Some weeks, the film review of the most recent Detroit Lions game can be a lot of fun. Other times, it’s an agonizingly painful recall of a brutal loss.
For the Week 2 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, the Lions film review was somewhere in between. The loss certainly hurt, but the film review put some things into a better perspective of where the Lions got beat and how they came up just short in the overtime loss.
Here are some of the primary takeaways from watching the coach’s tape as well as the broadcast feed for a second time.
Jerry Jacobs had a bad day with no help against a very smart offense
The Seahawks present a lot of coverage challenges with divergently skilled Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf as one of the best WR tandems in the league. On Sunday, Lions CB Jerry Jacobs found out the hard way just how good they are.
Seahawks QB Geno Smith looked to attack Jacobs down the field frequently. Left on an island against Metcalf — one of the most physically freakish wideouts in the league — Jacobs couldn’t handle him. Few can; it’s why Metcalf is a Pro Bowler. Most defenses try to mitigate Metcalf by shading help his way, or playing more zone, or by blitzing from his side to force Smith to move away. Detroit didn’t really do any of that.
Smith and the Seahawks were smart to recognize that Jacobs also couldn’t handle the initial quickness and route precision of the smaller Lockett.
The touchdown Lockett scored on a shallow drag route in the red zone is a perfect example. The Seahawks understand Jacobs wants to force Lockett inside into traffic and not get beat on the short corner. But Lockett’s release is so clean and quick that Jacobs can’t catch up. There is no help inside thanks to the other route combinations.
Tyler Lockett’s spatial awareness is second to none. pic.twitter.com/gYdcVnYYZg
— Mike Kennedy (@MikeKennedyNFL) September 17, 2023
That’s a combination of coverage that isn’t good enough from Jacobs, a brilliant play design and recognition from Seattle, and the Lions defense put Jacobs in a very tough spot to have to try and defend one of the NFL’s most consistent producers in the red zone all by himself.
The coverage issues for Jacobs can be aided. He’s played much better than this game in both zone and man coverage. The utter failure of the pass rush (more on that in a minute) certainly didn’t help him either. But the missed tackles are things Jacobs can control and must work at on his own. Diving at feet is not going to work. It was uncharacteristic from Jacobs and he needs to prove it was just a really bad game against a really good opponent.
The pass rush, or lack thereof
In the heat of watching the game on Sunday, it sure felt like the Lions’ pass rush was terrible. It was the lead takeaway after the game.
The rewatch and All-22 made me feel better about the pass rush. Well, aspects of it anyway. Aidan Hutchinson was very good and highly impactful despite not registering a single QB hit. The Seahawks devoted two (and sometimes more) blockers to him on all but three of his pass rush attempts, by my count. And despite playing a ridiculously high number of snaps, Hutchinson was still impacting the offensive attack deep into the game. Hutchinson’s presence effectively eliminated the pass to the RBs, something Seattle typically uses a lot more than they could in Detroit in Week 2.
One thing stood out quickly on the rewatch: Seattle had a well-conceived plan. They used ever-changing personnel packages and alignments to never let Lions DC Aaron Glenn dictate the action. It was clear on the coaching tape; the Lions defenders were always pointing, scrambling, adjusting pre-snap to the Seahawks, not vice versa.
And when the Lions showed blitz, Smith and the Seahawk smartly opted for the quick passing game. It was uncanny how well they identified and reacted to pressure.
For me, that helped explain the relative lack of blitzing and also a lot of the coverage confusion–and there was A LOT of that. But from the front three or four, that shouldn’t change their pass rush plan. The issue here was there was no real plan beside the simple mission of “go beat your guy.”
Beating your guy is easier said than done. An utter lack of creativity from Alim McNeill, Benito Jones, John Cominsky and Levi Onwuzurike as interior rushers was plainly obvious. This is where some stunts, twists, pre-snap shifting —anything at all, would have been worth trying. The tape review confirmed the first impression from Sunday. The DL played poorly as both individuals and collectively.
Sewell at LT, Nelson at RT
This was something I wanted to focus on after all the consternation in the day leading up to the game about how the Lions would replace injured LT Taylor Decker. The answer was to switch Penei Sewell from right tackle to left tackle and insert Matt Nelson in Sewell’s spot on the right side.
By and large, it worked pretty well.
Neither tackle allowed a sack. Unofficially, I had Sewell marked for three QB pressures and Nelson for two, though one of the ones on Sewell was more of a communication/assignment gaffe between him and left guard Jonah Jackson — who played maybe the worst game of his Lions career on Sunday.
In run blocking, Nelson proved better than I expected, which is admittedly more about my low expectations for him than it is about Nelson’s results. He was good at engaging with balance and some power. He didn’t hold (much) when defenders tried to pull away, which is a good sign. I thought Nelson also used his length well in protecting the edge in pass protection.
Sewell wasn’t as aggressively hostile in the run game on the left side. He also had some issues with the quicker defenders avoiding his initial surge. The play where David Montgomery fumbled is an excellent example; Sewell got spun around after firing out with the wrong arm. It didn’t impact the play, and actually led Sewell to be in the best initial position to recover the fumble.
It could be more of a function of Sewell just not practicing there and being comfortable. He’s earned that benefit of the doubt. That’s something to watch if the Lions have to run this alignment out again in Week 3.
–Best player on the field for Detroit: LB Derrick Barnes. PFF got that one right. Barnes made four tackles in run defense. Seattle gained a net total of one yard on those four tackles.
–It was hard to tell C.J. Gardner-Johnson was playing injured other than one atrocious missed tackle attempt in the third quarter.
–The pass interference penalty against Kerby Joseph on the play where Metcalf was also flagged for a facemask foul was even more infuriating upon further review. Joseph wasn’t guilty at all, not even with Metcalf yanking him around illegally.
–Two plays after that was the Lions’ best defensive play of the game. The pressure from the slot blitz set up the hot read for Smith to look for Jaxson Smith-Njigba on the out route, and Joseph read it perfectly. He just missed a pick-six on a throw that I would guess had as much velocity as Geno Smith can put on a ball. That was the rare instance of Glenn’s defense setting up the offense.
–The Seahawks D did not respect the potential for Jahmyr Gibbs to run between the tackles. His one inside carry (stuffed for no gain on the play after Montgomery left injured) validated the Seattle approach of having their LBs go wider with Gibbs in the game. That’s something else to watch going forward for Detroit.
–Really impressive all-around game from rookie TE Sam LaPorta. The other TEs, Brock Wright and a very small dose of James Mitchell, as well as FB Jason Cabinda, did not have a positive impact on the game.
–John Cominsky came a lot closer to blocking Seattle’s extra point on the D that made it 24-21 than it looked upon first watch
–On the Goff pick-six: earlier in the same drive, the Lions ran the same play/option and on that one, Gibbs sat on the break instead of continuing to run inside. Goff threw the ball to where Gibbs was on that earlier route, though it would have still been a little low and behind him.
–Graham Glasgow got beat cleanly and quickly on two of his first four pass protection attempts after replacing injured Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who pitched a shutout in pass protection.
–Because I like to end on a positive note, Josh Reynolds had his best all-around game for Detroit.