The Detroit Lions have struggled to make big plays on defense early during the 2020 season, but with one big play, Duron Harmon stopped the bleeding.
Harmon picked off Kyler Murray for Detroit’s first takeaway of the 2020 season. The interception helped stall an early drive by the Arizona Cardinals and helped preserve an early 3-0 lead for the Lions.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 27, 2020
Harmon was acquired this offseason for Detroit’s defense and has been a good leader for the team in the meantime. This big play was Harmon’s first interception in a Detroit uniform.
Later, Jamie Collins would add another pick for Detroit, yet another one on the afternoon. That interception would lead to a 10-7 lead for Detroit.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) September 27, 2020
The Lions’ defense need more of these plays if they want to turn around their fortunes this season.
Cory Undlin: ‘No Panic’ Over Lions Defensive Start
Even on the heels of one of the ugliest performances by the team in recent memory in Week 2, Cory Undlin says there’s plenty of football and time left for the Lions to turn things around on his side of the ball. As a result, he’s not panicking a bit about where the team is currently at.
Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin: "No panic right now in our room with any position group. We are all aware of the fact that we haven’t played great in the first two weeks and we’re 0-2."
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 22, 2020
Such an explanation will likely not sit well with Lions fans, who’ve been panicking since the fourth quarter of Week 1 on. Undlin is right, however, in that there is plenty of football left to be played and the Lions have also been dinged up a bit on the back end.
Still, urging folks not to panic after the team has started 0-2 and is seemingly staring down the barrel of 0-4 is a difficult proposition. His defense would be wise to heed his words and try to keep a level ship at this point.
Lions Defense Ripped Over Performance
Why has the Lions defense been so bad under Matt Patricia? Finding an explanation for these anomalies has not been easy to do, but analyst Doug Farrar from Touchdown Wire has taken perhaps the best possible step in explaining why the Lions continue to struggle in their scheme while it works in New England. As Farrar said, it’s a matter of personnel in Detroit, even as the Lions have tried to take steps to improve their roster in recent years.
“So… why are the Lions so bad at man coverage, and why do they insist on doing it more than any other team? Personnel is a big part of it. If your secondary personnel isn’t matched to your schematic concepts, you’re going to get eaten alive — even if the opposing quarterback is Mitchell Trubisky. Before the 2019 season, the Lions signed former Seahawks slot defender Justin Coleman to a four-year, $36 million contract, making Coleman the highest-paid slot defender in NFL history. But Coleman had excelled in Seattle’s zone-based defense, and he wasn’t used to playing man as much as the Lions asked him to. The numbers played out as you might predict: Coleman allowed five touchdowns to just one interception in man and combo coverage last season,
Patricia, on the other hand, seems to have made the worst mistake a game-planner can possibly make: He’s subscribed to the idea that no matter what kinds of players he has on his roster, he’s going to run what he runs, and to heck with reality.”
In Farrar’s mind, the Lions still don’t have the right kind of personnel to be able to run the type of man defense that has become Patricia’s bread and butter during his time in the league. As he admits, the Lions do have Jeff Okudah on the roster perhaps coming to help aid in this, but the team still doesn’t have the types of players to run their scheme successfully. Worse, they don’t have the commitment of the coaching staff to switch things up when their stated plan doesn’t work.
Detroit’s had some tough injuries at cornerback to start the season which has prevented them from feeling completely comfortable, but if Patricia continues to struggle on defense and the year spirals out of control, it will be bad news for the former super genius coordinator turned head coach.
So far, Patricia’s plan to win in Detroit with man defense hasn’t turned out well whatsoever, and he hasn’t been able to adapt otherwise. That could prove bad news for his long term plans of sticking around if things don’t change.
Obviously, the Lions defense needs to play tough and plays like this are a big reason why.