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

Watch the face mask, bro.
Watch the face mask, bro.

The Lions' first-team defense was on the field during the first half, taking part in four possessions. In all, the Lions forced one turnover, one three and out and allowed two touchdowns. On the final drive of the half, which was when Denver scored one of its touchdowns, the Lions' second-team defensive line went into the game and Detroit went into more of a prevent look.

Drive #1 - Starts at DEN 20 with 10:37 to play in the 1st
  • 1st & 10 (DEN 20): Denver went with a five-wide shotgun set and Kyle Orton's pass was a bit off target and incomplete. Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams all put pressure on Orton to force the rushed and inaccurate pass.
  • 2nd & 10 (DEN 20): Lance Ball got the handoff and moved the ball for a gain of four. He made a nice cut and kept the pile moving to pick up an extra yard or two.
  • 3rd & 6 (DEN 24): The Lions ran an interesting formation where Avril and Ndamukong Suh lined up outside of Denver's right tackle, Vanden Bosch lined up outside of the left tackle and Corey Williams was over the left guard. DeAndre Levy and Julian Peterson filled in the gaps a bit but dropped off into coverage. The formation would have resulted in a sack had Suh not tripped after he completely ran over the right tackle. It was reminiscent of when Jeff Backus got run over against Pittsburgh and would have resulted in a sack if Suh would have stayed up. Instead Orton scrambled to the outside and completed a pass to Eddie Royal for a big gain. Luckily, an illegal formation penalty negated the play.
  • 3rd & 11 (DEN 19): With Suh lined up as a defensive end, the Lions' D-line blew up Denver's O-line and put lots of pressure on Orton. He did manage to get rid of the ball before he went down, but the pass went for only five yards. Unfortunately, Vanden Bosch made the absolutely awful decision to jump on the pile well after the play was over and was flagged for a personal foul, extending the drive. Had no penalty occurred, the Lions would have forced Denver to go three and out. Instead he kept the drive alive. A veteran like KVB just can't make that mistake.
  • 1st & 10 (DEN 39): Orton overthrew Brandon Lloyd downfield on a play-action.
  • 2nd & 10 (DEN 39): Orton completed an underneath pass for a gain of five yards. Two Lions were on Eric Decker and brought him down immediately.
  • 3rd & 5 (DEN 44): Orton's pass was underthrown and incomplete, but the referees flagged Chris Houston for pass interference. It was really an awful call, because the receiver jumped on Houston's back to try to get back to the ball. Houston had good position and did not initiate the contact.
  • 1st & 10 (DET 38): Ball gained seven yards on a toss to the left. Randy Phillips came flying in on a great pursuit angle to make the tackle.
  • 2nd & 3 (DET 31): The Lions put eight men in the box and stuffed Ball for no gain on a run right up the middle. This was definitely a good call, as the Lions recognized run and left Denver with no room to go anywhere.
  • 3rd & 3 (DET 31): Detroit brought the house and Orton got the pass off and found Jabar Gaffney on a curl route for a gain of six. Houston was playing soft on Gaffney and simply got beat.
  • 1st & 10 (DET 25): The Broncos tried to run the ball to left but Williams and Vanden Bosch quickly got into the backfield and Phillips again flew in to finish off the ball carrier.
  • 2nd & 11 (DET 26): Orton's pass bounced off the hands of Ball and went right to Dre Bly, who picked off the pass and ran down the sideline and back to the Denver 27. I was surprised to see how slow Bly looked on the interception, because he had room to take it to the house but was caught by a few Broncos. Also, Bly didn't seem to learn from his showboating mistake in San Francisco last year, as he was still carrying the ball with only one hand and easily could have had it stripped. It was good that he picked off the pass, but the interception return was very unimpressive.
Drive #2 - Starts at DEN 20 with 5:11 to play in the 1st
  • 1st & 10 (DEN 20): Justin Fargas picked up two yards before DeAndre Levy and a couple other Lions brought him down. Fargas was almost brought down in the backfield but barely escaped the grasp of Suh.
  • 2nd & 8 (DEN 22): Orton stepped up and was nearly brought down by Vanden Bosch and Suh. He got away from both of them, though, and completed a pass for a big gain. The play was negated by a holding penalty, however, backing Denver up to their 12-yard line.
  • 2nd & 18 (DEN 12): A screen pass to Fargas went for eight yards before Vanden Bosch brought him down.
  • 3rd & 10 (DEN 20): Orton had time but his pass downfield was a bit off target and hit the ground for an incompletion.
  • 4th & 10 (DEN 20): Denver's punt went 46 yards.
Drive #3 - Starts at DEN 20 with 13:18 to play in the 2nd
  • 1st & 10 (DEN 20): Vanden Bosch and Williams grabbed a hold of Orton, who quickly ran out of time to throw the ball after a fake handoff. Vanden Bosch stripped the ball, but the referee and his quick whistle blew the play dead just as the ball came free. Had there not been a whistle, Avril would have picked the ball up and potentially ran for a touchdown. Instead it was only a sack and a loss of seven yards.
  • 2nd & 17 (DEN 13): A quick pass to Royal went for a gain of eight yards because Bly missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage. Royal didn't have much trouble making him miss and turned third and extremely long into third and manageable.
  • 3rd & 9 (DEN 21): Orton stepped up and found Gaffney for a gain of 19 yards. Eric King was flagged for defensive holding, but it was declined. Despite holding Gaffney, King still lost track of him in coverage and let him get open for the solid gain.
  • 1st & 10 (DEN 40): Fargas was flipped by Zack Follett for only a gain of two yards.
  • 2nd & 8 (DEN 42): King never turned around, allowing Gaffney to make a nice catch on the sideline for another gain of 19 yards. (There's a theme to this drive, and it's King getting toasted.)
  • 1st & 10 (DET 39): Suh brought down Ball after he found a hole for a gain of four yards.
  • 2nd & 6 (DET 35): The Lions stuffed the run for no gain but accepted an illegal motion penalty, backing Denver up five yards.
  • 2nd & 11 (DET 40): Denver spread the field and gained five yards on a pass to Lloyd. The Lions blitzed the corner on Lloyd, leaving him open to make the catch, but Phillips closed quickly to bring him down.
  • 3rd & 6 (DET 35): Suh tipped Orton's pass, knocking it down and bringing up fourth down.
  • 4th & 6 (DET 35): Denver decided to go for it and Orton simply threw the ball to Gaffney on the sideline again. Just like the last two times the ball went to Gaffney, King never even turned around to look at the ball, allowing Gaffney to make the catch to move the chains.
  • 1st & 10 (DET 21): Ball was tripped up and brought down by Turk McBride, picking up only two yards.
  • 2nd & 8 (DET 19): Orton found his tight end for four yards on a play-action bootleg. C.C. Brown made the tackle.
  • 3rd & 4 (DET 15): Ball split out as a receiver and caught a pass in the middle of the field. It looked like the play would barely move the chains, but Ball shook off a poor tackle attempt by Follett and jumped into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
  • TD DRIVE: 12 plays, 5:43 time of possession
Drive #4 - Starts at DEN 20 with 0:59 to play in the 2nd (Note: The second-team defensive line came into the game for this drive.)
  • 1st & 10 (DEN 20): Orton had time and found a wide-open Gaffney in the middle of the field for 16 yards.
  • 1st & 10 (DEN 36): Running the no-huddle offense, Orton stepped up and found Gaffney wide open again, this time for a gain of 24 yards.
  • 1st & 10 (DET 40): Coming out of a timeout, Orton looked for Gaffney on the sidelines again but simply threw it a hair too far out of bounds, resulting in Gaffney not being able to get his feet down inbounds.
  • 2nd & 10 (DET 40): Orton again stepped up and found a man for 13 yards. King and Brown were right there to make the tackle.
  • 1st & 10 (DET 27): After another timeout, Orton had all day and found his tight end for five yards. Follett made the tackle and both Denver and Detroit called timeouts one right after the other following this play.
  • 2nd & 5 (DET 22): Orton threw the ball out of the end zone, but a personal foul on Willie Young (face mask penalty) gave Denver 11 free yards and an automatic first down.
  • 1st & 10 (DET 11): Orton hit an open tight end, who quickly got into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown.
  • TD DRIVE: 6 plays; 0:56 time of possession

The first two defensive drives for the Lions should have been three-and-outs for Denver. A Kyle Vanden Bosch penalty unfortunately kept the first drive going, although Detroit ultimately ended up picking off a pass to set up a Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson touchdown. The second drive was a three and out, so all in all the first-team defense did well in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the secondary struggled as the Broncos started airing the ball out more. Eric King especially had a tough time lining up as a regular cornerback rather than a nickel back. As a result, Denver was able to keep moving the chains by converting on third and even fourth down and eventually scored a touchdown as a result. (It should be noted that a quick whistle prevented the Lions from forcing and recovering a fumble that would have ended this drive on the first play.)

When the Broncos went to the hurry up on the final drive of the half, the Lions' secondary struggled even more. Granted, the second-team defensive line was in the game and the Lions went to the prevent, but it was not fun to watch Denver march down the field 80 yards in only 56 seconds.

Overall, the entire defensive line was once again impressive, especially Ndamukong Suh, who made things happen both as a defensive tackle and as a defensive end in some third-down situations. At linebacker, Zack Follett struggled in coverage, but DeAndre Levy had a solid outing. In the secondary, I was once again very impressed by the play of Randy Phillips, who was all over the field making plays. King flat out stunk, but again, that is why his role is usually to strictly be a nickel back.

All in all, the first two drives went pretty well, but the last two left a lot to be desired with the secondary. Then again, the Lions were without Jonathan Wade, and if he was playing instead of King, things would have gone a lot better for Detroit.