LIONS INSIDER

FOUR DOWNS: Suh leading in assists, defensive play, Carey at corner and Fairley expecting the run

Posted Nov 10, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at four keys from Detroit's 21-19 win at Chicago

FIRST DOWN

ASSIST LEADER

If assists were an NFL statistic, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh might lead the league.

Suh has 24 tackles, 4.5 sacks and a bevy of tackles-for-loss and quarterback hits, but his impact goes far beyond those numbers.

It was his large paw that got in the way of a Jay Cutler pass near the end of the first half that caused the ball to float harmlessly into the arms of linebacker DeAndre Levy.

"Suh’s been doing that all year," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "He’d be a great point guard the way that he’s been setting other players up."

It’s the not the first time Levy has been the beneficiary of an assist by Suh. His interception return for a touchdown in Arizona was the result of a Suh pressure on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.

It seems like we’re talking every week about a big play on defense that got started with the All Pro.

"A lot of times that doesn’t get on the stats and things like that, but he’s had really good pressure on the quarterback," Schwartz said. "He’s had an outstanding year and it’s plays like that … I mean, that’s at least a three-point play right there (the Levy interception).

"Defensive players don’t get a chance to score very many points, but the way you look at that play - that’s a three-point play and potentially a seven-point play."

SECOND DOWN

WHEN IT COUNTS

There were times on Sunday the Lions defense did not play particularly well.

The first series of the game, when the Bears carved through the unit like a hot knife through butter on the way to the end zone, would be one of those times.

"We did some really good things on defense in this game," Schwartz said. "The first series wasn’t one of them.

Or the final defensive series of the game when the Lions allowed the Bears to march down the field and score a touchdown to get within a two-point conversion of tying the game.

There were times, however, when the defense stood on their heads and made a play when they needed to. Maybe the most important of those was the goal-to-go stand in the fourth quarter following Matthew Stafford’s lone interception of the game.

The Lions had a 14-10 lead when Chris Conte intercepted Stafford and returned it to the Detroit 9-yard line with 10:57 left.

An ensuing touchdown would have been a huge momentum swing in the game, but the Lions defense found a way to limit the damage to only a Robbie Gould 32-yard field goal.

"I thought the biggest series of the game was after Conte’s interception when we held them to a field goal," Schwartz said. "They had a chance to go take the lead. "They had a lot of momentum at that point. Our defense went out and got a defensive stop, and forced a field goal. I thought that was as big a series defensively for us for the whole game."

A lot of people will look at the two-point conversion stop at the end of the game as the definitive moment of the game for the defense, but the stop following the Conte interception was just as important – maybe more.

THIRD DOWN

BULLPEN

Rookie cornerback Darius Slay sent out a Tweet after the game that read: "Great Win today!!!!!!!!!!!! I need to get better…….."

There couldn’t be two truer statements.

The Lions were counting on Slay to contribute on the outside in nickel packages. The knee injury to slot cornerback Bill Bentley prevented him from playing and the Lions’ plan heading into the game was to use Rashean Mathis on the inside let Slay enter the game and play on the outside.

Slay was picked on early and often by the Bears, however, and gave up a 32-yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall on the first possession of the game. It didn’t get much better from there for the team’s second-round pick and Don Carey eventually replaced him.

"We ended up going with Don’s group a little bit more as the game went on because he was playing well," Schwartz said.

Don CareyS Don Carey (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

That’s the second week in a row the Lions have used Carey in nickel and dime packages. He played well last year in a safety role, but he’s versatile enough to cover receivers and play a role in the middle of the field as a cornerback.

Slay still has plenty of learning ahead of him, and it’s just a good thing veterans like Mathis and Carey give Schwartz and Co. the option to go to the bullpen if needed.

FOURTH DOWN

EXPECTING RUN

Teams love to go to their star players when the game is on the line.

Lions fans know that all too well having watched receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford do their thing time and time again late in the fourth quarter of games.

So, when the Bears needed to get into the end zone for the 1-yard line for the game-tying  two-point conversion at the end there was a good chance the Bears were going to dial up running back Matt Forte’s number.

"Forte’s one of their best players," Schwartz said. "They had run the ball across against Green Bay last week and I think from the one yard line, a very similar situation. It wasn’t the exact same run, but it was similar. Yeah, we were ready for it but you still have to make the play."

Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley thought the same thing.

"Just shot it," Fairley said of shooting the gap on the last two-point play and stuffing Forte in the backfield. "Just watching film throughout the week and watching some of their tendencies. I read my keys real good and made a play."

Suh said after the game that he, too, had a pretty good idea the Bears were dialing up a run because of some tells by the offensive lineman. Suh talked about weight distribution and some of the subtle tells defensive lineman look for.

"I had a feeling that they would (run), because it’s kind of like a misdirection-type thing, something that we probably wouldn’t expect, but Nick (Fairley) played it great and obviously took care of business," Suh said. "We always convert to pass, we always understand that we want to play the run on the way to pass, so he did a great job of that."