When the Detroit Lions signed James Ihedigbo this offseason, he wasn't projected by many to be much of a factor, some even deeming him not worthy of a starting role in the NFL. After being relegated to the bench with a shoulder injury through the first three games, I even began to wonder if he would make any impact this season. After all, the Lions had been a top-five defense without him in the lineup.
All he's done since coming back into the starting lineup is make impact plays (and prove me wrong). In six games he has two sacks, two defended passes, two forced fumbles and an interception.
This sounds strange, but the Ravens miss James Ihedigbo. Has been big for Lions.— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) November 12, 2014
No play may have been bigger than his interception against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The impact doesn't feel as big because of the ensuing turn of events -- Matthew Stafford threw an interception on the very next play -- but with Miami in the red zone, it was at least a three-point swing.
The Dolphins are facing a third-and-7 from the Lions' 19-yard line. They line up with a 3 x 2 receiver set. The guy Ryan Tannehill zeroes in on is rookie tight end Harold Hoskins (No. 89). Hoskins initially starts the play in the backfield, but Tannehill quickly motions him into the slot on his right side.
Hoskins is clearly Tannehill's first read. Directly after the snap he looks his way. What causes it to be an interception is a combination of pass rush and savvy play in the secondary -- a formula that has launched the Lions' defense into the No. 1 spot in the league.
Before the snap the Lions bring both DeAndre Levy and Tahir Whitehead down into an A-gap pressure look. This forces the offensive line to at least account for them as pass rushers. At the snap, however, both back out into coverage.
You'll want to pay attention to Ndamukong Suh here. He attacks the right tackle's outside shoulder and forces both him and the right guard to double-team him. This gives George Johnson a free release at Tannehill. Neither guy is quick enough to react to Johnson, and his quick pressure forces Tannehill to throw it to his first read -- Hoskins in the slot.
This is where Ihedigbo just makes a great read on the play. Just as Hoskins turns to make his cut to the outside, Ihedigbo is already crashing in on the throw. It simply didn't stand a chance.