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Film Room: How the Detroit Lions secondary shut down Tom Brady

Detroit’s pass coverage was key to their win on Sunday night.

NFL: New England Patriots at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major stories out of the Detroit Lions Week 3 victory over the New England Patriots was Tom Brady’s quiet day. The future hall of fame quarterback only threw for 133 yards and a touchdown on 26 pass attempts. He also threw a rare interception to corner back Darius Slay late in the game.

The Lions did a great job taking advantage of the poor receivers on the Patriots offense. Detroit was willing to give up the shorter areas of the field to New England’s receivers if it meant giving themselves large cushions to avoid getting beat deep.

Detroit’s defense clearly had a goal to let nothing get behind him. They left a deep safety on almost every play and made sure they bracketed every receiver downfield.

On this play, the Lions had two different coverage strategies on each side of the field. On the top side of the field, Detroit was playing press coverage, but the corner was willing to let his man get behind him. Glover Quin was playing in a deep zone over the middle and while the corner cut off the inside throw, the safety cut off the outside throw. Detroit was in softer coverage on the other side of the field and the defenders were able to stick with the receivers they were tasked with covering.

The Lions knew that they could trust their defensive backs to hold the Patriots receivers in check downfield. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is the only real threat on New England’s receiving corps, but the Lions were prepared for him.

Detroit double-teamed Gronkowski all game. On this play, the tight end was lined up in three-point stance at the right end of the Patriots line. Quandre Diggs is playing soft man coverage on the tight end and as he breaks into his route, Quin joins him to double-team the tight end, taking away Brady’s primary read. With blanket coverage all around the board, the quarterback has nowhere to go with the ball and gets sacked.

The double-teams on Gronkowski put a huge dent in the Patriots offense. He’s the primary read on a lot of New England’s passing plays and he’s the only receiver on the team that Brady can trust every down. The long-time veteran quarterback looked flustered at times when his trusted partner was removed as a threat.

On this play, Brady rolled out of the pocket to make a rare throw on the run. Gronkowski ran a deep route across the middle of the field and the Lions locked him down. The other New England receiver on that side was blanketed in one-on-one coverage. Brady was a sitting duck once he was out of the pocket with no one to throw to and was eventually brought down for a sack.

While the Lions coverage was great for most of the day, they benefited heavily by Brady having an uncharacteristically poor performance. The quarterback had trouble coming off of his first read at times and would just not see open receivers.

On this play, Gronkowski occupied the attention of three different receivers. Another Patriots tight end, Dwayne Allen, springs free for a short pass with a lot of room to run in front of him. Brady instead goes to his check down in the flat and his off target throw flies out of bounds.

Brady’s poor day was a mix of a great game plan executed by their defense and a poor day from a great quarterback. Just like everything else from this surprising Sunday night upset, it was a touch of luck mixed with great, well executed play.

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