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Lions’ defensive coordinator: Scheme was fine in loss to Eagles


In the last 22 minutes of Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, the Lions’ defense gave up 34 points and 384 yards. But don’t tell Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham that the Eagles figured out his defense.

Instead, Cunningham blames the players’ execution — particularly missed tackles — for the disaster that the Lions’ defense became at the end of that game.

“I’ve been around for a while but I’ve never seen anything like that,” Cunningham said, via the Detroit News. “We couldn’t tackle in the second half. It wasn’t the scheme that broke down, it was missed tackles. It happens. You can’t afford to let it happen.”

Some said after Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had repeated success running up the middle that the Lions’ Wide-9 defensive line formation was to blame, but Cunninghame doesn’t buy that.

“Whoever is saying that should look at the tape,” he said. “We made adjustments. We put [defensive end Willie Young] inside. But we missed tackles. People have their opinion. But you can’t hold teams six games in a row to 60 yards or less rushing and think the scheme is bad. We missed tackles. That’s what happened. We’ve been a good tackling team all year. You scratch your head about it but you have to move on to the next one.”

Whatever the reasons, Cunningham’s defense didn’t get the job done. Like the rest of the Lions’ coaching staff, he may be out of a job if his defense doesn’t get the job done over the next three weeks.

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28 Responses to “Lions’ defensive coordinator: Scheme was fine in loss to Eagles”
  1. trytobnimble says: Dec 14, 2013 6:38 PM

    Yep. Don’t give the Eagles any credit. It was all you Detroit. Never mind that you got punched in the mouth by a superior team.

  2. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 14, 2013 6:39 PM

    Well I haven’t missed a Lions snap in 10 years, and I haven’t seen the game film yet where our scheme looked good. The entire scheme is a mess. He’s just wrong. There’s better ways to play Defense than the abomination of a show the Lions typically put on. Primarily concerning the back-7 who don’t know how to think and move around out there very logically.

    That’s the problem I have with the scheme, no logical understanding of how to position oneself and to identify where and when to move. Those things are very important I think.

  3. rextraordinaire says: Dec 14, 2013 6:40 PM

    As a Bears fan, I’m inclined to agree. I had no issues with their scheme or tackling whatsoever.

  4. ziggystheansah says: Dec 14, 2013 6:42 PM

    I said that on Sunday, following the Loss. Sure, nickel wide 9 isn’t the BEST thing to run when teams draw it up the middle. But if you watched the game it wasn’t like McCoy was running untouched. Poor execution by the Lions defense, the plays were there and they had the game in their hands. they failed to wrap up anyone, I even saw Foles run for 20 yards…

    Oh and before anyone tries to criticize me for saying wide 9 isn’t that bad, the Lions’ held Forte & Lacy <60 yards rushing. It was Forte's lowest ypc (1.9) of the season. Lacy to the lowest ypc of the season as well (1.6)

  5. icdogg says: Dec 14, 2013 6:44 PM

    The Wide 9 is way too easy for teams to exploit. By the 4th quarter the Eagles were just toying with the Lions D. They would start to move right, get the defense to commit to the gaps on that side, and then run left. Then they would do the same thing only starting on the left. The safeties were always late, so they had to bring them up, and in the process they left guys wide open.

  6. bmoreravens1012013 says: Dec 14, 2013 6:46 PM

    Hopefully they won’t get it done again Monday night!

  7. hyzers says: Dec 14, 2013 7:01 PM

    This is the truth but credit the Eagles for sticking with the run when they had nothing for 3 quarters. Levy, Tulloch and Delmas all whiffed with arm tackles. Willie Young tried to take a knockout shot in the backfield and whiffed on another long run. Anybody that knows football understands who the real culprits were.

  8. tompapp1 says: Dec 14, 2013 7:01 PM

    I know its a little late in the season but I am pretty sure most Bear fans would be willing to trade Mel Tucker for Gunther Cunningham.

  9. hurricanegrabowski says: Dec 14, 2013 7:07 PM

    Scheme or tackling, it’s still his fault. I like how he attempts to deflect the blame to the players, I’d expect that from a 6 year old, not a 67 year old professional coach.

  10. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 14, 2013 7:13 PM


    Agreed. Even I don’t like some of the players we have. But that’s a function of them not being coached up to do better. I think it’s not primarily their fault that the Defense sucks. I blame the DC, the HC, the GM, and the Owner for picking the GM that is oblivious to what is going on. This coaching is not up to par, and the blame that is being cast out here is extremely concerning and really quite upsetting to me. There’s a lot of talent on this team that can still be salvaged, but not with this kind of attitude.

  11. hermanthunderfootweaver says: Dec 14, 2013 7:18 PM

    Its time for Cunningham to retire. I am tired of his excuses.

  12. seabreezes51 says: Dec 14, 2013 7:21 PM

    The Eagles ran that garbage wide nine last year. Those that didn’t get the boot knew it was bad and knew how to beat it.

  13. officialgame says: Dec 14, 2013 7:28 PM

    I did look at the coaches tape and your scheme was exposed. When you let an explosive back like McCoy run up the middle with holes wide enough to let a 18 wheeler through your scheme blows. The fact that it happened in the second half after the Eagles made adjustment proves your scheme was exposed. And lastly when a back like McCoy gets to the second level at full speed there is nobody in football he can’t make miss.

  14. metrocritical says: Dec 14, 2013 7:57 PM

    It’s a miracle Gunther has lasted in the league for as long as he has, considering what he has actually accomplished. Or not accomplished. How many times have his teams favorably finished among the top ten in the league in points allowed? Yardage allowed? How many teams has he coordinated or coached that have won their division? Won a playoff game? Won a championship? All of his gruff, growling tough talk and stubborn adherence to schemes has added up to…A whole lot of nothing.

  15. thetruthcampaign says: Dec 14, 2013 8:15 PM

    Still, it’s a 5th ranked run D even after that game. For McCoy to break records against our, at the time, 3rd ranked run D, there’s only one reason. Snow. At least these guys are indoors the rest of the way.

  16. bennyb82 says: Dec 14, 2013 8:46 PM

    It’s always something…the only way the Lions will ever win this division is if Rodgers and Cutler both go down, Minnesota has a QB carousel, and the Lions play a bunch of average teams…wait a second…

  17. weaselpuppy says: Dec 14, 2013 8:59 PM

    The Lions coordinators ALWAYS get outcoached. They get out-adjusted at halftime EVERY game.

    No question that Delmas sucked. That Glover played poorly, and for some dumb reason the LB starting coming way upfield leaving the safeties as the only tacklers past the LOS…

    Poor execution and poor coaching.

    Schwartz and crew are just plain not very good at the majority of what coaches do on gameday. This team should be 8-5 maybe 9-4. They always play down to their competition.

    Weak players mentally and weak coaches. They have a great DLine, a O-line that has been great, 2 LB playing out of their minds and talent at safety…plus of course Reggie Bush, a good backup in Bell, tall targets in the red zone, a good possession receiver, a cannon arm QB and the Best Player in the NFL in Calvin.

    They have played a weak schedule with opponents decimated by injury.

    And they are a last second fake out by Matty vs Dallas away from being under .500

    These coaches HAVE TO GO. Superbowl saves them, that’s it, otherwise go blow, Gym Shorts.

  18. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 14, 2013 9:15 PM

    The Eagles loss is still to me the only legitimate competitive effort we have received all year. We should be 12-1 at the worst. We have squandered years worth of extra advantages that come from being on the bottom of the scrap heap, and there’s no good excuse for not being the clear cut best team in the NFL. And nobody has anything like CJ. It was THAT much easier for us to do something special. It’s just a massive waste of a far grander opportunity that we have had. For all these years.

  19. bleedgreen1988 says: Dec 14, 2013 9:15 PM

    He has a point with them not giving up more then 60 yards 6 times in a row. Thats pretty impressive. But the fact that he isnt realizing is that the holes in the middle of the defense were the real problem. It wasnt like it was only mccoy doing all this. Bryce brown and Chris Polk were also running right through the defense. There is no way that missed tackles can account for almost 300 yards rushing.

  20. jimnaizeeum says: Dec 14, 2013 9:27 PM

    Not sure Fairley even touched McCoy in the 2nd half…not good for part of the, self-proclaimed, best D-tackle tandem in football

  21. thegreatgabbert says: Dec 14, 2013 10:22 PM

    Gunther will be the first to tell you that the most perfect defensive scheme is only as good as the players executing it. He knew that when the brought the tablets down from the mountain.

  22. favrelous says: Dec 14, 2013 10:50 PM

    Looked Fantastic. These guys look like the kind of go getters I need on my new EM 50 project.

  23. stewart09 says: Dec 15, 2013 3:28 AM

    even the average fan can see that you were using a pass rushing D against a top 3 RB in McCoy and then you put a speed rusher DE in the middle (willie young) to just get manhandled by the eagles guards then justify as if was the right move.., you put your players in bad positions then you throw them under the bus sure they could of tackled better but its also your job to make sure they know how to tackle outdoor in the elements, poor form cunningham.

  24. hyperalgesia says: Dec 15, 2013 4:24 AM

    Hey Diddle diddle, Ray Rice won’t figure out 9 wide up the middle.

  25. binkystevens says: Dec 15, 2013 4:28 AM

    Happy – there’s a problem. You’re not any good!

  26. ivanpavlov0000 says: Dec 15, 2013 6:04 AM

    It was pretty obvious that the Lions defense were out of gas in the 4th quarter. There’s been talk that McCoy switched to longer spikes which gave him better footing, and that probably helped, but that wasn’t the whole story.

    The Lions defense that played in the 4th quarter did not have the same energy they had in the 1st quarter. I’ve been wondering if they didn’t bother with sideline heaters, or what?

    Anyway, he’s right. The Lions defense (and offense) stunk it up in the 4th quarter. It’s a game they could have and should have won.

  27. bennyb82 says: Dec 15, 2013 9:19 AM

    Of course it is not the scheme…otherwise it would not be a scheme. The issue is adapting to the changes that the offense has made in order to have better success against the defense. Just because the defense stopped the run for pretty much the entire year doesn’t mean to stick with what worked in the past when it clearly is not working in the present. Oh and throw it to Calvin more than 5 times and maybe the defensive scheme becomes less of a factor.

  28. crabtrap says: Dec 15, 2013 10:35 AM

    At least this guy didn’t blame the refs or send in 15 calls for the league to review.

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