The Detroit Lions offense got off to a hot start and a strong finish. On the opening drive, the Lions went 85 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Detroit also scored touchdowns on four of their final five drives of the game (not including a one-play kneel down).
But in the middle of that touchdown sandwich was an ugly four-series stretch, in which the Lions went three-and-out three times in a row and capped that with a pick-six. In total, the Lions ran 11 offensive plays over that span, earning just 11 yards — one net yard when factoring in a holding penalty.
While there are plenty of positives to take from those five touchdown drives, it’s undeniable that this lull in offensive productivity put them in a really tough hole that Detroit was never fully able to crawl out of. So what went wrong?
Let’s take a closer look at each of the 11 plays in our Tuesday film breakdown.
Play 1: Jared Goff pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown goes for -2 yards
After dominating on the ground in the opening drive, the Lions come out with a nifty play-action play that had a ton of potential. A mixture of bad luck and excellent play from Marcus Epps caused the failure.
At first, this looks like an ideal scenario for the Lions. Detroit is throwing a bubble screen right into a corner blitz. The Eagles are sick of D’Andre Swift, so they get aggressive to try to stop him on first down.
The problem is the safety. Because he knows the corner is blitzing, he’s already aggressively moving towards the line of scrimmage before the snap comes. He’s already got momentum in chasing down St. Brown, and Penei Sewell is just barely late getting there.
It’s a shame, too, because this had big play written all over it. It was a great play call, just didn’t work out.
Play 2: D’Andre Swift rush right for 6 yards
One of the few “successful” plays during this stretch of plays. Decent blocks by T.J. Hockenson and Josh Reynolds to give Swift the edge. Swift falls forward to put the Lions in a third-and-short situation.
Play 3: Jared Goff incomplete to Amon-Ra St. Brown
The Eagles sent a blitz up the middle—sending more players than the Lions can block. This forces Goff’s internal clock to speed up, and he hesitates. When he first pumps, he has two easy options for first downs:
Hockenson is breaking wide open over the middle—but Goff never looks his way. That’s clearly not his first or second read, and with the blitz coming, you can forgive him for not getting to that progression.
It’s less forgivable to not just let this ball fly for Josh Reynolds, who is about to break open in the turkeyhole between the corner and safety. It’s not an easy pass to make, but Goff has the arm talent to do it. He doesn’t trust himself, though, and eventually takes the ball back before throwing off his back foot outside to St. Brown, when the Lions receiver cut back inside.
Play 4: D’Andre Swift rushes right for 1 yard
Pretty standard blocking setup for this first down toss. The trouble comes when center Frank Ragnow passes along rookie nose tackle Jordan Davis to left guard Jonah Jackson, while Ragnow heads to the second level. Davis, an absolute athletic freak, outruns Jackson to the right and ties up Ragnow enough to prevent him to get to the second level in time to take out the linebacker.
Swift is left with nowhere to go, so he puts his head down and gets as much as he can.
Play 5: D’Andre Swift up the middle for 2 yards
You know how they say that all it takes is one failed block to ruin a play. This is a perfect example of that.
Ragnow is perfectly sealing Davis from the left side of the hole, while Penei Sewell and Logan Stenberg have the right side of the hole sealed. Decker and Jackson are making sure no pressure come from the edges, and it’s just up to tight end Brock Wright to take out the linebacker....
Play 6: Jared Goff incomplete to DJ Chark
Eagles send another third-down blitz, and it’s not handled well by the Lions. Fletcher Cox attacks Penei Sewell, allowing Brandon Graham to slip by him on the edge. Meanwhile, Stenberg leaves Cox to take the blitzing linebacker, forcing Swift to travel the furthest to block Cox. Before the play can even develop, Goff is staring at this:
Goff is not his best under pressure, and he ultimately throws a different route than DJ Chark was running. I’m not capable of analyzing who was wrong in this scenario, but here’s how former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth described the situation on the FOX broadcast:
“Well, when you’re bringing that pressure, you’re expecting that hot read, right? You’re coming off here, you’re coming out this way, and you’re thinking, ‘Right now, run the out (route).’” Schlereth said. “And Chark doesn’t see the blitz coming from inside, not on the same page with the quarterback. He’s trying to get him on that hot (route).”
Play 7: Jared Goff pass to T.J. Hockenson incomplete
Play 8: Jared Goff pass to T.J. Hockenson broken up
Just a bad read from Goff. He never even sees the Eagles linebacker in zone coverage:
It’s an athletic play from Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards, but this is a poor decision all around. Hockenson lined up against Darius Slay is a poor enough matchup—and Hockenson gets no separation against the Pro Bowl cornerback. However, Goff did have Swift lined up against a linebacker for an easy short gain. Goff is lucky Edwards only got one hand on it and not both.
Play 9: Jared Goff pass incomplete to Amon-Ra St. Brown
Facing a third-and-10, the Lions kept Hockenson and Swift in to max protect, leaving just three receiving options for Goff. However, the Eagles just sent four, leaving seven defenders in coverage against three receivers. The Lions clearly expected Philly to send more third-down pressure, and it left them outnumbered.
No one even came close to breaking open, and Goff tried to force a pass to St. Brown that was nearly picked off by two different Eagles receivers. To be fair, it was a pretty nice pass in an incredibly small window:
This just feels like a poor play call, with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson banking on pressure that never came.
Play 10: Jamaal Williams rushes up the middle for 4 yards
Technically the Lions’ second “successful” play of this 11-play span. The Lions overload the left side of the line with Matt Nelson, Brock Wright, and T.J. Hockenson. This play likely should have gone for longer, but Williams trips over Nelson, who was looking for someone to block and just kinda stood in the hole.
Play 11: D’Andre Swift rushes right for 1 yard—holding on T.J. Hockenson
An Eagles edge defender aggressively crashes down from the offense’s left side of the formation, causing Swift to have two options: cut it to the left right behind him and try to beat the Eagles linebacker (#57) one-on-one, or kick it to the outside on the right and try to gain the edge.
He chooses unwisely, kicking it to the right. Hockenson has a good block on the play, but he has inside leverage (as the play was designed to have). When Swift goes to the outside, Hockenson’s only chance to hold off the defender is to literally hold him.
If Swift cuts up the middle, even if he doesn’t force the missed tackle, he likely picks up a couple yards to give Detroit a third-and-short. Instead, they’re now facing a second-and-16.
Play 12: Jared Goff intercepted by James Bradberry for touchdown
Two monster failures here. First is by right guard Logan Stenberg, who just immediately gets beat by Marlon Tuipulotu off the snap, causing Goff to take a big hit.
Goff said after the game, though, that the pressure had nothing to do with the mistake. I’ll agree to disagree there, but there certainly was a bigger issue: He and Hockenson weren’t on the same page.
This is the critical moment:
When Hock breaks his route, he’s looking right at the defender circled in green. The Eagles outside corner is crashing down and right in Hockenson’s route lane. Thinking this is zone coverage, Hockenson doesn’t want to run his route right into the waiting defender. Instead, he cuts his route up, hoping to find space between the linebacker all over him and the safety 15 yards upfield from him.
Goff clearly sees it differently. He sees the circled corner crashing down to defend the bubble screen option to D’Andre Swift at the top in man-on-man coverage.
It’s hard for me to know for sure what exactly the Eagles were doing here, but based on the defenders at the bottom of the screen, this did look like a zone coverage from the Eagles. Hockenson, in my opinion, made the right read on the choice route. Goff did not.
You be the judge:
Either way, I would like to see this play design include a pump fake to Swift to draw that cornerback further down and out of Hockenson’s route path, making it a much easier read for both the tight end and quarterback.