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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Okwara chasing double-digit sacks

Robert Porcher is hoping to welcome defensive end Romeo Okwara to a select group of Detroit Lions' defensive players that has added far too few members in recent years to suit Porcher.

There is one qualification to be a member: A double-digit sack season.

Okwara is one sack away from qualifying. A sack on Tom Brady in Saturday's 47-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs gave him nine for the season.

A lot of things have gone wrong with the Lions this season, including the pass rush. Okwara is an exception. His play is something that went right, and this week's Monday Countdown looks at Okwara and pass rushers, with Porcher's perspective.

There is also a look at a continuing problem with the Lions that must be corrected if they're ever going to have a winning team, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams from Saturday's game, and what's trending for the Lions.

We start with the pass rush, Porcher's perspective, and the Lions' recent history.

1. The rush: Sacks change games, and Okwara has done that for the Lions. His strip sack of Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky late in the fourth quarter Week 13 set up the go-ahead touchdown in a 34-30 win.

Okwara has continued to produce. He's had sacks in the last two games to get to within one of double digits.

When asked last week if getting to 10 sacks was a goal for him, Okwara said it was, "because it helps the team win."

2. Porcher's view: He is an authority on the pass rush from his 12 active seasons (1992-2003) with the Lions. He started out at defensive tackle as a first-round draft pick in 1992 and was moved to end midway through his career.

Porcher flourished at end. He holds the franchise record for sacks in a season with 15 in 1999 and the career mark of 95.5.

To Porcher, getting 10 sacks in a season is like hitting .300 in baseball, or scoring 20 goals in hockey. It's an important threshold.

"Sacks in the NFL don't come easily, unless the offensive lineman makes a mistake or misses a block," Porcher said. "Very seldom are you allowed to run free and just hit the quarterback before he gets rid of the ball.

"Whenever you can get double digit sacks in a season, it's a big, big mark for you."

3. 21st Century Double Digit club: Porcher had five seasons with double digits sacks. The last was 11 in 2001.

He is one of only five Lions with double digit sacks in the 21st Century. The others: James Hall (11.5, 2004); Ndamukong Suh (10, 2010); Cliff Avril (11, 2011) and Ezekiel Ansah twice (14.5, 2015; 12, 2017).

Okwara can make it a six pack.

"We've got to get that number up," Porcher said. "To have just five guys since 1999 ... We've got to get that going."

4. Lions-Bears turning point: The Lions' win in Week 13 could have been just that. It was the Bears' sixth straight loss after a 5-1 start and tied them with the Lions. Both were 5-7.

The Lions did not build on it. They've lost three straight to drop to 5-10 while the Bears have done just the opposite. They got to 7-7 with a chance to make the playoffs with wins over Jacksonville and Minnesota in the last two games.

5. Takeaways, offense:

  • No help for offense: There's no excuse for the defense giving up five touchdowns on Tampa Bay's six possessions in the first half, but the offense didn't help. On its first five possessions in the first half, the offense ran 20 plays and gained just three first downs. That put an overmatched defense on the field against a Bucs offense that ran 40 plays and scored five TDs.
  • Reality quote: Quarterback David Blough was forthright and on target with his comments a year ago when he went 0-5 as a starter for the last five games as a rookie. He took over in the fourth quarter Saturday, and showed the same grasp on reality when asked about playing with interim head coach Darrell Bevell and four assistants not with the team. "It's the situation we were dealt, and you have to play the cards," Blough said.

6. Takeaways, defense:

  • Overmatched: The Bucs proved again that the Lions do not match up against elite players. Three weeks ago, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw three TD passes and ran for a score in a 31-24 win. Two weeks ago, Titans running back Derrick Henry ran for 147 yards and a score in a 46-25 win. On Saturday, Brady passed for 348 yards and four TDs – all in the first half – in a 47-7 win. That's three losses, and a composite score of 124-56.
  • Brother act: Rookie Julian Okwara, Romeo's brother and a third-round draft pick, played for the first time after being out with an injury. Julian played 20 snaps and contributed two tackles. One was a tackle for loss.
  • Stretching out: The defense was gashed for 410 yards on 40 plays in the first half, for an average of 10.25 yards per play. That's an average of a first down on every play – with nine inches to spare.
  • History beckons: With 482 points allowed, the Lions are 35 away from tying the franchise record of 517 – set in the 0-16 season of 2008.

7. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Double duty: Props to Jamal Agnew for a 74-yard punt return for the Lions' only TD. But even more so for hustling downfield to make two solo tackles on punt returns. It was meaningless to the outcome, and meaningful for his effort.
  • Punting: Punter Jack Fox got a chance to show off his leg after making the Pro Bowl. He punted eight times for a gross average of 47.8 yards, a net of 42.8 and five punts inside the 20.

8. Trending:

  • Up: Agnew, for his work on special teams.
  • Down: The Detroit Lions. For obvious reasons.
  • Even: Linebacker Jarrad Davis. Eight tackles on 39 defensive snaps, and one tackle inside the 20 on the opening kickoff made for a nice day's work.

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