Lions' high-ranking secondary earning plenty of 'atta boys'

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News
Lions defensive back Tracy Walker, right, celebrates his interception against the Cardinals with teammate defensive back Tavon Wilson.

Allen Park — The red lights in the defensive backs room haven’t meant "stop" so far this season.

Defensive backs coach Brian Stewart uses a laser pointer to point out “red dot” plays on film — sometimes good, sometimes bad.

“You get the red dot for one of two things,” Stewart said. “The red dot is because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, and the red dot is because that’s an ‘atta boy.’

“Everybody wants those ‘atta boys.’ You want that red dot for the right reasons. You want to be on the highlight tape, not the lowlight tape.”

This year, for the 2-1-1 Lions, it’s been overwhelmingly highlight tape material in the competitive room.

Two interceptions aren’t an eye-popping stat, but Detroit is fourth league-wide in passes defensed with 29 and is tied for second with seven fumbles forced.

Despite matching up against four high-profile quarterbacks in first overall pick Kyler Murray, Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes, the Lions have allowed just four touchdown passes — well below the league average, which is closer to two allowed per game.

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Tracy Walker and Darius Slay, returners from last season’s secondary, have made the interceptions. But the Lions' free agent additions to the secondary are proving especially effective, as Justin Coleman is tied for the league lead with six breakups, and Rashaan Melvin is close behind with five.

Coleman — a light heavyweight at 190 pounds — made two plays with his fist that would have made Joe Louis proud in Sunday’s 34-30 loss to Kansas City.

His punch of a Mahomes pass to Sammy Watkins in the end zone jarred the ball loose, forcing a field goal in the second quarter.

Then, in the third, Coleman contributed to the fumble fest by punching a ball away from Watkins again, this time after the receiver made a catch and stumbled off the ground in an attempt to gain a few extra yards.

“It’s just being ball aware, being football smart and overall situational awareness,” Stewart said. “It was great by him, awesome by him.”

Watkins came into the game averaging more than six catches and more than 100 yards per game, but Coleman held him to three catches for 54 yards.

“He’s lining up on really good inside receivers all the time,” defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “That guy competes. He competes hard. That has meant a lot. I think it’s reflective of how hard the guys are working.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.