The Detroit Lions secondary had absolutely no answers for Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and star receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa completed over 80 percent of his passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns. Both Hill and Waddle eclipsed 100 yards, as Miami scored 31 points and punted just once the entire game.
After the game, coach Dan Campbell said the players failed to execute the physical game plan they had designed to slow Miami’s lethal passing attack.
“We didn’t hit them,” Campbell said. “We didn’t hit them at the line. That was part of the game plan. We didn’t disrupt. We did not disrupt, and when you let them do that and get into your defense—we didn’t want to turn it into a track meet and it was a track meet.”
Going into the week, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn talked specifically about the need to be physical with Miami’s receivers. His words were almost identical to Campbell’s.
“Get your hands on them,” Glenn said on Thursday. “Don’t let them utilize what they have. You always want to put yourself in an advantageous situation, and our guys are bigger, lengthier guys, so that’s something that we’re going to get a chance to do on those guys, be able to get our hands on them, just disrupt them. The one thing that you can’t do, just allow receivers into the teeth of your defense, and when you do that, usually bad things happen.”
The Lions did allow Hill and Waddle into the teeth of their defense. Bad things happened. Time after time Hill and Waddle, unchallenged, burned by Detroit’s slower secondary. Lions nickel corner, AJ Parker, was particularly victimized by Miami’s offense, which may not be that big of a surprise considering Parker is just 5-foot-11, 185 pounds—a physical mismatch in just about every way.
While Campbell was clearly frustrated that the players didn’t execute the game plan he wanted, he was quick to point the blame inward, too.
“It’s all of us,” Campbell said. “When this is the result, it’s on every one of us, including myself.”
When asked if the Lions may consider giving more time to Jerry Jacobs (5-foot-11, 203)—a more physical corner—going forward, Campbell didn’t hesitate.
“Oh yeah, we’re going to be looking at Jerry,” Campbell said. “We’ll be looking at everybody.”
Jacobs only recently returned from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after suffering a torn ACL last December. Last week, he played in just a single defensive snap against the Cowboys, and he looked to mostly be on special teams against Miami, as well. Detroit is still acclimating him to game speed, but it sounds like they’re getting close to trusting him more.
“We want to make sure Jerry is ready to go and then let him compete and see where he is,” Campbell said. “We still feel like last week was a step in continuing to get his confidence back, getting his legs under him. And that started with (special) teams, and he got a little bit more in this department. And once we feel like, ‘Okay, he’s right. He can take the load,’ and he competitively is better than one of the other guys, then he’s going to get his chance.”
Will Jacobs, an undrafted second-year player, be enough to turn around one of the worst passing defenses in the league? It seems unlikely, but it can’t hurt at this point.