Lions D-Line came into its own

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While Justin Fields scorched the Lions, it could’ve been much worse if not for Detroit’s defensive line late in the game.

Bears quarterback Justin Fields will run over any NFL defense. He certainly did against Detroit. Outside of his big runs that Detroit’s secondary was responsible for, Fields was stunted multiple times.

Those stops were in large part because of Detroit’s defensive line.

Prior to the Chicago game the Lions defensive line was rendered useless against quarterback scrambles. Very little scheme changes and no adjustments by the players.

Last week against Green Bay, there was a little growth on the D-Line to play its role. The most obvious example was rookie Aidan Hutchinson’s interception at the goal line.

In week one against Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, the line was completely ineffective. None of the big men up front were able to sack Hurts, and he was able to find openings in the line to the tune of 90 yards on 17 rushes.

Their strategy against the Bears caused more havoc for Fields than usual.

Yes, Fields still sliced and Diced his way to 147 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. His 67-yard designed run play fooled the entire defense. On that play, it was up to the secondary and linebackers to cover the side of the field that Field’s sprung out of.

Hutchinson was the Detroit’s biggest force on Sunday. He finished with eight tackles and one sack, but that’s not where his value was.

Towards the end of the game, Hutchinson began dropping back more often and waiting for Fields to make a decision. This adjustment played a factor in Jeff Okudah’s pick-six.

In the image above, Hutchinson was in full swing to get to Fields. In the second frame, he realizes that the blocker/tight end Cole Kmet was bouncing out for a route. Hutchinson then blocks the direct throwing path to Kmet forcing Fields to throw a high ball under pressure while being sacked. Okudah then picked off the ball for a touchdown and ties the game.

Julian Okwara also had a great performance. He was able to get to Fields twice for two sacks to go along with three tackles. No other defensive lineman showed up in the stat sheet, but they adjusted.

A big reason Detroit was able to hold up on defense in the fourth quarter was because the defensive line covered the line of scrimmage better. Instead of spending the whole play trying to get to Fields, the outside lineman would pause and trap Fields in the pocket or force him to go around, resulting in a lesser chance at big yardage plays.

Since the Lions are in winning mode, it’s great to see growth on this young Detroit defense. The past two weeks, there was major growth in the Lions secondary. The linebacker position has seen some moments but nothing game changing. Last week was a major step for Hutchinson, this week was even better for him.

Hopefully things begin to pick up for the other young defensive end, Josh Paschal. The Lions 2022 second round draft pick causes a lot of chaos on the right side, but has yet to show up in the stat sheet much this season.

Things are looking up for this Lions defense, but it has ways to go. If Hutchinson and the D-line can lead the front on defense, things will only get easier for the players behind them.

Photo Credit: Daniel Bartel – USA TODAY Sports