After a crushing loss to the Seahawks, the Detroit Lions return to the gridiron to face the New England Patriots. The pressure is on the coaching staff and the defense after giving up an embarrassing 48 points to Geno Smith. Luckily, this weaker Patriots offense should help the Lions get right, especially if starter Mac Jones is out. Defensively, the Patriots have some playmakers that can cause issues. Michigan native Matthew Judon and breakout defensive tackle Deatrich Wise create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. Despite this, the Lions’ offense has enough juice to get the road win, but the defense will need to show up. Here is how the Lions can get the win on the road
Key #1 Detroit Lions Must Contain the pass-rushing duo
This year, the Patriots have not been great against the run. Last week, Aaron Jones picked up 110 yards on almost 7 yards a carry. Expect Bill Bellichek to adjust and focus all resources on stopping the Lions’ explosive run game. Jamaal Williams has filled in nicely for D’Andre Swift, but with the defense’s focus, he will need support.
That support will come from Jared Goff and the passing game. The Patriots struggled against Mark Andrews, who picked up 89 yards and two touchdowns. Look for Goff to look for TJ Hockenson to have back-to-back big weeks. Overall, the Patriots don’t have a great back seven, and Goff could take advantage of this and have a good day against them.
The Patriots could neutralize the Lions’ advantage, however, with their pass rush. Judon has sacked the quarterback four times already this year and had 12.5 last year. It will be a great matchup for him going against one of the best tackle duos in the league, Peneii Sewell and Taylor Decker. On the inside, Deatrich Wise is on pace for a career year with four early sacks. He will be facing backup guards Evan Brown and Dan Skipper. If the lineman can neutralize the pass rush, Goff should pick apart the Patriots’ back 7 with his weapons.
Key #2 Stuff the running backs
The Patriots boast one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL. Their two-headed duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson carried their offense last week with Bailey Zappe at the helm. This week, the Patriots will either start Mac Jones on a bum ankle or the fourth-round rookie. Either way, the Patriots will have to rely on their run offense to gain ground.
The Lions know what the Patriots want to do; now, they need to stop it. The Lions’ run defense has been putrid to this point, ranking at the bottom of the NFL. To have any hope, they need to be passable on the ground. The defense should focus sell out against the run early in the game to force Jones or Zappe to beat them.
Several players need to step up for this to work. Ends Charles Harris, and Demetrius Taylor, need to contain better, especially on cutbacks, to prevent big plays. The move to shift Aidan Hutchinson adds a new element to our run Defense as well. On top of that, the linebackers really need to play better. Malcolm Rodriguez is a stud, but Alex Anzalone, Chris Board, or Derrick Barnes need to help him out. Without a second passable linebacker, the Lions won’t have any hope of stopping the run.
Key #3 Attack the right tackle
If the Lions stop the run, they will have a great opportunity to either force an injured quarterback or a rookie into uncomfortable positions. They can make it even worse by putting pressure on the quarterback. To do that, the Patriots have a weak spot on their offensive line at right tackle. Last week, Isaiah Wynn was replaced by Morgan Cannon after being destroyed by Rashan Gary. The Lions don’t have a pass rusher on Gary’s level, but they should still attack Wynn or Cannon.
This week, both Aaron Glenn and Dan Campbell mentioned putting players in better spots to succeed on defense. This will be a great opportunity to do that. Without blitzing, the Lions must find ways to isolate the right tackle against Hutchinson, Taylor, or Harris. When they do have those chances, the Lions need them to win those more often than not. If they can generate pressure without blitzing, it will help the depleted secondary big time.
The Lions have another winnable game on the road. The Lions’ offense will look to continue to hum and put up another 30+ point performance. They should have ample opportunity to do that as long as they contain the Patriots’ dangerous pass rushers. On the other side of the ball, Aaron Glenn’s unit needs to redeem itself. Again, they can do it against a so-so or hobbled quarterback, they will just need to make his life as difficult as possible. To do that, it is really just the basics of any good defense: stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. If they can do that, Glenn will buy himself a lot of goodwill and help get a nice road victory.