Allen Park — With the Broncos using five different receivers throughout Sunday night’s game, the Lions used their dime package on defense more extensively than in the first two games.
Backup safety Isa Abdul-Quddus played a season-high 19 snaps and was effectively playing a hybrid linebacker role in the Lions’ defensive set that features six defensive backs and just one linebacker — Josh Bynes.
Although the Lions lost, 24-12, coach Jim Caldwell said the use of the dime package helped curb some of the success teams had with short crossing patterns in the first two games, particularly in Week 1 against the Chargers.
“They didn’t kill us with crossing routes and things of that nature which had been a bit of an issue, but I do think they had some productivity,” Caldwell said of the Broncos. “I thought our defense played pretty tough, and it was just a couple of plays that made a difference in that ballgame for them.”
With Abdul-Quddus entering along with the Lions’ nickel cornerback, either Josh Wilson (18 snaps) or Quandre Diggs (33 snaps), the Lions used middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is an even more diminished role than in Week 2. Tulloch played just 31 of the 65 defensive snaps, though he finished with 11 tackles.
Out of the Lions starting defensive backs, cornerback Darius Slay was the only one who didn’t play every snap, but he missed just one. Bynes, meanwhile, was the only linebacker to play every snap. Behind Tulloch’s 31, Tahir Whitehead played 15 snaps, Travis Lewis had 13 and Brandon Copeland and Kyle Van Noy played one each.
Here are some other notable snap counts from Sunday:
Running backs: Ameer Abdullah (37 of 78), Joique Bell (25), Michael Burton (23) and Theo Riddick (16).
Analysis: Despite having just 10 total touches, the Lions do appear to have confidence in Abdullah as the top option in the backfield. Burton played a season-high snaps as the Lions tried to improve the run game and pass blocking, though the Broncos defense still made it tough for Detroit. With eight catches for 66 yards, Riddick caught a pass on half of his snaps.
Backup defensive tackles: Caraun Reid (28 of 65) and Gabe Wright (11).
Analysis: As expected, Reid immediately stepped into the No. 3 role behind starters Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker. The Lions chose Wright over the inactive Jermelle Cudjo.
Wide receivers: Calvin Johnson (78), Golden Tate (65), Lance Moore (49) and TJ Jones (three).
Analysis: For the second-straight week, Johnson played every snap, but the coaches still don’t trust Tate in a block-first role. Jones hardly saw the field in his NFL debut, though he had a nice 28-yard punt return.
Defensive ends: Jason Jones (42), Devin Taylor (40), Ezekiel Ansah (35) and Darryl Tapp (26).
Analysis: Ansah’s groin injury limited him and led to more action for Taylor, who played with two tackles, one for loss and two quarterback hits. However, it was surprising to see the coaches trust Taylor on critical third downs after he was a healthy scratch last week.