September 30, 2013 at 1:00 am
John NiyoGlover Quin making a huge difference in Lions' defense
Detroit — Two heads are better than one, and one job is better than two.
And if you’re looking for a statistical explanation for the difference between this Lions defense and the ones that have preceded it, that just might be it.
The Lions finally have a pair of safety valves in place to plug some of the holes that perennially sink this team. And Louis Delmas finally has a running mate he can genuinely trust in Glover Quin, who has immediately shown why he was one of the NFL’s best free-agent signings last winter.
That’s not intended solely as a knock on the laundry list of safeties that preceded Quin during the current Lions regime’s five-year tenure, from Marvin White and Marquand Manuel to Erik Coleman and Ricardo Silva. But it is, and Delmas knew it when I asked him about it after Sunday’s big win against Chicago at Ford Field.
“You’re putting me on the spot, huh?” he said, laughing.
Well, yes, I guess I was. But no more so than this team’s front office and coaching staff were when they asked him to start opposite an apprentice safety like Amari Spievey, for example, or a thread-bare vet like Chris Harris.
There’s a reason the Lions made signing Quin a priority in March — if Reggie Bush was 1A, the Texans’ versatile safety was 1B — and Sunday was it, in many ways.
While Ndamukong Suh and the Lions front four was busy kicking in another opponent’s door, Delmas and Quin were busy closing off escape routes, picking off three of Jay Cutler’s passes to backstop a defensive performance that was far more impressive than the final score indicated.
“We’ve both been having fun out there, we’ve been communicating real well and we’re just flying around making plays,” said Quin, whose second-quarter interception proved pivotal as the Lions scored two touchdowns in less than 30 seconds. “That’s what you want to do.”Supportive partner
And this is what Delmas has been waiting virtually his entire career to do. Drafted as a playmaking safety with the first pick of the second round in 2009, he has been hobbled nearly as much by his supporting cast as by injuries, including the chronic knee problem that sidelined him for most of last season.
The Lions have gone through defensive backs the way NFL players go through cleats, almost on a weekly basis. And particularly at the safety position, they’ve never found the kind of chemistry that’s a necessity in this league. Until now, it appears.
“It’s a simple mind-set now, to know that I’m back there with a guy who not only plays for himself but he plays for his teammates,” Delmas said of Quin, a fellow fifth-year pro. “He’ll risk his body and risk his job to put a teammate in a great position. I’m proud to be playing next to him.
“And I know that when I’m playing next to that guy right there that all I have to worry about his my job and this side of the field. Because I know the other side will be taken care of. He’s so good at what he does that all I have to worry about is my assignment.”
That’s particularly evident on third downs, where the Lions have been better than good through the first month of this season. They came into Sunday’s game leading the league in third-down defense, and they came out of it the same way.The Bears were 0-for-12 on third-down conversions until their final drive, when Cutler hit Earl Bennett on a 10-yard touchdown toss on third-and-7 with 43 seconds left. For the season, Lions opponents have converted just 10 of 47 third-down attempts, or 21.3 percent.
Suh and his pals have a lot to do with that, of course. So does the steady play from the linebackers, particularly Stephen Tulloch, who finished with a game-high 14 tackles Sunday, and DeAndre Levy, who continues to make big plays against the run and the pass.
But it’s easy to see what a difference the tandem of Delmas and Quin have made. Just as it was easy to see Delmas lining up his first interception Sunday, jumping Alshon Jeffery’s route on third-and-3 from the Chicago 22 and then putting a vise grip on the football as he went to the ground tangled with Jeffery.
Cutler called it a “great play” by Delmas, and it was, though Cutler certainly knows throwing late over the middle is generally a bad idea, even with his arm strength.
Cutler, who doubled his season total with Sunday’s four-turnover performance, insisted his other two interceptions were simply poor throws, and they were, too.Deception
But Quin would like to think he had something to do with his, and I won’t blame Cutler for not wanting to admit the Lions secondary baited him into throwing a near pick-6 right after Detroit had grabbed the lead for keeps. After all, it’s not something they’ve done much of in recent years.
Yet there they were Sunday, sitting in a Cover-1 defense, leaving Chris Houston on an island covering Brandon Marshall.
“I know as a quarterback you see single-high defense you want to exploit the back side,” Quin said, noting the Bears had three receivers split left on the play. “So I kind of showed away and made it look like (Marshall) was one-on-one by himself, and then as (Cutler) got into his cadence I started to lean to the other side. He snapped the ball and he was looking right there, so I just ran over the top.”
And nearly ran it back for a touchdown, finally stepping out of bounds at the 2-yard line, setting up Matthew Stafford’s TD pass to Calvin Johnson for a 23-10 lead.
“You’ve got two guys who’ve been playing for awhile, so we’ve seen a lot and we get a chance to take advantage of some of those situations,” said Quin, who has played every defensive snap this season — or just two more than Delmas. “But we just try to go out and play. And when we get opportunities to make ‘em, obviously, we try to make ‘em.”
Right now, they’re making them together, though. And that’s a winning combination for the Lions.firstname.lastname@example.org
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/2013 ... z2gNzJRKof