into the hole and stuffed Mendenhall for no gain. Kyle Vanden Bosch assisted on the tackle.
  • 2nd & 10 (PIT 37): Mendenhall went to the right and had a big hole to run through. He would have had a gain of seven or eight yards, but C.C. Brown made a great play to strip the ball, sending it backwards to the 38-yard line, where it was recovered by a Pittsburgh lineman.
  • 3rd & 9 (PIT 38): Despite being in the shotgun, Leftwich had to quickly get rid of the ball because Vanden Bosch spun around the left tackle and put immediate pressure on him. The pressure led to a rushed pass that was incomplete.
  • 4th & 9 (PIT 38): Daniel Sepulveda punted the ball 59 yards.
Drive #2 - Starts at PIT 47 with 10:13 to play in the 1st
  • 1st & 10 (PIT 47): Cliff Avril absolutely abused Flozell Adams on this play, running right past him to sack Leftwich for a loss of eight yards. Adams seemed to be caught completely off guard and by the time he reacted, Avril was already in the process of taking down Leftwich.
  • 2nd & 18 (PIT 39): Mewelde Moore ran the ball and had it knocked loose by Eric King, who came up from the nickel position to make the play. Pittsburgh ended up gaining three yards, as Moore fell on the fumble immediately.
  • 3rd & 15 (PIT 42): Despite being held, Vanden Bosch blew past the left tackle and left guard and absolutely drilled Leftwich, resulting in an incomplete pass.
  • 4th & 15 (PIT 42): Sepulveda punted the ball 43 yards.
Drive #3 - Starts at DET 17 with 6:44 to play in the 1st
  • 1st & 10 (DET 17): Mendenhall attempted to run the ball up the middle, but the defensive line collapsed on him after only a yard. Corey Williams shed a block rather quickly to help to close the hole.
  • 2nd & 9 (DET 16): The Lions brought the house and Mendenhall had absolutely nowhere to run. Randy Phillips was the first defender to get into the backfield and took Mendenhall down by himself. Even if he hadn't made the tackle, there were four of five Lions waiting to make a hit of their own.
  • 3rd & 14 (DET 21): The Lions appeared to play zone and simply let Leftwich go underneath to Heath Miller for a gain of four yards. Since it was third and long, the Lions wanted to force Pittsburgh to throw the ball short, and that's exactly what happened.
  • 4th & 10 (DET 17): Jeff Reed made a 35-yard field goal.

The unit that stood out the most was the defensive line. Vanden Bosch made a few plays, including a couple great moves that led to hurried passes to avoid sacks. Williams did a good job of taking up space in the middle of the field. Ndamukong Suh was double-teamed, allowing his teammates to have more room to work with. Finally, Avril showed how good of a speed-rusher he can be by blowing past Flozell Adams for a vicious sack.

The linebackers and secondary really weren't tested all that much, as Pittsburgh didn't go downfield at all and the defensive line typically didn't allow rushes to get to the second level. The one time Mendenhall did have some space, Brown stripped him and turned a good run into no gain. That was good, as was the safety blitz by Phillips on a different Mendenhall run. He had absolutely nowhere to go, as Phillips timed the snap perfectly and was in his face as soon as the handoff was made.

All in all, I was extremely impressed with the first-team defense, and remember, that was without DeAndre Levy and Louis Delmas. The defensive line showed how explosive it can be, and although nothing too noteworthy happened with the linebackers and secondary, that's probably a good thing. Going forward, though, it will be interesting to see how those units play when teams do try to test them.