Skip to main content

O'HARA: Lions need to strengthen run defense to improve pass rush

Part of the Detroit Lions' inability to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks in their first four games has been their own doing.

Opportunities to rush the passer have been limited by the success opponents have had running the ball.

The Lions had only five sacks in the first four games. That puts them in a three-way tie with the Jaguars and Panthers for next-to-last place in the league.

As the Lions return from the bye to resume their season, starting with Sunday's road game against the Jaguars, strengthening the run game to improve the pass rush will be one of the priorities for the defense.

Defensive end Trey Flowers, who has one of the Lions' five sacks, spoke before the bye of how the success of the pass rush is linked to the run defense.

"You can watch a lot of our first four games," Flowers said. "The running yards were pretty crazy. If a team doesn't have to pass, then you can't get a pass-rush opportunity.

"And obviously, when we do get them in those situations, we have to be more effective all around – make them hold the ball for a little bit. When they hold the ball, make sure you get a great rush.

"First, we have to get them in that situation. Then we have to execute as a team to be effective."

The Lions have allowed an average of 170.2 yards per game in the first four games, and 5.2 yards per carry. Through the first four games, only the Texans (181.8) and Cowboys (172.5) allowed more rushing yards per game than the Lions.

The loss to the Packers in Week 2 and to the Saints in Week 4 were games when the rushing yards fit Flowers' description of "pretty crazy" rushing yards allowed.

The Packers rushed for 259 yards, with nine rushing first downs. They opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown run by Aaron Jones, who had 162 for the game. The Lions sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers once.

The Saints were more methodical, but just as effective. They rushed for 164 yards, with three rushing TDs. Their longest run was 12 yards, by Alvin Kamara. The Lions sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees twice.

The Saints controlled the game with their running attack. They had 39 called runs (plus three kneel downs by Brees).

Brees completed 19 of his 25 passes. Brees had averaged 34.7 passes per game in the previous three games, but the Saints were dominating the game so thoroughly with their running attack that they stuck to the run.

That caused problems for the Lions' defense.

"You start searching a little bit, for sure," Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said Monday of how he tried to get a handle on the Saints' running game.

"The first thing I tried to do was settle it down a little bit. Not until late in the game did we find a way to make a stop.

"You do not lose faith in your players. You do not lose faith in your scheme. You keep grinding it out."

Related Content