Lions film review: Breaking down 3 game-changing plays

Justin Rogers, The Detroit News

With under three minutes remaining, and the game on the verge of slipping away, the Detroit Lions forced a crucial turnover, beginning a sequence that would end in victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Darius Slay forced a fumble and secured the game-winning interception, but his teammates helped set up the turnovers.

There were three key plays in that three-minute stretch -- the forced fumble, a 27-yard, third-down completion to Golden Tate and Darius Slay's victory-sealing interception. We're going to take a look at each play to determine the cause of the result. 

The Fumble

With no timeouts remaining, the Lions are in a do-or-die situation. Facing third-and-2, with 2:41 remaining, an Eagles first down conversion essentially ends the game.

The Eagles come out in 11 personnel -- three receivers, a tight end and a running back. The formation is weighted heavily to the left, with two receivers bunched to that side and the tight end off left tackle.The Lions counter with a unique, three-safety nickel package with veteran Don Carey getting a rare defensive snap. 

Logic dictates running the ball here, but Detroit can't ignore the possibility of a pass, especially out of play-action. Pre-snap, Philadelphia motions the tight end to the right side of the formation before running a toss sweep to running back Ryan Mathews to that side. 

The key to the stop is strong safety Tavon Wilson. On the snap, he blasts Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews off his path, somehow maintains his balance, then takes on right tackle Lane Johnson. The lineman's assignment had him getting to the edge, where he would have put a body on outside cornerback Darius Slay.

Safety Tavon Wilson (32), blasts through the first block to get to tackle Lane Johnson and free up cornerback Darius Slay to make the fumble-causing hit.

With Johnson preoccupied with Wilson, Slay gets a free shot on the ball carrier. The cornerback didn't do anything special to jar the ball loose. He went low on Mathews and wrapped up, making sure the back wouldn't get the first down. It was a good play, the fumble was simply a bonus. 

The Completion:

Taking over at the Eagles 45-yard line, the Lions gain six yards on first and second down, putting them on the outer edge of kicker Matt Prater's field-goal range at the two-minute warning. The team could really use a first down to run more time off the clock and make the potential game-winning kick a more reasonable attempt. 

On third-and-4, the Lions come out with four wide receivers, trips to the right and Marvin Jones alone on the left. Quarterback Matthew Stafford's first read is Golden Tate, who lines up wide left and is supposed to be running an underneath crossing route at the marker, but the Eagles are playing a shallow zone, taking away the path.  

But both Tate and Stafford see what's happening an adjust the route. 

The only problem is the pass protection call wasn't designed to hold up. Stafford holds on to the ball as long as he can before firing an anticipatory throw to Tate, angling behind the Eagles' linebackers. The receiver pops out the other side just as the perfect pass arrives and gains another 12 yards after the catch. 

The positioning of an Eagles linebacker forced Golden Tate to angle deeper on his route and Matthew Stafford to make an anticipatory throw.

The Interception: 

After a short Prater field goal put the Lions back on top, the Eagles had a final shot. Starting at their own 25-yard line, they had 88 seconds and no timeouts to get into field-goal range. They needed to drive at least 37 yards. 

On the first snap, they come out with three receivers, tight end Zach Ertz and dangerous receiving back Darren Sproles. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz wants to go to Ertz, running a 10-yard dig route, but the Lions cover it well. Wilson is in man coverage and delivers a strong jam at the line, and when Ertz breaks his route inside, safety Glover Quin has made the read and is well positioned to take the route away.

Wentz's second read is to Jordan Matthews, running a shallow crossing route from right to left, but Carey has him blanketed. The receiver probably makes the catch, but for a minimal gain. With no timeouts, it's a throw the Eagles can't afford to make. 

Safeties Tavon Wilson and Glover Quin have tight end Zach Ertz bracketed in the middle of the field, while Don Carey has receiver Jordan Matthews covered to the left.

That forces Wentz to his third option, Nelson Agholor, running a go route one-on-one against Darius Slay. It's not a bad shot to take, especially when there's the possibility of drawing a pass interference, but Slay is in perfect position, turning and locating the ball early and making a tough over-the-shoulder interception look easy. 

Darius Slay is looking back for the football, making the interception look easy.

Slay also deserves credit for giving himself up with a slide, avoiding any unnecessary risk of turning the ball back over. And with Stafford taking a knee three times, the game is over.