Tuesday, October 29, 2019

This is the Trey Flowers that Detroit paid $90 million to see

Updated Oct 28, 2019; Posted Oct 28, 2019

DETROIT -- Trey Flowers has been one of the best defensive ends in the league against the run this season. But he wasn’t paid $90 million just to set an edge.
He’s paid that kind of money to wreak havoc in the passing game. He’s paid for chaos and disruption. He’s paid, ideally, to dump quarterbacks on their rear ends.
On Sunday, Flowers finally broke through by racking Giants rookie Daniel Jones for sacks on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter of a 31-26 win against New York. He becomes the first Lions player to post full sacks on consecutive plays on the same drive since Kelvin Pritchett did it on Nov. 24, 1994.
These were big ones, too. The Lions were playing their first game without starting safety Quandre Diggs (traded), then lost fellow starting safety Tracy Walker to a knee injury in the third quarter. That forced Tavon Wilson into an every-down role, and then he suffered an injury of his own with about 10 minutes left in the game.
That left Detroit with just two healthy safeties -- rookies Will Harris and C.J. Moore, the latter of whom is usually just a special teams ace. Things were so dire, Miles Killebrew -- who moved to linebacker last season and hadn’t played a snap of defense since Christmas Eve in 2017 -- was pressed into emergency duty in the back end of the defense.
Throw in the absence of star cornerback Darius Slay, and Detroit’s secondary was stretched to its limits. The Giants were exploiting it, too, and crossed into Lions territory while trailing 31-19 midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s when Flowers went to work, tossing left tackle Nate Solder to the ground and then crushing Jones for a strip-sack. Jones was fortunate the ball bounced right back to him, but New York lost 8 yards on the play. Then they lined back up, and Flowers did it again, this time delivering an arm bar to Solder’s chest and driving him so far into the pocket that Jones fell over. That play lost 6 yards, and suddenly, New York’s scoring opportunity was facing a third-and-26.
Spoiler alert: They didn’t get it.
They turned the ball over on downs, and Detroit coasted to victory with relative ease.
“I think a lot of guys just continue to work hard,” Flowers said. "It was just one of those deals where you work hard, you continue to fight, plays are going to come to you. A lot of guys doing their jobs. Guys in the back end making them hold the ball for a lot longer, guys on each side of the ball collectively, keeping them in the pocket and not allowing him to escape, things like that. We knew (Jones) was a dynamic quarterback as far as his legs, he can definitely hurt guys. So, just keeping him in the pocket and understanding that we still have to continue to press the pocket.”
The Lions did just that, finally.
Their defensive line was so heralded, so highly anticipated, after Flowers and Mike Daniels joined Snacks Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and the rest of what was already a terrific defensive front. But bogged down by performance and injury issues almost across the board, they were one of the least effective units in the league through seven weeks.
Nobody was winning their pass rushes less often in the air game, and only six teams were allowing more yards per carry in the ground game.
Against New York, though, Detroit stiffened up. Flowers led the way with a season-high seven pressures, and the Lions were credited with 21 as a team. That was a game high since Week 1, and nearly what they combined for in losses to Minnesota and Green Bay the previous two weeks (23).
Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins had all day to throw, and they hurt the Lions badly. Cousins had his best ever since joining Minnesota last year. Jones did have some luck picking at that depleted secondary, too, but the pressure up front helped limit the damage and force the rookie into some critical mistakes.
That includes Jarrad Davis lighting up Jones on a delayed blitz up the middle in the first quarter, jarring the ball loose. Devon Kennard scooped up the pill and returned it for a touchdown, his first since high school.
“It was a lot of fun,” Kennard said. "It was my first time scoring since high school, so touching the paint and getting in the end zone was a lot of fun for me.”
And in the ground game, the Lions held talented back Saquon Barkley to jut 64 yards on 19 carries, his worst yardage and per-carry outputs in a full game this season. None of his carries went for longer than 13 yards.
The Lions held New York to 80 rushing yards overall, after giving up at least 112 in each of their first six games.
“We tend to stay just even keel with anything,” coach Matt Patricia said. "We never tend to get too high or too low with all of that stuff. We don’t like to ride the wave. Good from a numbers standpoint, but I’m sure there are a lot of plays in there that we have to do a better job of getting coached up, and getting taught and technique.
"We’ll just keep pushing forward to try to get better because what would be nice is to try to do just do it consistently. I think that’s the biggest challenge for us going forward from that standpoint.”

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