After allowing touchdowns on its first two possessions, the Lions defense again came up huge by holding a talented Arizona Cardinals offense scoreless over the final 51 minutes.
The defense created two turnovers, one of which gave the offense the ball at the Cardinals 19 yard-line.
With two minutes remaining in the first half the Cardinals were looking to pad their 14-3 lead. Arizona called a ‘tosser’ concept or ‘double slants’ on the left side of the formation. Outside receiver Jaron Brown and slot extraordinaire John Brown both run slant routes. Lions cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Cassius Vaughn play press man-to-man coverage against this route combination. Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton identifies the man coverage and works the double slants at the top of the screen. He knows the slant from the slot should clear out room for the back-side slant.
At the snap, both Mathis and Vaughn execute excellent jams to disrupt the timing of the routes.
After his initial jam, Vaughn sees Stanton stare down the outside receiver. John Brown has a step to the inside against Vaughn but Stanton locks onto Jaron Brown, who is still battling for position with Mathis.
Vaughn reads Stanton’s eyes, peels off his man and jumps in front of the pass for the interception.
Looking at the play in real-time, Stanton, who was making just his eighth career start in seven seasons, clearly stares down his intended receiver, a common mistake of an inexperienced quarterback. Vaughn saw this and made a fantastic play to set-up the Lions’ offense in the red zone. Stanton surely expected Vaughn to continue to run with the slot receiver and thought he had an opening with the back-side slant. However, he never saw Vaughn change course. It was a questionable decision by Stanton in the first place because Mathis was draped all over the intended receiver.
It was a risky play by Vaughn. The Lions were in man coverage with two deep safeties therefore he did not have help on the quick slant. Yet give him credit for trusting his instincts and making a big play.
Unfortunately, the Lions could only come away with a field goal as a questionable spot on Eric Ebron’s third-down reception left them a yard short of the sticks.
As I wrote in my tape review of the win over Miami, this defense is good enough to keep the team in games despite what happens on the other side of the ball. With that said, the Lions must improve offensively because they cannot continue to count on the defense to shut down every opponent. In the nine games since the season opening 35-14 blowout win over the New York Giants, the Lions are averaging 17 points per game. They have failed to score more than 24 points in any of those games. If the offense continues to struggle, they will waste more great defensive performances like yesterday.
Credit to NFL Game Rewind for the game film. All Illustrations and GIFs were created by Marlowe Alter for the purpose of reporting, commenting and critiquing.