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 Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrough? 
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Post Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrough?
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Break It Down: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrough?

There are times during these film sessions that a fundamental flaw in a team’s scheme becomes evident. That’s not the case this time around.

The Lions’ players and coaches have talked throughout their first five games about needing to a do better job of taking advantage of chances on offense. Opposing defenses have gone out of their way to stop Calvin Johnson, which leaves the Lions with two choices:

1. Get the ball to other people, in the hope of eventually forcing the defense to adjust and give Johnson more space.

2. Change the way in which they use Johnson, so he can beat the extra coverage.

Those plans only work if the Lions execute. They didn’t early on Sunday, missing several chances to unravel the Philadelphia defense. But things changed late, a running theme for Detroit in Weeks 1-6.

So, what was different in the fourth quarter and overtime?

Let’s start back at the beginning. This is how the Eagles chose to cover Johnson — and how most teams have attacked him, at least out of the gate.
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Johnson had Nnamdi Asomugha playing him in tight man coverage, with a Cover-2 safety cheating Johnson’s direction as well, essentially providing bracket coverage in case Johnson tried to get deep.

Through most of the first three quarters, that defense left the Lions flailing when they tried to get the ball to their best playmaker. On the play pictured, a 3rd-and-5, Johnson attempted to run a slant route for the first down. But with deep help, Asomugha was able to jump the pattern and break up the pass.
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Detroit found the same problems when it tried to get Johnson deep down the middle of the field. The Lions led 6-0 at the start of the second quarter when Stafford went for a home run to Johnson in the end zone.

The Eagles were all over it, and Asomugha picked off the pass.
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Stafford doesn’t have a problem throwing the ball up for Johnson, even in double coverage — the Lions have hit on similar plays before, for big gains. This play was a good indication, however, of how Detroit’s offensive timing was just a tad off early Sunday. Stafford’s pass sailed toward the back of the end zone, where only Asomugha could make a play. Had he shortened up that throw a few yards, Johnson essentially would have had a jump-ball situation against two smaller defenders.

A tough play, sure, but one Detroit is confident Johnson can make.

Of course, Johnson may have found more room to maneuver if the Lions had been able to hit on … well … anything else. Stafford completed just seven passes over the first three quarters, and he and the Lions left multiple big plays on the field.

To wit: A 3rd-and-8 on the Philadelphia 15 in the first quarter. Stafford overthrew Tony Scheffler (circled) down the seam, as the Eagles again put two defenders on Johnson. As you can see from the photo below, the double-team left Stafford with several open options; he just missed.
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Stafford and Scheffler failed to connect on a similar pattern earlier in the first quarter, too. This time, Johnson had single-coverage wide (so Stafford could have taken a shot there), but he made a nice read on the play — Scheffler beat his coverage short and had a gap.

Again, the pass didn’t connect.
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One more example of the Lions running their offense well but failing to finish plays: On a 1st-and-10, Johnson drew the attention of three defenders. That left Titus Young free to head deep, which he did.

Despite double-coverage on Young as well, he made his way behind the Philadelphia defenders and had a shot at a big play. Stafford put a pass on the money about 45 yards downfield — and Young dropped it.
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As the Lions failed to execute on those plays up the middle, the Eagles were not forced to make any adjustments — the plan was to make Detroit beat them with guys other than Johnson and, until the waning moments of the fourth quarter, the Lions could not.

Each misfire also raised questions about Stafford — his health, as well as his mechanics. Frankly, there was no real reason he should have been missing on passes like the two to Scheffler. So, was his leg still bothering him? Does he have a hand injury that’s undisclosed?

Here’s one thing we do know: Stafford’s mechanics can be an issue, but …

This is what his release looked like on a brilliant fourth-quarter TD pass to Nate Burleson, which Stafford dropped in between two defenders, over Burleson’s shoulder.
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Do the Lions coaches want Stafford firing sidearm and off his back foot? Of course not. He can make that a success, however, so pinning all of Detroit’s issues on Stafford’s footwork seems trivial.

The Burleson TD finally made the Eagles pay for committing so heavily to Johnson — and it was the second time on the drive that had happened. To get in position for the score, Stafford had hit Tony Scheffler on the run, after Scheffler slipped behind Philadelphia’s defense.
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It may not be as simple for Detroit as saying, “Make these plays.” But, to some extent, that’s the reality of the situation. Detroit’s tight ends and receivers are getting to space — either Stafford’s missing them or they’re not making the necessary catches once there.

The other factor at work here is how Detroit uses Johnson, and in that regard, you can point a finger at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

The Lions have shown a knack for using Johnson almost as a decoy — that’s sort of what you saw going on in those plays above to Scheffler and Young. If opposing defenses want to rush four and put two men on Johnson, the Lions are happy to work the rest of the field.

But there are ways around the coverage Johnson has received, and Detroit started using them late Sunday.

What we saw most frequently was Detroit shifting Johnson from outside into the slot, then using him on patterns across the middle. Here’s one, which Johnson caught short and turned upfield for 17 yards:
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And another, where Johnson motioned down next to the tight end and Stafford threw a quick pass to him while Philadelphia blitzed from the opposite side:
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That play turned into a big gain as well — once Johnson gets the ball in his hands, he’s nearly impossible to bring down with one defender. His size and strength make him a difficult cover, but they also make him equally hard to tackle.

Another adjustment by Linehan: Rather than running Johnson deep toward the middle of the field (and toward safety help), he called plays for Johnson to stay wide, basically neutralizing that deep assistance.

Add in a play-action fake, which served to freeze the Philadelphia safeties for a split-second, and the Lions were left with Johnson one-on-one wide.
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Give him this much space, and the chances of a completion are through the roof:
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The Lions have been dealing with their offensive inconsistencies for five games now, so tabbing their issues as a quick fix seems unfair. It’s hard to roll back the tape on a game like Sunday’s, though, and think otherwise.

The blocking? Very solid, even though Stafford found himself on the run a couple of times. And the run game has pitched in well, for the most part, with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell providing decent options on the ground and through the air.

Guys are getting open, too, which is both an encouraging sign for Detroit and a frustrating indictment of Stafford’s inability to deliver passes. The Lions’ QB could clean up his mechanics, there’s little question about that, but this also feels a bit like the situation we just saw in Green Bay. The Packers started 2-3 and everyone questioned what was wrong with Aaron Rodgers. And then Rodgers torched Houston, potentially flipping the switch on a huge rest of the season.

The Lions now feel as close as the Packers did last week. They’ve found ways to get Johnson open, and they’re hitting the gaps created by the extra attention paid to their No. 1 receiver. Eventually, that will add up to the type of Detroit offense we saw all of last year.

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October 19th, 2012, 12:41 pm
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
Great article and this is encouraging to see! The best play I saw them execute to make a creative way to get Johnson the ball was a drag route about 5 yards out that he began running right and then suddenly reversed and went left. It might be the 3rd one pictured from the very bottom. The defender bit hard on the route, CJ stopped and cut back very quickly, and by then the defender couldn't recover and get back to him. Let's see some more of that dang it!

I can't believe I'm asking for them to play "dink and dunk", but that's exactly what they need to do to prevent defenses from playing them with 2 deep safeties. Find creative ways through short passing routes, screens, and formations that will beat Defenses underneath and force them to loosen up on deep coverage. Like last year, a good short yardage passing game can be just as good as a productive run game. Find a way to make it happen Linehan. That's your job!

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October 22nd, 2012, 12:26 am
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
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Lions: Calvin Johnson needs some help

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Kevin Seifert


Nate Burleson, left, and other receivers not Calvin Johnson, right, haven't been much help deep.


Based on national discussion of the Detroit Lions during their 2-3 start, and the hand-wringing about their downfield passing game, you might be surprised to learn a few things.

First, the presumably punchless Lions are averaging 319.8 passing yards per game, the second-highest total in the NFL.

Second, receiver Calvin Johnson ranks fourth in the NFL in receiving yards (558), ninth in receptions (35) and first in receptions of 20 or more yards (12). At that pace, Johnson would smash the career-high totals he compiled last season in receptions (96), yards (1,681) and 20+-yard receptions (32).



Stafford Throwing Deep
Matt Stafford passing more than 10 yards downfield, by WR, this season.

Calvin Johnson --- Others
Cmp. Att. --- 14-23 --- 12-39
Cmp. Pct. --- 60.9 --- 30.8
Yds. Per Att.- 14.5 --- 6.5
Drops ------- 1 --- 6
Source: ESPN Stats & Information

So if the Lions are piling up yards this season, mostly on passes to their top weapon, what exactly has been the problem? I think it's fair to look at what has, and hasn't, happened around Johnson this season as a primary culprit.

Johnson has caught 60 percent of quarterback Matthew Stafford's throws that traveled 10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage. The problem, as the chart shows, is there has been considerable falloff beyond Johnson. Stafford has completed only 12 of 39 such throws to the rest of his receivers. Six have been dropped, including four by receiver Titus Young.

Tight end Tony Scheffler caught a 57-yard pass in Sunday's comeback victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, but plays like that have been a rarity for the Lions this season. No. 2 receiver Nate Burleson is averaging 8.6 yards per reception. Young has only 11 catches for 123 yards, and 46 of them came on a tipped Hail Mary pass in Week 3.

If we take away Scheffler's 57-yard pass and Young's Hail Mary grab, the Lions' top three downfield complements to Johnson have averaged 8.5 yards on their other 45 receptions.

The biggest disappointment in the group has been Young, a second-round draft pick in 2011 who struggled through some maturity issues but had, by all accounts, an excellent training camp and preseason. He has been playing through a knee injury that has limited his practice time, but coach Jim Schwartz stopped short of blaming it for the downturn in his production. The injury, for example, didn't have much to do with Young dropping a long pass that would have gone for a touchdown Sunday against the Eagles.

"I think that he's working very hard to put it behind him," Schwartz said. "But, you know, we don't make any excuses for Sundays."

Some of this discussion is irrelevant against a Chicago Bears defense that uses its Cover 2 scheme to limit downfield passing as well as any team in the NFL. But suffice it to say, the Lions have been better at finding ways to get Johnson the ball this season than they have his presumably less-covered teammates. I would suggest it's a primary reason Johnson has only one touchdown this season, and it'll have to change if the Lions want to make a run at the playoffs.


October 22nd, 2012, 4:04 pm
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
we need a couple corners, and anyone else with talent. there is no more room on the roster for stephan logan. cut him before the 4th quarter. phucking useless

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October 22nd, 2012, 10:32 pm
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
no

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October 22nd, 2012, 11:03 pm
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
Ill check the stats after the game - but we may be the worst RZ offense in the NFL. and it wouldnt suprise me at all.

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October 22nd, 2012, 11:13 pm
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
Simple answer to this thread: No. No they are not on the brink.

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October 22nd, 2012, 11:14 pm
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
Come on, the Lions are a draft away from perfection. You know a first round WR followed by a move back up into late 1st/early 2nd for an injury prone RB and a late 3rd on a TE or K and the Lions are going to go undefeated.

/tonguefirmlypressedagainstcheek


October 23rd, 2012, 8:39 am
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
Nothing another decade of 1st and 2nd round draft picks can't fix.


October 23rd, 2012, 11:59 pm
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Post Re: Are the Lions on the brink of a big offensive breakthrou
MLive wrote:
Lions' QB Matthew Stafford not worried about his lack of production
By Anwar S. Richardson | arichar2@mlive.com
on October 25, 2012 at 10:10 AM

ALLEN PARK -- Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is not outwardly concerned about his struggles this season.

However, most people outside of Allen Park are concerned.

Stafford has been a shell of his former self this year, throwing for 1,756 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions with a 78.4 passer rating. At this moment, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert (six), Indianapolis' Andrew Luck (seven), Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (nine) and New York Jets' Mark Sanchez (nine) have thrown more touchdown passes than Stafford.

Last season, Stafford threw for 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and 16 interceptions prior to the playoffs. He was only the fourth player to ever throw for over 5,000 yards in a season. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has done it twice, (2008 and 2011), while New England's Tom Brady (5,235 yards in 2011) and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino (5,084 yards in 1984) are on that list.

Stafford's performance is one reason why Detroit has a 2-4 record entering Sunday's home game against the Seattle Seahawks, but the quarterback remains confident he can turn it around.

"I'm not worried about stats, obviously. I'm worried about winning," Stafford said. "That's the biggest thing. When a quarterback plays really good, your team has a chance to win. I'm just doing whatever it takes to give us a chance to win week in and week out. I know the only thing that is going to make it better is going to be keep working hard. Keep putting your nose down and going to work."

Would throwing more than five touchdowns help your team win?

"I would agree," Stafford said. "I obviously would like to throw more touchdowns than five."

One of the theories floating around about Stafford's struggles is a typical "sophomore slump."

Some quarterbacks struggle in their second NFL season, and while Stafford is technically entering his fourth year, this is only the second consecutive year he has been healthy. The sophomore slump has recently affected quarterbacks like Carolina's Cam Newton, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman.
"I obviously would like to throw more touchdowns than five." - Matthew Stafford

However, Lions coach Jim Schwartz disagrees.

"It's a six game sample," Schwartz said. "Over the course of 16, we'll see. We need to score more points. Whether that's quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, however, we do need to score more points. We need to be more efficient in the first half, and Matt can help in both of those areas."

Detroit's offense has not played well in the first half.

Stafford has led to Detroit to only one touchdown in the first half of six games this season, and the Lions have been outscored 77-37 heading into halftime.

In addition, Stafford has not thrown a touchdown pass to receiver Calvin Johnson this season. Johnson had 16 touchdown receptions in 2011.

"We've seen less blitzing," Stafford said. "It's kind of a sign of respect that teams are not willing to blitz you because they know you have a good plan for it. But I don't know if they are game-planning me. They are just trying to take 81 (Johnson) out. Some have been more successful than others, but that guy is still going to get open."

Stafford is not concerned.

However, most people outside of Allen Park are concerned.

"As much as we play, we haven't had that one game where we clicked all the way through for four quarters," Stafford said. "That's something that we have to continue to work on. Continue to try and go out there and put good games together, good drives together, good plays together, and that's what it's all about."

http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/20 ... d_not.html

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October 25th, 2012, 11:08 am
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