Darius Slay’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles will likely be remembered for his back-to-back plays that ended the game. First, he forced a fumble that gave the Detroit Lions the ball back in Eagles’ territory, leading to the game-winning score. On the very next offensive play for the Eagles, Slay picked off Carson Wentz deep down field which put to bed any chances of another Eagles comeback.
We’ll get to those two plays in a moment, but Slay’s big fourth quarter started well before those two plays. In fact, let’s start with the Eagles’ first possession of the final quarter, which pushed Philadelphia into the lead for the first time. The Eagles were easily driving the ball down the field and were threatening to score a touchdown.
Facing a key third-and-5 at the Lions’ 31-yard line, Slay made his first big play of the day, ensuring Philadelphia would have to settle for a long field goal attempt:
Lined up in man coverage opposite Nelson Agholor, Slay is giving his man a fair amount of cushion. Obviously, he wants to keep his man in front of him and not risk giving up a touchdown, but if he can, he obviously wants to prevent Agholor from reaching the sticks.
This cushion appears to be too much to make up. Check out how much space is between Slay and Agholor when the ball is already halfway to the Eagles receiver.
But Slay is able to make up the ground and break up the pass to force a fourth down.
The very next defensive play for the Lions displayed another one of Slay’s skills—his determination—and it prevented a huge play from happening.
With the Eagles already up one and simply trying to run clock, they called a quick pass and did so at the perfect time:
The Lions are blitzing Quandre Diggs, leaving Slay completely on an island to both shed a block and make a play on the receiver who catches the ball. Here’s what happens:
Slay fights through the block and gets a hand on the receiver, nearly bringing him down. Even though he doesn’t make the tackle, he knocks the Eagles player backwards, giving both Tavon Wilson and Diggs enough time to recover and hold Philadelphia to a minimal gain. Considering this play could have been much, much worse, Slay deserves a lot of credit here.
Now, let’s move on to the good stuff. Just five plays later, Slay forced a fumble that would change the course of the rest of the game, but he wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of a teammate. Fran Duff, video manager for the Eagles, breaks it down nicely below:
Wilson shoots the gap at the snap and occupies two blocks. That, in turn, frees up Slay to make the open field tackle on his own, and Slay puts his hat right on the ball, jarring the football loose.
Slay then ended the game on the very next defensive snap, pulling down an interception on a well-defended pass.
Slay was in great position to intercept this pass, but was also aided by a poor throw from Wentz. On a ball that was thrown to the outside of the receiver, despite the fact that he had inside leverage, Wentz made his first costly mistake. There was some that argued Slay interfered with Agholor, and indeed, Slay did get his hands on Agholor:
You can see Slay subtly grabs Agholor’s arm with his right hand, slightly pulling him off balance. You could definitely make the argument of pass interference here, but it’s done very sneakily and I’m not really sure it was enough to warrant a flag. Still, I understand Eagles fans’ frustration here.
Either way, it was a good play from Slay because he was in position to make a play, turned his head to locate the ball and snagged the ball away from Agholor.
Without all four of these plays, the Lions may not have won this game. But that’s why they call him Big Play Slay.