Eagles-Lions Game Review: Defensive Breakdown

How much is Jim Schwartz at fault for the 21 first-half points the Eagles allowed?

Jalen Mills. (USA Today Sports)

Jalen Mills. (USA Today Sports)

Some final thoughts on the Eagles’ 24-23 loss to the Lions after watching the defensive All-22 coaches film:


*It’s difficult to determine how much of the Eagles’ disappointing showing should be put on the shoulders of Jim Schwartz. The Eagles allowed just three points, 45 yards and four first downs in the second half, but 24 points over four quarters is still too many given Philadelphia talent’s advantage. However, several players noted they simply executed better in the second half and that they didn’t make many significant schematic adjustments, which would indicate the problem in the first half wasn’t their defensive coordinator.

*You can’t give Schwartz too good of a grade because he’s ultimately responsible for the defense allowing 24 points, but sometimes players simply need to play better. It’s not Schwartz’s fault Fletcher Cox extended a touchdown drive by ripping Matthew Stafford’s helmet off on third down, and there were occasional mistakes like Leodis McKelvin getting sucked inside on a run and allowing the Lions to get outside for a first down. A C+ or even a B- seems like a fair grade for Schwartz.

*One of Schwartz’s most-talked about decisions was putting Mychal Kendricks and Stephen Tulloch in for the Lions’ third touchdown drive instead of Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks in nickel situations. However, the first-team linebackers were on the field for a couple of long drives just before that, so it makes sense to give Bradham and Hicks some rest. The decision backfired, but given the situation, it was certainly understandable. Perhaps one of the reasons Bradham played so well in the second half is because he wasn’t run into the ground in the first half.


*Kendricks only played 43 percent of the snaps, but the film wasn’t kind to him. On the Lions’ third touchdown drive, he both extended the series and contributed to Detroit reaching the end zone. Set up on their own 37-yard-line, Stafford dumped a pass off to Theo Riddick out of the backfield on third-and-11, but Kendricks missed a tackle and turned a five-yard gain into a 10-yard gain. With just a yard to go, the Lions went for it on fourth down and converted it. Later, when Detroit had first-and-goal from the Eagles’ 9-yard-line, Kendricks had outside leverage, but he dipped back inside at the last second giving Golden Tate running room on the edge. The play, which should’ve been stopped for about a two- or three-yard gain, picked up eight yards and set up a touchdown on the next snap.

*On the other hand, Bradham looked like a man possessed in the second half. He was all over the field as he did a nice job of pursuing the ball, consistently shedding or eluding blockers and diagnosing plays quickly. He did miss a couple of open-field tackles, but he also finished the game with three tackles-for-loss — the most any Eagle has had this season. One of Bradham’s best plays was his six-yard tackle-for-loss in the fourth quarter as the Lions tried a misdirection screen play. Here’s what Bradham said when I asked him to walk me through the play:

“I saw the tight end’s split, and earlier in the game, they ran a cross screen and it was a big play so I had a feeling they would come back to it. I knew the tight end would try to chip me because I could just feel how the back was going to come to my side. I tried to dip my shoulder underneath the tight end who tried to chip me, get vertical real quick and jump on the back.”

*I mentioned Kendricks’ missed third-down tackle, but it also looked like Stephen Tulloch missed a tackle on Riddick just before Connor Barwin came in and made the stop. When Hicks was in the game, the starting middle linebacker made some nice plays, including one where he quickly shot through a gap and turned the ball-carrier back inside into the arms of Brandon Graham, who recorded a tackle-for-loss.


*Bennie Logan’s numbers in the box score are pretty good — two tackles-for-loss and two quarterback hits — but he played better than he’s gotten credit for. Logan manhandled the Lions’ starting left guard in the first quarter, leading to a change at the position during Detroit’s second drive. Here’s one example of the power he generated as he helped collapse the pocket:

Just a few plays later, Logan tallied a tackle-for-loss against the new left guard:

*Graham also had a better showing on film than he did in the box score, even though he was credited with six tackles, including two tackles-for-loss, and five hurries, per Pro Football Focus. He put the Lions’ right tackle on skates at times, and he generated multiple pressures that led to teammates tallying sacks.

*Cox added a pressure of his own that led to a sack, as Vinny Curry recorded his first sack of the season in the fourth quarter in Detroit. Cox used his hands masterfully to get the right guard off of him soon after the offensive lineman’s punch:


*Rodney McLeod once again proved he is good in space, can quickly diagnose offensive concepts and is able to consistently finish plays by making the tackle. He led the Eagles with nine tackles, including eight solo efforts, and he made plays all over the field. The Lions ended up scoring on the following play, but McLeod had a nice tackle on the goal line to stop Stafford from reaching the end zone:

*Stafford threw three touchdown passes, but two of them were to Riddick and weren’t because of the Eagles’ cornerbacks. Nolan Carroll got turned around on Marvin Jones’ early 17-yard reception, and Jalen Mills got caught in traffic when he lost Tate on the receiver’s 27-yard catch that set up the game-winning field goal, but the corners played well overall. They were superb in the second half, giving the defensive line more time to get to the quarterback.