Coming off the heels of a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos, the Detroit Lions are looking to bounce back this week against the Arizona Cardinals.
It certainly won’t be easy. Arizona looks to be one of the premier teams in the NFC, and the Lions, like many teams around the NFL, are dealing with a myriad of injuries as well as a rash of COVID related issues.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Lions can hang around, and maybe, shock the world on their way to their second win of the season.
Contain Kyler Murray
If I am defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, I have been showing my defense plenty of tape from their Week 3 matchup against the 2019 NFL MVP - quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite losing the game in historic fashion on a 66-yard, record-breaking field goal, Detroit’s defense did an admirable job of keeping Jackson in check, limiting him to just 58 yards rushing. Much of that success can be attributed to how they kept Jackson contained within the pocket, not allowing him to evade the edge rush and extend plays with his legs.
Employing a similar strategy against Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray would be wise. Like Jackson, Murray is a dynamic athlete, capable of exposing tiny cracks in a defense. Whether it’s avoiding edge pressure, stepping up, and taking a shot downfield, or slipping through the middle of the defense when a defender jumps out of their rush lane, Murray has many ways to break a game open.
And while he has been excellent this year, Murray is still just 5-foot-10. If the Lions can collapse the pocket around him, get hands in passing lanes, and generally make life uncomfortable for the third year quarterback, it will go a long way in slowing this Arizona offense down.
Get Jared Goff’s confidence up early
Seemingly every week, one way or another, we talk about the Lions needing to establish the run in order to win. And make no mistake about it, I still believe that to be the case this week against the Cardinals.
But if we are being honest, the Cardinals are likely going to be able to score some points against this bruised and battered Lions defense. Keeping pace will be vital this week, and that means quarterback Jared Goff is going to need to push the ball down the field.
As of late, the Lions passing game has looked slightly better than early on in the 2021 season. Goff appears to be developing chemistry with rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and recently acquired veteran Josh Reynolds. And if you are head coach Dan Campbell, that is especially welcomed news.
D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and Jamaal Williams (reserve/COVID) have both been ruled out for Sunday’s game, and star tight end T.J. Hockenson was placed on IR this week, leaving an already limited Lions offense even more shorthanded.
To counter this, the Lions need to get Goff’s confidence up early on. Take those intermediate shots to St. Brown. Attack the seam like they did in their win against the Minnesota Vikings.
Keep the defense honest and more importantly, give yourself a fighting chance to try and keep pace with a team like Arizona.