Analyzing the Lions’ Explosive Fourth Quarter Against the Bears

Pre-4th Quarter Rundown
Bears quarterback Justin Fields was giving the Lions defense fits throughout the entire game. Fields’ ability to take off and pass the line of scrimmage (L.O.S) led to massive gains for the Chicago offense. Either on designed run-pass options (RPOs) or just scrambling out of the broken pocket, Fields was both QB1 and RB1 against this disorganized Detroit defense. However, beyond just his ability to create yards on the ground, the Lions focused all of their defensive attention on the mobile quarterback, which led to massive gaps in the secondary (see 50-yard passing touchdown to TE Cole Kmet).

While the defense looked like a wreck through the first three quarters, the offense was slightly more competent (I say that lightly). Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson utilized many “Trips” and “Bunch” sets early in the game, in order to throw off the Chicago defense.

(example of a bunch formation)

Bunch Formation:
The bunch formation can be particularly dangerous when a team has many receiving options that can be tough to guard. What makes this offensive lineup hard to guard is the potential for many crossing routes early after the snap, causing confusion for defensive backs. Can be especially dangerous against defensive backs in tight man coverage against opposing receivers.

While the Lions did a decent job of moving the ball down the field in these opening three periods, the forward movement did not result in a lot of points (ten total points in first three quarters). In my opinion, the lack of points was due to a lack of proper execution on the part of quarterback Jared Goff, who I believe had a handful of undesirable throws (i.e. underthrowing receivers on simple open throws).

4th Quarter Analysis
Now, from the time the clock started ticking down in the final quarter, there was a different feel to the game. Down 14 points, the Lions need to open with a scoring drive, and that is exactly what they did! Thanks to three penalties against the Bears defense, moving the ball a total of 25 yards upfield, the Lions were able to simply run it the outside with D’Andre Swift for the nine-yard touchdown. The combination of Swift and Jamaal Williams is truly one of the most versatile and electric running back duos in the league, with both scoring in the final quarter. Swift excels getting outside the numbers, using his quick acceleration and pace and getting into the open field, while Williams compliments that perfectly with his power and ability to run through the contact. Currently, the Lions heavily rely on the run game, and are fortunate to have two capable backs running behind an elite offensive line unit. However, there was a lot to like in review of their final offensive scoring drive. Instead of just putting the ball on the ground, Johnson relied on Goff’s arm. Utilizing a lot of “Ace” offensive designs, Goff found receivers in the middle of the field consistently with a handful of 15 to 20 yard gains.

(example of ace formation)

Ace Formation:
Most offenses use this formation to spread out the defense with multiple receiving options, but the general idea of the set is to get a lot of one-on-one matchups against the defense. This formation is used by all offenses, and is referred to as a balanced and versatile formation due to its many uses and possibilities.

For the defense, cornerback Jeff Okudah’s pick-six ensured the game’s competitive ending. After only a minute removed from Swift’s rushing touchdown, Okudah easily intercepted Fields’ errant pass (intended for TE Cole Kmet) and ran it back for the 20-yard score. Without Okudah’s pivotal play, I doubt the Lions would have been able to stop Fields and the Chicago offense because of the abundance of chunk plays that arose because of the quarterback’s outstanding mobility and pocket presence.

However, the Lions were able to get the huge win over a divisional rival, thanks to an excellent fourth quarter, where offensive ball movement was not an issue. But, if the Lions want to actually compete in the NFC North, then there has to be defensive improvements, especially against mobile quarterbacks because Fields was truly dominant. Allowing 30 points every game will result in future losses, and a team should not have to rely on 21-point quarters in order to win a game. Again, a win is a win, but this Lions team is far from becoming a playoff contender.
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