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Lions film breakdown: How Detroit’s running game broke out vs. Raiders

Breaking down the All-22 Film of the Lions’ impressive performance on the ground in Week 8.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a lackluster showing in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Detroit Lions found themselves back home on Monday Night Football in Week 8—hosting the Las Vegas Raiders.

Despite the final score only being 26-14 in favor of the Lions, Detroit dominated the Raiders from start to finish—minus a brief period of the game where the Raiders’ offensive line seemed to find their rhythm. And even that didn’t last for long as the Lions defense routinely made Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo uncomfortable.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions dominated the line of scrimmage as the game wore on. Running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and Craig Reynolds racked up 226 yards on the ground—both averaging over five yards a pop.

Let’s get into the All-22 film and see how the Lions were able to impose their will on the Raiders’ front-seven.

Second-and-6 on the Las Vegas 39. 9:49 left in the first quarter

One of the more impressive aspects of the Lions’ performance against the Raiders was the fact that they were missing all three of their starters on the interior offensive line. Graham Glasgow got the start at center, with Kayode Awosika at left guard to start the game, and rookie Colby Sorsdal at right guard.

The Lions run an inside zone concept here, with Reynolds taking the handoff out of the shotgun. Awosika does a nice job of uprooting number 95 John Jenkins, allowing Glasgow to scrape by and climb to the second level where he gets a block on 41 Robert Spillane.

At the same time, right tackle Penei Sewell gets his body inside of 91 Bilal Nichols, giving Sorsdal time to get a block on 56 Amari Burney. The result is a crease that Reynolds is able to find his way through for a first down.

Second-and-2 on the Las Vegas 29. 1:35 left in the first quarter

While an 8-yard gain isn’t the flashiest play to highlight, I loved this design (which was a same-side counter) too much to not include it in the study. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson does a great job of incorporating various concepts out of different personnel groupings and looks. It isn’t anything overly complicated, but the amount of concepts the Lions show on tape definitely keeps defenses on their toes—especially when defending the run.

First off, notice the footwork from Gibbs prior to taking the handoff. The subtle steps taken give Glasgow and Awosika time to get out in front of their running back, while left tackle Taylor Decker does a fantastic job of sealing off his assignment.

Awosika gets a nice kick-out block on the edge defender, while Glasgow manages to simply get in the way, springing Gibbs to the second level where a shoestring tackle by 1 Marcus Epps may have stopped Gibbs from breaking off a big run early in the game.

I see you blocking out on that edge, Sam LaPorta. More from the Lions’ record-setting rookie tight end later on.

First-and-10 on the Detroit 44. 13:01 left in the 3rd quarter

Next up we have the Lions once again working out of the shotgun—this time in 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end), with Gibbs taking a delayed handoff from quarterback Jared Goff.

Left tackle Taylor Decker allows the edge defender to freely run up the field, making life easy for a back that has the game-breaking speed of Gibbs. LaPorta immediately climbs to the second level and gets a block on 41 Spillane, and before the Raiders defense has time to think, Gibbs is off and running.

One detail I almost missed was the job wide receiver Josh Reynolds does on the outside. Coming off the ball, Reynolds sells as if he is going to block cornerback 21 Amik Robertson lined up in front of him, before setting his sights on Epps at the last second.

It’s subtle, but it freezes the corner for just a second, making life even more difficult for a defensive back that is attempting to tackle Gibbs in space.

Gibbs spins out of Robertson’s tackle and is able to pick up more yards before finally being taken down by Raiders’ reinforcements.

Second-and-5 on the Detroit 30. 11:01 left in the 3rd quarter

One thing the Lions’ running game consistently did on Monday night was put the Raiders’ linebackers between a rock and a hard place. Take the rep below for example.

Sure, the Las Vegas defensive front didn’t do their linebackers and safeties any favors with how they were so often being moved off of the line of scrimmage. Both defensive tackles fail to anchor and hold their position.

Sewell is able to latch onto his assignment and get his hips around, creating a wall between the running lane and defender. Sorsdal gets a hat on Spillane, and Glasgow and Awosika blow Jenkins completely off the ball, giving Reynolds options.

When a running game is clicking like the Lions’ was, it puts immense stress on a team’s second level defenders. Not only are they tasked with bringing down the ball carrier, they often are having to shed interior offensive linemen to even have a shot at making the tackle.

Not really a recipe for defensive success.

First-and-10 on the Las Vegas 21. 7:03 left in the 3rd quarter

This is another of my favorite plays from Week 8, and unlike the other plays in this article, this one wasn’t really blocked all that well.

From the second view, keep an eye on the right side of your screen, where you have both LaPorta and tight end Brock Wright in-line next to Sewell. Lined up across from LaPorta is All-Pro edge rusher Maxx Crosby.

For my money, Crosby is one of the best run defenders in the entire league, and with the design of this play running right at him, it makes sense as to why the Lions’ offense would devote two blockers to try and neutralize him.

However, once the ball is snapped, Crosby makes short work of Wright with a swim move of sorts—leaving Wright stumbling past the edge defender. If I had to guess, I would assume LaPorta’s job was to chip Crosby on his way to the second level. But because of the aforementioned stumble, things had to change on the fly.

LaPorta does a great job of staying in front of Crosby, and is even able to somewhat seal him. This gives the speedy Gibbs plenty of room to turn the corner before being tackled down inside the five-yard line.

It wasn’t pretty, and in the NFL, it rarely is going to be. But this rep illustrates how the Lions’ offense is growing as a unit, and how not everything has to be perfect for them to find success.

First-and-10 on the Las Vegas 27. 3:13 left in the 3rd quarter

Last, but certainly not least, we have Gibbs’ 27-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. Working under center, the Lions are in a tight formation—with a tight end and receiver on each side of the ball.

Keep your eye on tight end Brock Wright, who is going to run towards the top of your screen once the ball is snapped, and gets one heck of a block on Crosby on the backside of this split-zone concept.

And to the Raiders’ credit, this wasn’t a terrible run-fit by any means. This was just a case of Gibbs doing an excellent job of getting “skinny” in the hole, and turning on the burners once he was out of the muck.

How fast is Gibbs? Fast enough that his right tackle felt comfortable throwing up the touchdown signal while Gibbs was on the 15-yard line with a defender still to beat.

Since taking over playcalling duties, Ben Johnson continues to keep things fresh for the Lions’ offense, which in turn keeps opposing defenses guessing. And with Gibbs rounding into form and running back David Montgomery on the mend, I can’t imagine many defenses are overly excited about a matchup with the Lions’ diverse, and high-powered offense.

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