New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions: Breaking Down Detroit's Game Plan

Jeff Risdon@@JeffRisdonContributor IDecember 20, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 15: Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants is hit as he throws a pass in the 1st half  against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

The New York Giants will head to Detroit to take on the desperate Lions in a NFC battle.

What: New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit Lions (7-7)

Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.

When: Sunday, Dec. 22, 4:05 p.m. ET

Watch: Fox, check local listings

Detroit needs to win and get some help to get into the playoffs. The Giants have been officially eliminated in what has been a lost season in the Big Apple.

On paper, the Lions are clearly the superior team. Detroit tops New York across the board in offensive comparisons. In some cases the gap in averages per game is stunning:

 YardsRushing YardsPassing YardsPoints

*All figures and statistics are from unless otherwise indicated

New York has been shut out twice. No other team in the NFL has been shut out even once this season. One of those zeroes came last week at home against the Seattle Seahawks

New York is the only team in the NFL with more giveaways than the Lions. The Giants have turned the ball over at least once in every game so far, and the Giants have nine games with at least three giveaways. 

Quarterback Eli Manning is having a nightmarish season. He has thrown 25 interceptions, the most in the league. The Giants rank 31st in average QB Rating, per Team Rankings.

Making matters worse for the Giants is that top receiver Victor Cruz is now out for the season, per Kimberly Jones of NFL Network:

NYG: Victor Cruz underwent arthroscopic debridement of the (left) knee today by Dr. James Andrews in Fla. Cruz ends '13 with 998 rec yds.

— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) December 19, 2013

Dec 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) leaves the game after an injury during the second half against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. Seattle Seahawks defeat the New York Giants 23-0. Mandatory Cre
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Pressuring Manning into errors is one of the keys to victory for Detroit. Without his top receiver, Manning is apt to struggle even more. The Lions will have opportunities to secure some elusive turnovers.

Linebacker DeAndre Levy remains tied for the league lead with six interceptions. The problem has been that the rest of the Lions defense has combined for just seven interceptions. This is an excellent week for safety Louis Delmas or corner Rashean Mathis to pull one down. 

Ball awareness will be critical this week. That has not exactly been a strong suit for the Lions secondary this season. Without Cruz to threaten the deep seams, this is an opportunity for the corners to play more aggressively and keep an eye in the backfield.

Another way the Lions can attack the Giants is by exploiting the edges of the defense. Teams have done a good job exposing some holes in the back seven.

Seattle found success last week in spreading the formation and creating space for its playmakers to operate. Here's one of the plays it used that the Lions can readily reproduce.

The Seahawks split out running back Marshawn Lynch wide, leaving an empty backfield. This creates some inherent matchup advantages for the offense.

NFL Game Rewind

Seattle capitalizes by quickly clearing out space for Lynch. The inside receiver runs a post, which pulls the inside corner and the safety over the top towards the middle of the field.

This effectively isolates Lynch on a single corner. Imagine Reggie Bush in the same situation, one-on-one in the open field.

NFL Game Rewind

The corner gets caught leaving too much room to the outside. He's also staring into the backfield and loses track of Lynch. That's a dangerous mistake.

Quarterback Russell Wilson whips the ball to Lynch, and he has a lot of room to operate. Lynch makes the first tackler miss and picks up a chain-moving gain before the rest of the Giants defense can corral him.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22: Joique Bell #35 of the Detroit Lions runs against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 22, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 13-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This is a prime opportunity for the Lions to capitalize on the versatility of their running backs. Both Bush and Joique Bell are excellent receivers, and play concepts like this would allow Detroit to convert third downs and keep the Giants defense off-balance.

Then there is the defensive side of the ball. Detroit's run defense was on a heck of a run in November, but the last two games, it has not been so dominant.

Part of the problem is that the Lions are reverting back to using the Wide 9 technique haphazardly. 

Lining up the defensive ends well beyond the outside shoulder of the offensive tackles remains pretty effective as a pass-rushing tactic. The issues come when the the opposing offenses are in higher than 10 personnel.

An explanation of formations
10One RBNo TEs
11One RBOne TE
12One RBTwo TEs
21Two BacksOne TE
Take Your Eye Off the Ball by Pat Kirwan

When the offense is in a number higher than 10, playing the Wide 9 technique leaves the Lions defense incredibly vulnerable to the run. 

Here is a play that Baltimore ran from 11 personnel. Other teams have run eerily similar plays and gashed the Lions as well. 

The gist of the play is to let the ends take themselves out of the play, which Willie Young and Ziggy Ansah readily do from their wide alignment.

NFL Game Rewind

This allows linemen to release out and attack the linebackers. In this case, the center pulls around the B-gap and engages the linebacker in the hole. The left guard shoots out and picks off the back-side linebacker.

NFL Game Rewind

That back-side 'backer, Stephen Tulloch, does a good job of avoiding the block. The problem is that he commits to attacking the inside hole. When the back bounces to the outside option, Tulloch is stuck on a poor pursuit angle.

This particular play gained 11 yards before the safety was able to make a stop.

The solution here is simple. Stay out of the Wide 9 as a base defense, especially when there are multiple tight ends or backs to contend with. Using it to impact the passing game is great, but 1st-and-10 is not one of those situations.

Detroit is currently a nine-point favorite, according to The Lions are favored for good reason, but that was the case against Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh too. Those games did not end well.

The Lions must play like the superior team that they are in this matchup with the Giants. The playoffs, and as Jesse Reed of Bleacher Report notes, more than likely the fates of the coaching staff depend on it.


    One Player on Each Team Set to Disappoint in 2018

    Detroit Lions logo
    Detroit Lions

    One Player on Each Team Set to Disappoint in 2018

    Doug Farrar
    via Bleacher Report

    LAC Scout Was Why Lamar Didn't Run 40

    NFL logo

    LAC Scout Was Why Lamar Didn't Run 40

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    TJ Jones Will Face Stiff Competition for 4th WR Spot

    Detroit Lions logo
    Detroit Lions

    TJ Jones Will Face Stiff Competition for 4th WR Spot

    Erik Schlitt
    via Lions Wire

    Manziel Firmly Planted on the Bench in the CFL

    NFL logo

    Manziel Firmly Planted on the Bench in the CFL

    Michael David Smith
    via ProFootballTalk