Lions LB Alex Anzalone collapses in defeat of Bears

This week’s Detroit Lions Spotlight movie review focuses on someone who doesn’t typically get much credit for his game. Linebacker Alex Anzalone was usually the target of fan scorn, not praise.

But in the Week 10 win against the Chicago Bears, Anzalone quietly played a pretty solid game. It was the second week in a row that Anzalone has put in a good performance. Against the Bears and one-of-a-kind QB Justin Fields, Anzalone did a lot of impressive dirty work away from Fields.

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The methodology for film rating here is pretty simple. Games where the player wins their individual matchup or correctly performs the role in the game bring a plus; plays where he loses his matchup or does the wrong thing gets a minus. Not every game deserves a grade.

Anzalone has been busy on almost every single defensive snap (60 of 61).

This is a good example of Anzalone at his best in the running game, from the second ride of the bears. He doesn’t overdo it, stays clean and ends with control and power.

Unfortunately, Anzalone earned a minus the next game for being late at the tight end of cover. Luckily, it didn’t cost the Lions anything; Fields didn’t see it and kept the ball going.

The mixed bag continued on the third ride. Anzalone saved a touchdown by flicking under a block and pushing Fields out at the 1-yard line. He even forced a fumble with his hit. But three plays later, he was the front-side containment Fields ran around after tricking three would-be tacklers into missing the Bears QB’s legitimately spectacular touchdown run.

Later in the game, Anzalone ran too high, losing containment at the back in the fourth quarter on the long Fields TD run. In general, Anzalone was responsible for the position. But it was blatantly obvious when he didn’t. To ask a player of his caliber to play a perfect game is asking too much.

I noted that Pro Football Focus attributed five missed tackles to Anzalone in the game. Not to say so, but I’ve only seen three. I don’t blame No. 34 for accidentally getting his leg hit by a teammate just as he was about to make a game, which is the only other, even questionable, miss attributable to Anzalone. A Bears penalty nullified another potentially missed tackle. However, his smell on the Bears drive, which ended with the long reception of Cole Kmet TD, was really bad.

The final bill

Anzalone racked up 19 plus and 15 minus points, a very meaty total for 60 snaps on defense.

The pluses:

  • 9 were reported, including one PD
  • 4 came on runs between the tackles
  • Earned a plus on his only designed pass rush attempt, the Bears’ last offensive game, but he also got a minus for a missed tackle in the same game

The minuses:

  • 11 were in run defense, five of them in runs by Khalil Herbert (10 carries total)
  • 2 came into cover situations where he recognized his mark too late
  • Two demerits were canceled out by Bears’ penalties

This became one of Anzalone’s best plays in a Lions uniform and has continued a steady upward trend in his game since the Week 6 bye. It’s still hard to ignore the miss as the Lions ask him to be so important in defense.

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