D-line Makes Progress

Posted Sep 20, 2009

If Andre Fluellen could have picked the victim for his first NFL sack, Brett Favre would have been right at the top of the list.

So when Fluellen brought down Favre for a six-yard loss on a third down and 16 situation late in the third quarter

Sunday it was like a dream come true for the second-year defensive tackle from Florida State.

"At the time it was a big play," Fluellen said. "I've been wanting to get Brett Favre since I've been playing. He's a great player, a great competitor and a future Hall of Famer. It's a privilege to get a sack against him."

Fluellen is hoping the sack is just one of many he'll record during the course of the season.

"I hope they keep rolling. One comes after another and by the end of the season I'll have 16 sacks," he said with a smile. "Hopefully, that's how it goes, but more than anything it just feels good to help the team."

Fluellen said that the defensive line play is far from a finished product, but Sunday's performance was a stepping stone for the unit.

"Every week is a stepping stone," he said. "There are things we did wrong that we can improve on, and there are things we did right that we have to continue doing."

Executing the game plan is always a key ingredient to a unit's success.

"We came into the game with a solid game plan, and during the course of the game we executed some of those things," said defensive end Jason Hunter. "I liked the effort in the first half. I felt we came to play. Overall, I was pleased with the play of our D-line today."

One of the trademarks of defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham's system is attacking. Cunningham wants his defensive players to be the aggressors. That starts with the defensive line.

Hunter, who signed with the Lions last May after three seasons with Green Bay, agrees wholeheartedly with that philosophy.

"If we can get pressure on the quarterback, we can throw them off balance," Hunter said. "That gives the defense more leverage to do the things that you want. If the offense is off balance, you can throw the packages and the looks that you want. If you don't have pressure (the quarterback) can make all the throws and checks that he wants.

Minnesota isn't an easy team to stop. The Vikings have an experienced quarterback in Favre. He's complemented by one of the top running backs in the game in Adrian Peterson.

"When you have a running back as dynamic as Adrian Peterson, you have to account for that, too," Hunter said.

Despite the 27-13 defeat, the Lions had a decent effort on defense. Two of the Vikings' touchdowns came after turnovers deep in Detroit territory. Linebacker Chad Greenway recovered Kevin Smith's fumble at the Lions' 27 and on the next play, Peterson got free for a touchdown. Greenway's interception and 36-yard return to the Detroit 16 set up Minnesota's final score -- a three-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Percy Harvin.

The Lions sacked Favre three times (linebacker Larry Foote and Hunter had the other two) for 16 yards. In the opener at New Orleans, Saints quarterback Drew Brees escaped sack-free and threw six touchdown passes.

"Our coach (defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz) has high expectations for us, and during the week he talked about applying pressure to the quarterback," Hunter said. "If you don't apply pressure to the quarterback, that puts our secondary in a bad position. This week the onus was on us. We definitely wanted to come in and put pressure on the quarterback -- and I think we did a pretty good job today."

Defensive end Dewayne White, who has been with the Lions longer than any of the other defensive linemen, argued that last week's effort against Brees wasn't as bad as it looked.

"We got the pressure last week, we just didn't get the sacks," White said. "This week we got (Favre) down. Those were big. Those were drive-stoppers early in the game. The big difference this week was that we actually got him down."

Not only did the defensive line keep the heat on Favre, but it helped hold Peterson to 92 yards in 15 carries. A week ago, Peterson riddled the Cleveland defense for 180 yards in a 34-20 victory against the Browns.

Hunter said that the formula for slowing down Peterson was a simple one.

"Tackling," he said. "You've got to tackle a big, strong, physical running back like that. He runs downhill and he likes to attack your edges, so when you play against a running back like that, everybody has to be sound tacklers.

A missed tackle here, a missed tackle there and it will result in a big run. Instead of holding him to a two-yard gain, a missed tackle could mean a 30-yard gain and that can break the back of the defense. Everybody has to tackle and swarm to the ball."

As well as the defensive line played this week, it isn't satisfied.

"We played well, but we can always play better," White said. "We left some tackles out there -- and I speak mostly of myself. One time (Peterson) out-leveraged me and got away. We can get a lot better."