LIONS INSIDER

Lions need to figure out how to do what they do best early in the game

Posted Nov 15, 2012

One of the biggest problems the Lions have faced this year is that teams have played them much differently than what they've shown on tape, taking extraordinary efforts to try and limit receiver Calvin Johnson and the Lions' passing attack early in games.

Right next to each other in the NFL rushing statistics sit the Packers and Lions at No. 23 and No. 24, respectively. The Packers are averaging 99.7 rushing yards per game and the Lions 98.8.

It's no real surprise to see them ranked that low seeing how both teams employ tremendous weapons in the passing game with quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford and all of their collective targets on the outside.

Job No. 1 for opposing defenses when facing the Lions or Packers is to try and limit the big plays in the pass game and make them drive the football or run it to beat them.

One of the biggest problems the Lions have faced this year is that teams have played them much differently than what they've shown on tape, taking extraordinary efforts to try and limit receiver Calvin Johnson and the Lions' passing attack early in games.

The Lions have struggled to adjust, for whatever the reason. Stafford and the Lions offense has just one touchdown in the first quarter through nine games and 28 total points. Not coincidentally, they've led only once at halftime this year.

"We've had a lot of different things," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday when asked why the passing game has struggled early in games this year.

"There's been times where we've had some drops early. There's been times where teams have come out and played maybe something a little bit different and taken away what we were trying to attack early. It's been a lot of different things."

The Packers, on the other hand, have done a good job imposing their will on defenses early in games, instead of the other way around. They've scored 52 points in the first quarter and six of Rodgers' 25 touchdown passes this year has come in the early frame.

"I think it's important to try and give your players things that they have a lot of experience in," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said in a conference call when asked how he reacts to looks he hasn't prepared for from a defense.

"At the end of the day, as far as dealing with un-scouted looks or things that you might not have prepared for during the week, it's important for our players to trust their training."

The Lions have been dedicated to running the football when they've gotten good looks to do so, and have been patient in driving the football when the defense dictates that. The Lions have thirteen 80-plus-yard drives this season.

But that's not who the Lions are. They are a pass-first team and a big-play offense and they need to figure out a way to do what they do best earlier in the game.