COORDINATOR CUT-UP

Coordinator Cut-Up: Opponents are forcing the Lions to drive the football

Posted Nov 13, 2012

When a team has to drive to score, they can’t afford mistakes like dropped passes and penalties, all of which plagued the Lions Sunday in Minnesota.

Teams are forcing the big-play, high-octane Lions offense of 2011 into an identity crisis for 2012.

Big touchdown plays have become a thing of the past.

Through nine games, the Lions have just two scoring plays of 20-plus yards and both are 46-yard touchdown catches by receiver Titus Young. One of those was a Hail Mary at the end of the Tennessee game from backup quarterback Shaun Hill.

They’re still getting chunk plays, though. The Lions have 35 pass plays of 20-plus yards (fifth-most) and six of 40-plus (seventh-most), but they aren’t scoring plays.

The Lions are still the only team in the NFL without a run of 20-plus yards.

Those statistics are somewhat telling as to why the Lions have struggled at times this season.

Teams are forcing them to drive the football to score points. When a team has to drive to score, they can’t afford mistakes like dropped passes and penalties, all of which plagued the Lions Sunday in Minnesota.

"It's execution,” Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of the lack of production early in games. “You can't have a 15-yard penalty on a drive where you have some momentum (first drive of the game Sunday).

"Two first downs, you're moving it, you know you're going to have to go long field. It's difficult to drive it 80 yards in 10-plus plays, but that's what people are trying to force us to do because of how they're defending us.”

Teams aren’t blitzing the Lions at all and they are seeing a lot of loose zone coverage ... for the most part.

“That's why we have to establish the run,” Linehan said. “We've got to establish being able to execute intermediate - even short - passes. The only thing you can't do is derail yourself, which is what we've done in some early game situations with penalties or a drop or a missed throw. Those are the things that happen.

“We've continued to improve as the game's gone on and obviously we've been more of a second-half team than a first-half team. We’ve talked about: let's just spread that out and see if we can put together four consistent quarters of moving the ball and scoring.”

Teams may be taking away the big scoring play, but Linehan says his offense leads the league with 13 drives of 80-plus yards.

“Our guys are getting confidence knowing that a long field is going to be there and that we have to sustain and maintain the number of drives to get those points,” he said.

“We have to play mistake-free though. We can't have something that slows us down. If we're going to be going the distance there, we can't have a penalty. We can't have a dropped pass along the way. Those are the things that are hard to overcome. We're going to have to play pretty mistake-free football to win.”