The Miami Dolphins defense had their worst half of football against the Detroit Lions since the 2020 tank season. Luckily they possess a high powered offense and were able to stay in this game long enough to stage a successful come back.
So what happened against the lowly Lions to cause this atrocious half of defensive football? I can answer that question with another one: how good is a defense that can’t get pressure or cover on the back end? It’s not a recipe for success, but it isn’t all Miami’s fault. The Detroit Lions came out with a strong game plan and knew exactly how they wanted to attack the Dolphins. Lets take a look...
Detroit Prioritized Protecting Goff
You’re going to see a really common theme on these clips: 6 and 7 man protections with deep route concepts and an outlet. This isn’t the 2021 Miami Dolphins secondary and the Lions obviously thought they could exploit it if they protected Goff.
Play action, the Lions leave 7 guys in to protect and run a two man route concept with a potential outlet to the running back. Dolphins man up on the two WRs. Raymond makes it look like he's streaking to the end zone, but as soon as Holland opens up he breaks in. Huge play. pic.twitter.com/96mMHoQ8Ao— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 1, 2022
The Dolphins pass rush can’t get home against the max protect and Kalif Raymond beats Miami’s two best coverage players for a huge gain here. It’s a nice route by Raymond and Goff just has way too much time in the pocket to make this throw.
6 man protection. Looks like Miami is in a sort of cover 2 look with Iggy blitzing. Goff stares down the left side because he knows McKinley is about to be in conflict. Once McKinley breaks on the flat, he drills this honey hole shot to Hockenson. pic.twitter.com/ZcI263RYIX— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 1, 2022
This is good offensive play calling and execution from Detroit. When Miami brings Izzy on the corner blitz it leaves Verone McKinley III and Jevon Holland to cover the flat/corner combo. McKinley jumps the flat and Holland can’t get over quickly enough to defend the perfect throw from Goff.
Another 7 man protection with play action and a two man route concept with outlet to the back. They're in man coverage with a single high safety. This time Goff hits Amon-Ra St. Brown on the deep crosser. Luckily Jevon Holland punches this out, big play by him. pic.twitter.com/60lIG4gJxS— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 1, 2022
This was another instance of Goff just having way too much time. Jevon Holland punches this one out to prevent the completion but it’s another well executed deep shot from the Lions.
Play action, 7 man protection with a three man route concept (no outlet this time). Not sure what happens.. Kohou falls off and Raymond beats Holland to the corner... with a better throw from Goff, this is probably a TD. pic.twitter.com/9mR1VUb4ax— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 1, 2022
Play action with a 7 man protection, who saw that coming? Kader Kohou passes Kalif Raymond off to Jevon Holland and Jevon opens up too late to keep stride with Raymond. It almost looks like there was a miscommunication because by the time the ball is almost there he has 5 yards of separation. With a better/earlier throw Raymond definitely scores on this play.
Dolphins get aggressive on this third down right before the half. They show cover 0... Lions are in a 7 man protection with a three man route concept. Amon-Ra beats Kohou on this outbreaking route. Easy conversion. pic.twitter.com/hhZSc9DJeX— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 1, 2022
A lot of people asked why Miami didn’t run more Cover-0 that had been effective against Goff in the past, here’s why. Lions keep 7 in to protect again and the Dolphins just don’t have the players to cover all over the field without their pass rush getting home. This is another easy conversion for the Lions.
What Happened in the Second Half?
Well the biggest thing was that the pass rush started to get home. Zach Sieler and Jaelan Phillips both had huge games and really disrupted the Lions offense in that second half. The Dolphins also ran fewer man concepts. Early on, the Lions trusted that their receivers could win 1 on 1 matchups, and they did. It also helped that Detroit imploded with penalties on at least one drive.
The Lions have a really good offensive line and executed a strong game plan, but it was concerning how ineffective the Miami pass rush was for large portions of the game. Obviously the Dolphins front office was concerned about the same thing because they made the biggest move of the trade deadline to bring in Bradley Chubb.
With Nik Needham, Byron Jones, and Brandon Jones on the field, their ultra-aggressive/man heavy defense worked. Without them, we have seen some mixed results this year. The hope going forward is that Miami can get consistent pressure with fewer players being used to rush the passer. I would expect to see Miami run more zone concepts going forward and hope that their front-4 can be more disruptive with Chubb added to the mix.