NFC North: Bill Bentley

Part of the reason the Detroit Lions essentially ignored addressing the secondary in the 2014 draft was because of the faith general manager Martin Mayhew had in the potential of his young cornerbacks.

That trust is sure to be tested now.

The Lions have released their top cornerback, Chris Houston, after an inconsistent 2013 and offseason surgery for a toe that just wouldn't heal. Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis would now likely be the team's opening day starters at cornerback and the move increases the pressure on an untested group of players.

Houston
Houston
Bill Bentley has experience in the slot and is probably best suited there instead of on the outside. Jonte Green started games the past two seasons when players went down to injury, but has not been consistent. Chris Greenwood can't stay healthy and has minimal experience. Cassius Vaughn had a good spring, but was used to primarily used to provide depth at cornerback in Indianapolis.

The one pick the Lions did use on the secondary, corner Nevin Lawson in the fourth round, should have been more of a developmental selection.

At least one of those players will need to be counted on this fall. The early guess would be Vaughn, who has some experience and had moments where he looked extremely sharp in the spring. He likely won't be a starter, but he at least feels like part of the reason the team could have felt comfortable releasing Houston without even seeing him in training camp.

Now, unless the Lions sign a cornerback before camp, they will have to use this group to forge a cornerback corps. It is a unit with some talent, but short on experience. In a division with receivers like Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, that is not the type of situation you want to have.

Yet this is where Detroit is in the middle of June.

Something like this -- and Detroit had to have an inkling of concern here considering Houston did not play well in 2013 and had surgery -- was part of why it was so confusing how the Lions handled the secondary in the draft. Yes, Justin Gilbert was off the board when Detroit picked, but the team wasted little time before drafting tight end Eric Ebron, who the team opened up money to sign by cutting Houston.

They didn't seem to consider either selecting or trying to trade down to nab cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard or even Jason Verrett from TCU or Bradley Roby from Ohio State. Or the team could have drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama or Calvin Pryor from Louisville at safety and moved Don Carey, the team's third safety, to cornerback -- a position he previously played.

After Ebron, the team went with an interior lineman, Travis Swanson, in the third round and traded their fourth round pick to move up for Kyle Van Noy. The move possibly cost them one of the litany of defensive backs who went off the board before the team took Lawson with a supplemental pick in the fourth round.

Any of those first three picks could have been used on a secondary player that could have helped.

Of course all of this is hindsight now. Yet the Lions knew this possibility existed because of Houston's past few months. And that possibility became reality Friday -- even if it was somewhat predictable after Houston was excused from mandatory minicamp.

It leaves Detroit either hunting on the free agent wire or sticking with what they have – a group of young cornerbacks that could end up deciding Mayhew's future.

This is a sequence -- between the draft strategy, how's Houston's injury and eventual release was handled -- that should be used to judge Mayhew if Detroit struggles this season.

Mayhew put his faith with a group of young cornerbacks early. With Houston gone, Mayhew will now need them to prove he was right all along.
WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. -- Charlie Sanders has been a part of some of the most successful Detroit Lions teams in the franchise's modern history. While it is not exactly a glowing barometer considering the franchise's failings over the past 40 years, the Hall of Fame tight end does know what talent looks like.

And he thinks the Lions did not do much to upgrade their talent from 2013 to 2014 -- but that they didn't necessarily need to.

[+] EnlargeJim Caldwell
Carlos Osorio/AP PhotoLions cornerback Bill Bentley says coach Jim Caldwell "makes you not want to make a mistake."
"The talent was always there," Sanders said Monday before the "Have A Heart Save A Life" golf outing for charity he runs. "This team hasn't really improved, talent-wise, as much as people would like to think. The talent was there last year.

"When you look at it and look at it on paper and say where have we really, really made that giant step, all we've done is created a different problem with the tight end. But talent-wise, we've always had the talent."

The difference this season will be coaching, Sanders said. He echoed Monday what many others have said about first-year Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell since the team hired him in January. He's an honest man who is going to exude calmness, control and consistency consistently as players deal with him.

From what Sanders has already seen, the way Caldwell coaches has put the onus of the team's success back on the players instead of having a coach -- or a coaching situation -- add more angst to an already pressure-filled situation each season.

The players have felt this as well. It is only May in a period of the year where almost everything is about development and learning instead of on-field results, but there is a different vibe around the Lions with Caldwell.

He is able to get his message across without yelling or screaming or even raising his voice. He does his correcting in private, with only the team around.

"He makes you not want to make a mistake," cornerback Bill Bentley said. "Because when you make a mistake, he puts you on the board in front of everybody and you don't want to be on that board in front of everybody. You know what I'm saying.

"That'd be embarrassing. You don't want that, you don't want to be embarrassed."

The players, for now at least, appear to appreciate Caldwell's style throughout his dealings with the players. They see the calm and that he never really changes no matter the situation.

That can lead to the same soothing influence on players, something Sanders already saw.

"There's no panic and stress and confusion and things like that," Sanders said. "For once, it puts all the pressure back on the player in that they want to assume responsibility of going out and performing without, quote, adding that pressure, that added pressure on them.

"A lot of the success of where the Lions go from here on out is solely resting on the shoulders of the players and not on the coach because the coach is just letting them do what they do best."

One area the Lions did upgrade was at tight end, where the team drafted Eric Ebron in the first round. The pick was questioned by many -- including in this space -- because the Lions seemed to be in decent shape at tight end.

Perhaps Sanders clued in part of what Detroit is actually going to do with Ebron, though. He sees him more as a receiver than a true tight end. This comes a year after Sanders told reporters then-tight end Michael Williams would eventually become an offensive tackle. That move happened before the start of organized team activities.

Sanders didn't have as bold of a prediction about Ebron.

"In a sense, people say he's a tight end. He's just a big wideout," Sanders said. "(Brandon) Pettigrew is a tight end. There's a difference.

"I don't have any predictions other than that I think he's going to create some matchup problems, and I think it's a situation where the Lions are going to benefit from it."

How much they benefit could end up being on both the players and the coaches.
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The Detroit Lions opened their organized team activities (OTAs) Tuesday at their practice facility in Allen Park, Michigan.

The media will watch Wednesday’s session, and here are five things to pay attention to as this part of the offseason begins.

1. What's going on with Suh?

Ndamukong Suh has been the main topic of the entire offseason, from his contract situation to missing the beginning of offseason workouts. But Suh is back in town, and how he ends up interacting with everyone will be something to watch.

Dominic Raiola said Monday night he was looking forward to seeing him -- and there’s a good chance the young defensive players are feeling the same way. There have been some questions about Suh getting up to speed with the defense, but he has never shown up out of shape and there is no reason to think Suh will not be in shape this time around, in what could end up being a contract year for him. Now his storyline can shift back to whether he signs an extension with the Lions.

Fairley
2. What does Nick Fairley look like?

Saw Fairley briefly the first day of offseason workouts in April. He didn’t talk to the media then and he was wearing a baggy shirt, so it was difficult to tell what he looked like. He’s always been able to play with a lot of weight, though, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

What type of shape he’s in -- and how motivated he is after the Lions chose not to pick up his fifth-year option earlier this year -- will be the major questions surrounding him. Fairley is now playing for his second NFL contract, either in Detroit or elsewhere, and money can be a motivating factor for a lot of players.

Stafford
Stafford
3. What will the offense look like?

Since Detroit hired Joe Lombardi as the team’s offensive coordinator, much has been made about the Lions looking like a northern version of the high-powered New Orleans Saints. It is part of the reason the team drafted North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron in the first round and brought in Golden Tate in free agency. The Lions should have every offensive piece they will need from a skill position standpoint. How quickly Matthew Stafford and his group pick up the offense will be interesting. While there won’t be a ton of clues Wednesday, by the end of the mandatory minicamp in June, there should be a clue as to what Detroit could look like in the fall.

4. What's going on at the corners?

Chris Houston won’t be out there and may not be ready by training camp. Martin Mayhew has indicated this is a big season for the young, developing corners the team does have -- Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood, Bill Bentley and Darius Slay, the last of who is thought to be a potential starter this fall. If that quartet can make the necessary improvements, perhaps cornerback won’t be as big an issue as it has been the past few years. Also curious to see where the team uses Rashean Mathis. The veteran, if he can play as he did a season ago, could provide relief either in the slot or on the outside.

5. How does the team respond to coach Jim Caldwell?

So far, the players have said all the right things and acted in all the right ways. However, it’ll be interesting to see the pace of his practices and the way he interacts with the players during practice. He was brought in to be a calming, more disciplined influence on a team that went through a lot of penalty issues in prior seasons. Expect the team to believe in Caldwell heading into this season -- he proved in his opening news conference he can be fiery in certain situations -- and to be happy to have another fresh-type start.
After weeks and weeks and weeks and months of speculation and determination and breaking down what could and should and might happen, the NFL draft will actually occur starting Thursday.

So this, finally, will be the last mailbag with 2014 pre-draft questions -- although I'm sure there will be a ton of them later on once Detroit has actually made its picks.

So let's get on to it, and remember that the Mailbag is only as good as the questions you do or do not ask. Email michael.rothstein@espn.com or Tweet with the hashtag #LionsMailbag to get those questions in.

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Craig from Murietta, Calif. asks via email: If the lions draft a safety early in the draft, would there be any chance Glover Quin would move back to corner? I know corner was his original posistion out of college, but I'm not sure how well he played there.


  • He's staying at safety, Craig, unless a lot of injuries were to occur. Quin played well back there for Detroit and is the team's best defensive back of the present and the immediate future. The team won't mess around with moving him unless they absolutely had to. There would be a better chance that you'd see Don Carey, currently the third safety and potential nickel along with Bill Bentley, head back to corner and have either James Ihedigbo or the drafted safety as the No. 3 safety if someone went down. Quin's not headed anywhere.



    Kyle asks via email: Can you shed some light on why the Lions pick 10th in the first round but 13th in the second round? I hope they don't miss out on someone they really like because of this.


  • Kyle, because the Lions finished with the same record as other teams, their pick moves around by round. They nabbed the No. 10 pick because their strength of schedule was the worst among 7-9 teams. Due to that, the Lions would then get the worst pick of 7-9 teams in the second round, so on and so forth along the way. No conspiracy theory here, that's just how it works.
  • Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.

    To see the series to date, click this link.

    Free agent to be: Chris Greenwood (Exclusive rights)

    Position: Cornerback

    Age: 24

    Years in the league: 2

    What he made last season: $112,941 (cap number); $480,000 (cash value and base salary)

    What he did last season: Greenwood started the season on Detroit’s practice squad and was signed away by Dallas during the first month of the season. He didn’t appear in any games for the Cowboys and was eventually released. At that point, Detroit brought him back and eventually put him on the active roster. He dressed for the final three games of the season and played cornerback in the last two, making six tackles in 63 snaps.

    His potential market value: None, but that is because he is probably headed right back to Detroit. The Lions have a core of young corners in their cornerback corps and he played well enough over the last two games that they’ll want to give him another look this offseason.

    Will he fit the Lions still: Yes. Detroit needs cornerback help and has to let the cornerbacks they have picked up over the past couple of seasons, including Bill Bentley, Darius Slay, Jonte Green and Greenwood play more to see if they can develop into viable cornerbacks or are not worth keeping around. Greenwood is on that list and the Lions have always appeared to like him, so he’ll get a good shot at being on the roster in the fall.

    What happens: Greenwood comes back and actually pushes Bentley and Green for their spots. Whether he beats either one of them out is a tough thing to predict at this time because there is so much that can happen at a position the Lions clearly need to upgrade, but he will make a strong push. The somewhat-on-a-limb prediction here is that Greenwood ends up on the 53-man roster in September.

    Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Lions

    January, 15, 2014
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    There are two areas of major need for the Detroit Lions entering the 2014 draft -- wide receiver and cornerback -- and the team will have to take care of remedying one of those issues in the first round this May.

    Colleague Mel Kiper Jr. has the Lions Insider taking Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the No. 10 pick in his first mock draft of the year, potentially solving at least one of Detroit’s issues.

    Receiver Sammy Watkins from Clemson would be the obvious choice for Detroit, but the chances of him still lingering at the No. 10 pick -- especially when he might be the most talented player in the draft, period -- is unlikely. So after Watkins, the Lions need to weigh draft depth and who might be available to them in the second round as much as the first.

    And that’s where taking a cornerback would be the potential smart choice here, especially if there is no corner in free agency that they are able to land. That could be difficult considering the Lions are in a tough salary cap spot right now.

    So Kiper has the Lions taking Gilbert in the hopes that he’ll be a good cornerback to pair with last year’s second-round selection, Darius Slay, in the future.

    “Has put together a great season after a subpar 2012,” Kiper wrote in his initial analysis of Gilbert. “Has short-area quickness to adjust to routes and the open-field speed to run with (or past) any receiver. Has the size to jam at the line and can then flip his hips and run; he rarely allows much separation. Good ball skills and hands, evident both in coverage and the return game. Squarely back into the mid-first-round mix.”

    Gilbert had 42 tackles and seven interceptions last season. He’s also a 6-foot corner and weighs 200 pounds, which is decent size on the outside.

    He would be brought in to try to improve a defense -- likely with a new defensive coordinator -- that was 23rd against the pass last season (246.88 yards per game) and 19th in yards per pass attempt (6.91).

    Should Detroit draft Gilbert, the question is: What happens to the rest of the Lions cornerbacks? Chris Houston signed a five-year deal before last season, but had a very inconsistent 2013 and ended up being the Lions’ second cornerback instead of the No. 1 corner they had hoped.

    Detroit’s top corner last season, Rashean Mathis, is an unrestricted free agent and made 47 tackles last season. He is 33 years old, but told ESPN.com he intends to try to play for one or two more seasons after he showed he was healthy this year.

    The Lions also have a plethora of other young cornerbacks besides Slay: nickel Bill Bentley and reserves Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood. All have shown potential but none have shown they could be a consistent starter.

    So if the Lions do select a cornerback in the first round, it could mean one or two of the cornerbacks from last season could be playing somewhere else in 2014.

    Lions without Johnson, three corners

    December, 29, 2013
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    MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Lions made the correct call.

    Johnson
    Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is among the seven players inactive for the Lions, ending his season with 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. The receptions and yards are his lowest totals since the 2010 season.

    His 12 touchdowns more than doubled the five he had a season ago.

    In Johnson's place, the Lions will start receiver Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree has 16 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns this season, split between Tampa Bay and Detroit.

    No Johnson is only part of Detroit's issues Sunday. Three of top five Lions cornerbacks are out as Chris Houston, Bill Bentley and Jonte Green are all inactive. Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay, who is coming off a torn meniscus, will start and Chris Greenwood, who played his first NFL game earlier this month, will be the top backup.

    Also inactive for Detroit is its starting right tackle, LaAdrian Waddle, and he'll be replaced by Jason Fox. Dylan Gandy is the other inactive on the offensive line. Guard Rodney Austin will be active for the first time in his career.

    And this also ends Kellen Moore's second season with the Lions -- and second season where he has yet to play in a game.
    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson missed practice for the third straight day for the Detroit Lions, lending credence to the theory he won't play in Sunday's season finale against Minnesota.

    He was one of seven Lions to miss the final practice of the season, joining linebacker DeAndre Levy, cornerbacks Jonte Green and Bill Bentley, safety Louis Delmas, defensive lineman Israel Idonije and offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle.

    Offensive lineman Dylan Gandy returned to practice, as did cornerback Chris Houston and safety John Wendling.

    Seven miss practice for the Lions

    December, 26, 2013
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    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions were without four starters at practice Thursday, including star wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who continues to battle knee problems.

    Also missing were cornerbacks Bill Bentley (concussion) and Chris Houston (toe/illness), offensive linemen Dylan Gandy (illness) and LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), safety John Wendling (ankle) and linebacker DeAndre Levy (foot).

    Five players were limited in practice: running back Joique Bell (knee), cornerbacks Jonte Green (shoulder) and Darius Slay (knee), safety Louis Delmas (knee) and defensive end Israel Idonije (knee).

    Green is the only new name on the injury report; he was spotted with a giant bag of ice on his shoulder following practice.
    DETROIT -- Some thoughts from the first half at Ford Field, where the New York Giants lead the Detroit Lions, 13-3.

    No offensive urgency: Whether it is the play calling or mistakes by the offense or potentially good defense, the Detroit offense has looked off again Sunday against New York. Reggie Bush lost another fumble -- his second lost fumble since making a promise following the Pittsburgh game he would not fumble again this season. Matthew Stafford alternated making good plays with throwing near interceptions before finally throwing one right into the arms and body of defensive lineman Justin Tuck on the Lions' final drive of the half. And Calvin Johnson’s workload has been lessened, likely due to the knee injury that forced him to become questionable for the game.

    Cornerback depth: The Lions were already without their two starters, Chris Houston (toe) and Rashean Mathis (illness), who were deemed inactive before the game. Then Bill Bentley was injured on a Jerrel Jernigan touchdown catch when he collided with Detroit safety Louis Delmas. That leaves the Lions with little-used Jonte Green, the injured Darius Slay and Chris Greenwood, who played in his first NFL game last week, as their three cornerbacks for the second half. Considering Eli Manning's skill and how Hakeem Nicks and Jernigan have played already, this could be a major concern for the Lions in the second half.

    No defensive pressure: The Giants were without their starting right guard, David Diehl and lost their backup, Brandon Mosley, in the first half. Yet they were still unable to get pressure on Manning until the final drive of the half, when Ziggy Ansah sacked Manning. Manning had plenty of time to find receivers the entire first half, completing 10 of 17 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. He was particularly effective on third down, where the Giants were 5-of-7 in the first half.
    DETROIT -- Detroit may have star receiver Calvin Johnson available for Sunday's game against the New York Giants, but the Lions will be without both their starting cornerbacks.

    Rashean Mathis (illness) and Chris Houston (toe) are both inactive for Detroit on Sunday, leaving the Lions extremely short at corner. Bill Bentley, the team's usual nickel back, and Jonte Green will be the presumed starters at corner.

    Chris Greenwood is the team's top reserve and Darius Slay, who was listed as doubtful heading into the game as he recovers from a torn meniscus in his right knee, is also active.

    The Lions' other inactives are expected: quarterback Kellen Moore; running back Mikel Leshoure; offensive guards Leroy Harris and Rodney Austin and tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who was ruled out Friday.
    DETROIT -- His experience is minimal with 20 defensive snaps this season. And now, in the biggest game of the season for the Detroit Lions, on national television against the Baltimore Ravens, one of the starting cornerbacks will be Jonte Green.

    Green was inactive for some games earlier this season and was essentially the last option for the Lions at cornerback when he was active. He will now have to cover Marlon Brown and be effective in his role.

    Veteran Rashean Mathis is expected to line up opposite Baltimore's top target, Torrey Smith.

    Green landed in this role due to injuries to starter Chris Houston and top reserve Darius Slay, both of whom are inactive for the Lions on Monday night. Detroit now has Mathis, Green, Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood, who has never played an NFL game, as its active corners.

    The Lions' other inactives were as expected as well: quarterback Kellen Moore, running back Mikel Leshoure, guard Leroy Harris, tackle Jason Fox and guard Rodney Austin.
    In many ways, Monday night on national television could have looked a lot different for the Detroit Lions. There could have been a chance the Lions could have clinched the division against the Baltimore Ravens. But with everything set up well for Detroit in the division, the Lions could not close it out.

    They let the Chicago Bears hang around. Let the Green Bay Packers hang around. So now the Lions are in this other situation: Win to hold on to the lead in the division.

    "It's there for the taking, but we have to go out and take it," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "That starts with the Ravens on Monday night. Last time we left Ford Field, we were feeling really good about ourselves with the win over Green Bay on Thanksgiving.

    "We have to get that feeling back. We know our crowd will make a difference for us. I think you'll see that from our players."

    Detroit has to. Its season might depend on it. So how do the Lions accomplish this? Here are the four keys.

    Deal with the pressure: The Lions spent all week saying essentially different variations of the playoffs are starting now. Well, Detroit got what it wanted. With Chicago winning on the road at Cleveland, the Lions need to beat Baltimore to keep pace with the Bears in the NFC North and hold on to a playoff spot for the time being. And if the Lions lose Monday, then they drop to third in the division.

    This is the way it is going to be for Detroit the rest of the season and the Lions, if they are going to be a playoff team like they say they want to be, have to be able to deal with it. The Lions have vacillated between being very good and very bad in games like this over the course of this season.

    Pressure Flacco: Joe Flacco likes to find receivers downfield when he can and is eighth in the NFL in air yards per attempt. Considering Detroit's depleted cornerback situation -- it'd be surprising if Chris Houston or Darius Slay played Monday night -- the Lions front four needs to be able to reach Flacco at the rate they reached Matt Flynn on Thanksgiving in order to cause disruptions in the passing game. Detroit did this to Flynn by taking away his first read, but the Lions also had a healthy-enough secondary then. They don't now, so Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young need to get to Flacco early.

    Stop the turnovers: This is becoming a weekly topic, but considering the Lions' lack of margin for error both in games and in the season at this point, they need to have a game where they are not careless with the ball. Detroit hasn't had a game without a turnover since facing Cincinnati in October and haven't had a game with less than three turnovers since the win over Chicago in Week 10.

    Baltimore has only picked off nine passes this season, so the Ravens aren't exactly an opportunistic defense. Detroit can't have that switch on Monday night.

    Give help on the outside: Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and Schwartz both expressed confidence in Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood, the two likely candidates to line up opposite Rashean Mathis at cornerback. The Lions have to trust Mathis will be able to hang with Torrey Smith, especially since Green or Greenwood might need help with Marlon Brown (36 catches, 412 yards, six touchdowns) on the other side. Bill Bentley or Don Carey will also have a difficult assignment with speedster Jacoby Jones in the slot, but the matchup between Green/Greenwood and Brown could be a big factor Monday.

    Practice report: Lions down corners

    December, 14, 2013
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    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Things are not looking promising for Detroit when it comes to having healthy cornerbacks.

    Both Chris Houston (toe) and Darius Slay (knee) did not practice for the third straight day, and while it is highly doubtful Slay plays as he recovers from a torn meniscus, Houston's availability becomes a major concern for the Lions against Baltimore.

    If neither one plays, Detroit will likely look to Jonte Green, who has played sparingly, or Chris Greenwood, who was promoted from the practice squad last week, to play in Houston's place.

    Bill Bentley would be another option. But Detroit uses him in the nickel, so it would be between him and Don Carey there.

    Also not at practice was safety Louis Delmas (knee), but this is his typical maintenance day.
    It took three quarters, but Philadelphia finally began going to its zone-read rushes in the fourth quarter on Sunday during the Eagles’ 34-20 win against Detroit.

    And it changed the game.

    Perhaps no play shifted things more than LeSean McCoy's 57-yard run in the fourth quarter, a touchdown where Detroit’s once-stout run defense fell completely apart, part of a fourth quarter when the Lions couldn’t stop anything or any rusher the Eagles used.

    [+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
    AP Photo/Michael PerezLeSean McCoy ran past Detroit's Louis Delmas, 26, on his way to a 57-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
    It was the second big touchdown rush of the game for Philadelphia, and was the last time the Lions had the lead Sunday.

    Everything Detroit tried to do on the play essentially failed.

    The Eagles lined up in shotgun with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter and the Lions up, 20-14. They had McCoy to the right of quarterback Nick Foles and three receivers to the left side, the side McCoy would eventually try to run to.

    Detroit had its nickel package on the field, including two defensive backs playing within two yards of the line of scrimmage. Foles snapped the ball and used a zone-read to eventually give the ball to McCoy moving forward behind the left side of his offensive line.

    At the time the ball was snapped, the Eagles' offensive line also had a good jump on the Detroit defensive front. Nick Fairley was blocked wide to open the hole for McCoy, and he was also blocked into linebacker DeAndre Levy, essentially taking him out of the play as well.

    This was only the start of Detroit’s issues on the play.

    “It was just a missed run fit, somebody was in the wrong gap and they split us,” Levy said.

    This opened up a hole for McCoy, who was already at the second level and almost the third level of the defense. This was what he did much more effectively in the fourth quarter -- he essentially made one cut and then accelerated forward.

    Meanwhile, the Lions were struggling with assignments and tackles.

    “They lost gap integrity a couple times,” Philadelphia center Jason Kelce said. “That’s when you saw Shady (McCoy) get those big runs.”

    Once McCoy got past the initial line, Stephen Tulloch was slow on his read of the run, taking him out of the play. Ndamukong Suh appeared to be held early on the play as well, but he likely wasn’t going to be able to get there fast enough to make the play at the line.

    What turned this particular run into a touchdown was receiver Jason Avant. The veteran was downfield and had Detroit nickel back Bill Bentley blocked well. What sealed the touchdown was the angle safety Louis Delmas took to the ball.

    It appeared Delmas was heading the opposite direction of McCoy anyway, but then Avant blocked Bentley into Delmas, knocking him off track as well. Delmas then tried to catch McCoy, as did Willie Young from the back side of the run on the line, but neither could catch him.

    “Missed tackles, missed tackles,” Delmas said. “You’ve got to find a way to get the ball on the ground. You’ve got to grab cloth or pick up a snowball and hit him in the back of the head with it.

    “But you’ve got to find a way and we didn’t.”

    Young actually ended up being the closest player to McCoy when he reached the end zone. Delmas dove for him after the mistake and missed, and Rashean Mathis couldn’t catch up with him, either.

    It was just part of what Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said were 180 yards after missed tackles Sunday. And part of what was a record-setting day from McCoy.

    “The guys up front gave me opportunities one-on-one by blowing those guys off the ball,” McCoy said about his running game in general. “I think everybody was so intimidated and scared up front, but I thought the big guys on my team took the challenge and stepped up.

    “The whole week they talked about just running the ball and giving me different matchups one-on-one. Not only myself, but with the backs that we have, I think in one-on-one opportunities, we’re going to win. (Sunday), that’s what happened.”

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