LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Gunther Cunningham not concerned with lack of sacks, Reggie Bush gets a day off

Posted Nov 8, 2013

Despite just 13 sacks on the season, the Lions have generated pressure on opponent quarterbacks

Willie YoungPhoto: G. Smith/Detroit Lions

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is very analytical when it comes to his defense.

He studies statistics and trends and can rattle off just about any stat as it relates to his defense. So, he's very aware that his defensive line has collected only 13 sacks on the year.

The thing is, it doesn't really bother him a whole lot.

"To me you disrupt the quarterback's rhythm," he said Friday after practice. "We are not getting the guys on the ground right now. I looked at a lot of tape this week, talked with (defensive line coaches) Kris Kocurek and Jim Washburn, and we are inches away.

"Last time against (Bears quarterback Jay) Cutler we got about three sacks, but there should have been at least five other ones. So many people see the play, so many people see the home run, what they don't see is the disruption of the quarterback. The idea is to make him move off of his spot.

"He takes a three-step drop and his back foot hits, don't let him stay there and that's what our guys do a good job of."

The Lions do have 109 quarterback hurries and 31 quarterback hits in eight games, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Whether it's 13 sacks, 109 pressures or 31 hits, the only number Cunningham truly cares about, however, is five, as in the five victories recorded by the Lions this year.

"I think the most important one is to win the game," he said of statistics. "I don't give a damn how you do it. I think we're playing well as a team and each phase doing their job and that's helping us."

It's the same mentality All Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and the rest of his line mates have adopted, too.

"As long as we're playing in to a level that allows us to win, that's the most important," Suh said. "I haven't taken a chance to even look at sacks or look at TFLs (tackles for loss) or pressures or anything like that.

"I think, for the most part, we're getting back there. Obviously we can do more. Me personally, I can do more."

For Suh, that starts Sunday in Chicago. He had his best game of the season against the Bears the first time around at Ford Field. He recorded two sacks, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and forced a fumble in the Lions' 40-32 win.

"I think we just attacked and played within our scheme," Suh said of the performance. "They gave us opportunities to get after them and we took advantages of them.

"I think that's what it comes down to every single game, just going out there playing and executing what we have at hand and just take your shots when you get those opportunities."

Cunningham did say that part of the reason the sack totals are down is because of some of the offensive blocking schemes the Lions have faced early on this season.

"The idea on offense is to get five (receivers) out, most teams want to spread you out, but we don't see that very often now," Cunningham said. "You work your tail off and you want to get some results and the result is to get the sack.

"The result for me is to win the game and hopefully all that will come, but I know why they are doubling us ... they don't want us to hit the quarterback and my God you need a Sherman tank to get through all the guys they hold in to block."

The Lions have faced extra blockers and chips from running backs and tight ends at times this year, but they still need to work on being more consistent and more disruptive upfront.

Even Cunningham would agree with that.

BUSH READY TO RUN

Reggie BushPhoto: G. Smith/Detroit Lions

Running back Reggie Bush was given the day off of practice on Friday ... one of the perks of being a veteran midway through his eighth NFL season. It will likely be part of his schedule moving forward, too.

Bush has certainly earned it. He's third in the NFC is scrimmage yards per game (121.9) and is on pace for more than 1,700 total yards this season.

The Chicago Bears rank 28th in the NFL against the run (127.5 yards per game) this season and Bush had 173 yards (139 rushing and 34 receiving) and a touchdown against them in their Week 4 matchup.

"We have to be able to take advantage of obviously the holes that we see," Bush said of playing the Bears. "Obviously they're going to do their part this week at trying to plug up some of those holes. It's our job to try to exploit some of those.

"We feel like there is some room for us to take advantage of them in the run game. We just have to make sure we go in and play fundamentally sound."

REDEFINING THE SLOT

With Nate Burleson ruled out for Sunday, and the Ryan Broyles' season already over because of Achilles injury, the Lions will once again have to redefine the slot receiver position. That's something they're quite used to, however.

The team hasn't had Burleson since Week 3 and Broyles was working his way back from ACL surgery for most of the first half of the season. That left offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to treat the inside receiver position a little differently.

"We play different receivers in the slot, it's not just our slot receivers," Linehan said. "We move guys around. Calvin (Johnson) plays in the slot some.

"The one thing that the receiving core has done a nice job of is that we've asked them to wear more than one hat. If you're an ‘X,' you have to know the ‘F' and the ‘Z' receiver position, because we have to have that versatility, especially the way people scheme Calvin."

Linehan says that won't necessarily change even after Burleson is cleared for contact and returns to the field. The Lions will continue to run a lot of different players in and out of the slot.