Offense will be Challenged by the Blitz Again

Posted Oct 14, 2009

Quarterback Matthew Stafford practiced on Wednesday and was “limited” on the injury report.

“Matthew’s made a lot of progress,” said Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. “We’re keeping both of them (Stafford and Culpepper) up and ready and giving Drew (Stanton) some snaps. So we’re getting all three ready for whatever role they get called for on Sunday.”

Head Coach Jim Schwartz said after practice that he was “a long way off” from making a decision on who would start this weekend at Lambeau Field.

“We’ve had to (reign in) different players that thought that they were ready to go out and we had to make a medical decision that they weren’t,” said Schwartz of Stafford’s desire to get back on the field.

“You’d much rather have that situation—a player that wants to be out there, that wants to be out there too early in your opinion – than somebody that you’re prodding to get out there.”

If Stafford can’t go this week, Culpepper will get his second-consecutive start for the Lions.

“There were certainly some really good things,” said Linehan of Culpepper’s performance against Pittsburgh. “There are some things we’d like to have back as a team. As far as a competitive performance and giving us a chance all the way to the end, I was really proud of him.”

One thing both Culpepper and the offense struggled with last week was the blitz.

Pittsburgh wasn’t afraid to bring it and it was most apparent on the final drive of the game when Culpepper was sacked three consecutive times.

“You play that team and play the team that we’re playing this week, that’s your challenge: you’re going to get blitzed probably seven out of 10 times,” said Linehan. “For the most part, we handled it good. The last series was where we got hurt on it. Give them credit for them making the plays and we didn’t.”

Linehan says the offense has to be more prepared for situations like that, anticipating the blitzes and having the adjustments and answers ready. Sometimes that means throwing the ball away.

“They’re going to win some or lose some, we just don’t want to have lost-yardage plays,” he said.

One thing apparent during last week’s game was how hard Kevin Smith ran the ball.

He fought for every yard and came out the other side war-beaten. To show for his effort, Smith had 53 rushing yards on 20 attempts in addition to 42 receiving yards.

“We told Kevin it wasn’t going to be a fancy running game, but we weren’t looking for style points, we were looking for a hard-nosed approach,” said Linehan. “He took that to heart and ran very hard and was really tuned in to what the plan was.”

Because of Smith’s efforts, the Lions were able to stay in that game for all four quarters, having a chance to take the victory at the end.

“It’s what you’ve got to do against a great team like Pittsburgh,” he said.

What Linehan wants to change this week at Green Bay is the length of the runs.

“Our two longest runs to date have come from quarterback scrambles,” said Linehan. “I know our backs are chomping at the bit to be able to really change the game with a long run and that’s going to be a tough challenge.”

What will make or break Detroit this weekend from an offensive standpoint is playing mistake-free football; the Lions will need to protect the football and the quarterback better than they did a week ago.

On top of that, the offense will quite possibly have to make it work without some key components.

On Wednesday’s injury report, offensive players who didn’t practice included Jerome Felton, Casey FitzSimmons, Calvin Johnson and Maurice Morris. Johnson obviously stands out on that list. He didn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday last week, but was able to get in on Friday and then started Sunday’s game.

He left the game early on, however, and other players had to step up.

“Injuries are such a big part of this game that you’ve got to adjust to,” said Linehan. “The great thing about football is that it is a team game. Collectively, the rest of us have got to step up and really fill in the blanks that come with having a great player.

“Guys know the challenge and I know there’s some young players who are excited about their opportunities. We’ve just got to go out and, as a team, put together a great performance and get us a win on the road.”

It will mark the second-consecutive week Linehan’s offense lines up against a frequently-blitzing, 3-4 scheme.

“Having coached against Green Bay in the past, it’s a different scheme and you can see they’re making that transition,” said Linehan. “But they’ve got the right kind of people for it; they’ve got great players and I know they’re very well coached. Coach Capers is one of most highly-respected D-Coordinators in the league.

“So we’re going to have a tough challenge. We’re going to see a lot of the things that caused us problems from last week’s game this week.”