The Lions have spent a lot of time and money since head coach Jim Schwartz took the job in 2009 to build one of the best defensive lines in football.
This Lions team was built to throw the football and rush the passer. They've proven over the last couple years they can do both, and do both very well, which is why their zero-sack, one-quarterback pressure performance against Titans quarterback Jake Locker last week jumps out.
“We’re a lot better than that,” Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham told detroitlions.com of his defensive line’s performance last week. “For whatever reason we didn’t execute in this game. We’ve got to get it done. We’ve got to get it straitened out in a hurry.”
For their part, the Titans did a good job in Sunday's 44-41 victory of putting Locker in quick-throw situations out of the shotgun and in quick-drops when he did go under center. But there were times when he held the football and gave the Lions opportunities to rush – they just didn’t get it done.
“It’s always disappointing when you never get to the quarterback and make a big impact,” said defensive tackle
Suh admitted that as a starter he's partly to blame.
“I can really only speak for myself, but I really didn’t execute the plan I had for myself going into that game,” he said.
The Lions seem to have gotten away from rushing as one cohesive unit with one rusher playing off another. The first two games, if the first rusher didn't get the quarterback there was another one right there to clean up. They were effective with their stunts. When the Lions are on their game upfront, that seems to be the way they play.
“Rushing as a unit is being able to help each other in particular rush lanes,” Suh said. “There are only four rushing and there’s five different gaps you have to cover and be able to play off each other and make sure that you keep that pocket very close and tight and don’t allow throwing lanes or lanes for the quarterback to get out”
The seven sacks on the season for the Lions still ranks in the top 10 in the NFL, but it doesn’t seem they’ve had the same impact the last two weeks as they did in their only victory of the season Week 1 against the Rams. In that victory, they had four sacks and eight quarterback hits on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. They haven't reached either of those totals in their last two games, combined.
The Lions play the Vikings on Sunday, who’ve allowed six sacks in three games and feature the game’s best running back in Adrian Peterson.
If the Lions are going to get back to their winning ways, the defensive line has to get back to playing together and being more of a factor.