An already bad season took a turn for the worse for the Detroit Lions on Sunday when they were blown out at home by the Arizona Cardinals. Mark Schofield looks at how the big run by the Cardinals Andre Ellington had Lions’ fans headed to the exits, early.
The Lions were dominated on both sides of the ball: quarterback Matthew Stafford was benched in the second half after throwing his third interception, and Detroit gave up 187 yards on the ground, including 63 on this well-executed power run in the fourth quarter that sent the last remaining diehards to the exits.
Using the Game Map created by Andy Guyader of The Q5, it is clear the two late-second quarter touchdowns from David Johnson and John Brown had a huge impact on the outcome. Ellington’s run capped off this the fifth-best offensive drive of the game, and best offensive drive of the second half for either team:
On this power running play, the Cardinals displayed how their blocking schemes and executions allow them to grind out yardage on the ground – and hit for big plays. Facing a 2nd and 3 on their own 37-yard line, Arizona lines up with quarterback Carson Palmer under center with 12 offensive personnel, in a tight wing trips alignment left. The Lions have their base 4-3 personnel in the game showing an under front, and they bring strong safety James Ihedigbo (#32) down into the box:
The offense sends running back Andre Ellington (#38) to the left side on a power running play. The backside blocking sets up like this:
Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (#94) lines up in a wide 9 technique outside of right tackle Bobby Massie (#70). At the snap the RT quickly gets his hips parallel to the sideline, using Ansah’s alignment against him to seal the DE off from pursuing the play from the backside. Defensive tackle Andre Fluellen (#96) sets up in a 1 technique on the inside shoulder of right guard Jonathan Cooper (#61). When the play begins the DT charges straight ahead, and the RG absorbs the initial punch, since help is on its way. Center Lyle Sendlein (#63) immediately turns to the outside and strikes the right shoulder of the DT, executing a flawless double-team block.
The blocking on the backside is good, but the playside execution is even better:
The offense has five players on the playside, to block the five defenders. DT Gabe Wright (#90) aligns in a 3 technique between left guard Mike Iupati (#76) and right tackle Jared Veldheer (#68), while defensive end Jason Jones (#91) sets up in a 7 technique, on the inside shoulder of tight end Jermaine Gresham (#84) in the C Gap between the TE and RT.
Given the gap alignments of these two defenders, you might expect a double-team or two, but at the snap both the DT and DE crash to the inside, allowing Veldheer and Iupati to handle them one-on-one. This frees Gresham and fellow TE Darren Fells to execute a combination block on the edge, with the two tight ends making an initial block on linebacker Travis Lewis (#50) before Greshman locates LB Tahir Whitehead (#59) flowing to the hole.
Finally, Larry Fitzgerald throws a critical block on the edge. Ihedigbo crashes hard to the inside, but the veteran WR does a tremendous job of beating the safety to the spot, taking out the safety with a strong block and spinning him to the turf. Ihedigbo’s legs actually force Ellington to make a slight cut in the hole, but the defender is not a threat to the RB.
Putting all the elements together, the Cardinals create a huge hole for Ellington to exploit:
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From the end zone angle you can see how the blocking comes together, particularly how the playside blockers work to pave the road:
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With the victory, the Cardinals moved to 4-1 on the season and remain in 1st place in the NFC West. They face three straight games against AFC North foes (Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cleveland) before a big divisional showdown with the Seattle Seahawks in mid-November. If they continue to create holes like this, they should be in good shape for that division clash.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.