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Lions vs. Cardinals: Breaking down the defensive sets

After some game charting, have a look at how the Cardinals defended the Lions.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals did something that I do not recall seeing since 2010 -- they used six defensive backs on the field at the same time. Under Ray Horton, I do not recall ever having more than a 2-4-5 nickel set.

Against the Detroit Lions, Todd Bowles used a variety of looks. Here is how it broke down and the results.

The team's 3-4 base was used the least. It was on the field for only four plays. The Lions passed on all four of those plays and gained 14 yards.

They were in standard nickel formations (five defensive backs) for 14 plays. Using their normal 2-4-5 on seven plays, Detroit ran four times for -9 yards. They passed three times for 27 yards.

The Cardinals gave a 3-3-5 look three times. Detroit was 3/3 passing on those plays for 15 yards.

With a four man line (4-2-5), Detroit ran the ball three times for seven yards and fumbled once. They attempted one pass that was incomplete.

Arizona had one play using a goalline defense. On that play, the Lions scored on a three-yard pass play.

The rest of the way -- 38 plays, or 66 percent of the plays -- the Cardinals used six defensive backs. Some would call it a dime package or a "big nickel." This is where Yeremiah Bell was brought down like a linebacker closer to the line of scrimmage, Tony Jefferson came in the game and Tyrann Mathieu was the inside corner. Technically, there were four safeties on the field.

Even then, Bowles gave the Lions different looks. Of those 38 plays, the Cards went with a 2-3-6 set 20 times, a 3-2-6 set eight time and a 4-1-6 formation 10 times.

With the 2-3-6 set, The Lions ran the ball five times for 40 yards. They attempted 15 passes, completing 10 of them for 139 yards and a score. 72 of those yards came on the score by Calvin Johnson.

Using a 3-2-6, Detroit ran the ball only twice and did so poorly. They were two four-yard losses. Passing the ball against that defense, the Lions went 5/6 for 45 yards. The 4-1-6 looks that the Cardinals gave were apparently to anticipate running plays. Seven of the 10 plays in that formation were runs, which netted 15 yards. The Lions passed the ball three times, completing two passes for 28 yards.

Based on last Sunday, the idea that the Cardinals will be a hybrid defense remains true. They used a four man line 14 times.

What is most impressive is that, unlike last season, the Cardinals are defending the run well, even with lots of different looks, even with sometimes only two down linemen.

What do you take away from this information?

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