Lions film review: Breaking down the killer play from each of Seattle’s eight drives

Detroit News

After reviewing the Detroit Lions’ defensive breakdowns from the team’s Week 3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, I was hopeful to be able to change up the focus this week. Unfortunately, the game results dictate the topic, and for as well as the offense performed, the defense played worse in a 48-45 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks never punted on Sunday, either scoring a touchdown or attempting a field goal to conclude each of their eight possessions, prior to having the luxury of taking a knee to end the contest. As you might imagine, so much went wrong for the Lions’ defense in defeat, but for the sake of brevity (something we often lack with these film reviews), we’re going to dissect the key play for each of Seattle’s eight drives to determine where Detroit is coming up short.

First drive

Taking the opening kickoff, Seattle proceeded to drive 75 yards on 11 plays, deploying a variety of challenging formations and misdirection, which kept the Lions off balance throughout the series. Explosive plays weren’t an immediate issue for the Lions, who limited the Seahawks to a modest 32 yards through the first eight snaps. And after a false start, the opponent faced third-and-7 near midfield, providing the defense a good opportunity for an early stop.

Instead of leaning on the blitz, as the Lions often do in third-down passing situations, the team dropped eight into coverage, providing linebacker Alex Anzalone the flexibility to join the pass rush if the running back stayed in protection. Playing man coverage with a two-high safety shell, the deep support provided immediate and effective double-teams on Seattle’s two dangerous receiving threats, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

But the rush not only failed to get home, both Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris were driven beyond the pocket, something you should always avoid against a quarterback with even modest dual-threat ability. With Anzalone preoccupied with the back, and the secondary tracking four downfield routes, the sea parted for Geno Smith, who took off and was able to gain 17 yards on the scramble, keeping the drive alive. Three plays later, the Seahawks were in the end zone, kick-starting their scoring bonanza.

Second drive

Far less methodical than the opening series, the Seahawks went to the air, connecting on three consecutive passes for 57 yards to open this touchdown drive. The third was particularly brutal because the Lions drew a roughing-the-passer infraction on top of Metcalf’s 21-yard reception.

With Seattle in 12 personnel (two tight ends, one running back, two receivers) and presenting a run look out of a condensed formation, the Lions countered with a Cover-4 (quarters) zone, allowing the defensive backs to keep eyes in the backfield.

The breakdown occurs because rookie safety Kerby Joseph is playing too deep (18 yards pre-snap), showing too much respect to Metcalf’s ability to win deep and conceding excessive space on the post pattern, while Anzalone, as the middle-field defender, isn’t deep enough to deter the throw after being sucked in by the play fake.

As for the rush, the Lions sent five, but couldn’t get home. Defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, working a twist with Harris, was able to push the pulling tight end back into the pocket, but when Smith got rid of the ball in time, Buggs made a poor decision to throw a forearm into the QB’s face, drawing a flag for the obvious hit to the head.

Third drive

Gifted a short field after Dominik Eberle sent the kickoff out of bounds, Seattle only needed a handful of plays to work into field-goal range. And while Julian Okwara conceding the edge on a 13-yard Kenneth Walker III carry is noteworthy — given the Lions’ continued struggles to prevent damage on runs outside the tackles — it was the inability to learn from a mistake on the first drive that allowed the Seahawks to put more points on the board.

Facing second-and-25 after Walker III held Okwara, and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez blew up a screen on the replaying of first down, the Lions were one again in position to squash a scoring threat. Instead, just like on the opening drive, the edge rushers went wide past the pocket and collided, providing Smith with a sizeable lane to scramble and gain back 13 yards. That put the Seahawks on the edge of field-goal range, leading to Jason Myers’ 56-yard make.

Fourth drive

Following a fumble recovery, the Seahawks quickly found themselves in a hole after a premature block on a wide-receiver screen drew a flag for offensive pass interference. A modest, 6-yard pickup on the replay of the down left Seattle with a second-and-14 from their own 44-yard line.

With no pretense of running, the Seahawks emptied the backfield, spreading out five receiving options. The Lions countered with Cover-1 man, with DeShon Elliott as the deep safety, while adding Hutchinson to the coverage mix, dropping him into a short zone to help take away any shallow crossing patterns.

But Seattle wasn’t thinking shallow. The pre-snap plan was to throw deep to Metcalf, working wide left against Jeff Okudah. And it was a battle the receiver won, starting his route outside, but crossing the corner’s face once Metcalf got Okudah’s hips turned toward the sideline.

Smith got the ball out quickly, as his receiver got a step, and delivered an on-target strike. Elliott, playing from middle field, reacted quickly but never had a chance to make a play. Furthermore, the safety’s hesitation to commit to an angle after the catch allowed Metcalf to gain an additional 36 yards, taking it down to the 2-yard line.

Fifth drive

Seattle continued to pour it on with explosive plays, opening up this possession with another deep ball to Metcalf, again besting the man coverage of Okudah for 26 yards, thanks to a perfect delivery from Smith. But a 26-yard run on the next snap was more deflating.

Utilizing 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back) and taking a snap out of shotgun with running back Rashaad Penny offset to the quarterback’s left, the Lions had little choice but to counter the look with a lighter defensive box.

Credit to Seattle, the initial blocking on the right-side run is well-executed. Hutchinson is stood up on the edge by pulling guard Damien Lewis, while tight end Will Dissly does an outstanding job driving Rodriguez out of his gap in the second level. Additionally, right tackle Abraham Lucas is able to break off his double-team of defensive tackle Alim McNeill, sealing Anzalone inside.

Detroit’s defensive backs were at fault for letting a good gain turn into a great one. Joseph, seeing Lockett coming from the outside to dig him out, lowered his head into the contact, allowing the receiver to simply move out the way and let the rookie safety take himself out of the play. And with an opportunity to limit the damage, cornerback Amani Oruwariye got caught flat-footed in the open field and whiffed on the tackle attempt as Penny angled to the sideline and picked up an additional 14 yards.

Sixth drive

An absolutely brutal series after Detroit’s offense had cut the lead to one score with a touchdown and successful two-point conversion. Poor awareness and tackling issues allowed Seattle to work out of a couple of difficult situations, but none more difficult than the third-and-16 they faced at Detroit’s 36.

While we can acknowledge the flukiness of the Lions seemingly actually getting a stop, only for the officials to rule the play had been killed prior to the snap due to clock issues, it’s no excuse for what came next.

With a quarter still to be played, it’s understandable the Lions expected the Seahawks to pass in this situation, if only to trim a few more yards from a Myers kick. That’s why they loaded up the line of scrimmage with eight defenders, designed to stress the line with determining how many are coming after the QB.

But the Seahawks had a counter up their sleeve with a shotgun run call. The guards executed flawlessly, with right guard Gabe Jackson holding up the inside of the lane and Lewis effectively clearing out Austin Bryant on the pull block.

With everyone at the line, Penny was able to fire through the hole into the second level with only Oruwariye to beat. A shoulder dip by the back was all that was needed to get the cornerback leaning the wrong way, resulting in an ankle-breaking missed tackle and a clear path to the end zone.

Seventh drive

After getting out of a first-and-20 hole to start the drive, Seattle put itself into scoring range with another explosive pass play, beating an aggressive Detroit blitz call on second down.

Trusting three defensive backs on islands against a trio of outside receiving options, the Lions sent the house after Smith on the snap near midfield. And the pressure call worked as designed, with Hutchinson coming through the line unblocked and quickly delivering a big hit to the quarterback as he threw.

Unfortunately, the coverage didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Oruwariye, instead of using the sideline to his advantage, got twisted around by a juke at the top of Lockett’s route before the receiver cut inside. That created significant separation, enough that Lockett was able to easily adjust to the altered and underthrown pass for a 36-yard gain.

Eighth drive

A final counterpunch, the last nail in the coffin, Penny’s 41-yard touchdown run on third-and-5 to push the lead back to two scores with 2:14 remaining.

Again, the Seahawks were in shotgun with the back offset to the left, and again, the Lions crowded the line of scrimmage, presumably wary of being beaten by the pass.

On the snap, the Seahawks flashed a zone-read look. The play of two defenders, a pair of former Baltimore Ravens, merits questioning. First, Elliott funnels to the left side of Seattle’s formation as a pair of blockers pull right. If he was the keeper defender, fine, that makes sense, but Harris appeared in position to make that play from the edge, making Elliott’s presence redundant and taking away a defender from the actual direction of the run.

Secondly, linebacker Chris Board pinches down too far from the right side, giving up the edge to Penny. It may not have mattered, since the Seahawks had two pulling blockers leading the way, but at the very least, Board could have created more traffic, slowing the back’s feet and giving time for help to arrive.

Some will question what Will Harris was doing on the play, the cornerback to the outside, but he was in man coverage and sticking to a receiver convincingly selling a route, which preoccupied the defensive back’s eyes and kept the lane clear.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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