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Breaking Down the Opponent: Keys to Victory Week 9

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Detroit Lions v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Attacking the Lions defense

The Lions have a better defense than the stats will tell you, especially against the run. Their front-7 is aggressive and will swarm to the football.

After a few weeks of letting up a big run or two, the Lions put together a complete game of run defense, holding the best RB in football to less than 80 yards on the ground. Guys like Damon Harrison, Mike Daniels, and Trey Flowers on the defensive line are rugged hog mollies who will be a challenge even for the Raiders offensive line to push around.

Detroit’s linebackers are left to key the RB often, which helps them flow fast against the run, but can hurt them in pass coverage. This RB post route from the backfield is one such example. Oakland RB Jalen Richard just ran an identical play against Houston for a big gain. Expect to see Gruden test the Lions LBs in coverage.

Chipping away at the run game on offense might lead to a big gain at some point. Either from a runner, or because Gruden dials up a short yardage play-action bomb. The Raiders ran a similar play to Tyrell Williams for a big gain in Week 1. Committing to the run will reap benefits for this offense, even if the Lions make their fair share of stops.

Making plays on defense

The Lions receivers are an underrated group. But in film junkie circles, they get a lot of respect. Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and TJ Hockensen are all legitimate goal-line threats. Each has a way of grabbing contested catches that have helped Matt Stafford be one of the best statistical QBs in the red zone this year.

The Raiders will give up touchdowns in the red-zone to these receivers. If they can throw some change-up coverages that allow a DB to make a play on a pass, they may have a chance to secure a few turnovers along the way.

One way to change the men in coverage is to send some of them on blitzes. The Lions have looked suspect in blitz pick-up this year. Their every down back, Kerryon Johnson, recently went on IR, forcing them to get creative when it comes to setting protections.

Twice in as many games, Stafford has been sacked on this same nickel blitz. The Raiders have been shredded in blitz coverage this year. Usually they play a single-high, man coverage on top of their blitzes. If they can give another look in coverage that makes Stafford pat the football, they have a chance for some of their blitzes to get home.

Keys to Victory

Offense

  • Commit to the run
  • Test Detroit LBs in coverage
  • Take advantage of Detroit’s aggressiveness

Defense

  • Change up coverages
  • Send blitzes
  • Win the turnover battle