ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions spent the first quarter of the season racking up points and wins while generating national attention.
Their explosive offense proved to be a significant factor in both winning and generating a league-wide buzz, producing nearly 30 points per contest.
Since, the points have decreased, the winning has stopped and the national attention has shifted.
In their last two contests – losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons – the Lions offense struggled to move the ball and find the end zone, producing an average of only 17.5 points in each contest.
Erratic throws, miscommunication, mental mistakes and breached pass protection are among the reasons of failure for several unsuccessful plays, which have lead to the decline in offensive output.
Another reason may be unexpected game plans from the opposition.
The Lions review hours of film each week to determine the best means of attack against their upcoming opponent. The Lions game plan is directly related to the areas they identify as exposable through film review. The problem is, opposing defenses are deviating from their normal practices - to an extent - as they attempt to adjust to Calvin Johnson and the Lions offense.
“This season, what we watch on film, usually isn’t what we get,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “We’re starting to get used to that. We have the type of team, with Calvin, that defenses change usually on Sunday. We’re seeing looks that we don’t get to see on film, we got to make those adjustments. That could be partially what it is.”
Some are supporters of the philosophy that the team simply needs to feed its superstar and throw the ball to Calvin Johnson with high frequency.
If it were that simple, teams with elite wideouts would be unstoppable. The opposition spends a week devising methods to disrupt the Lions passing game, starting with keeping Johnson in check.
“It’s tough because you want to throw it up to Calvin and he comes to the sideline and says ‘I don’t care who’s guarding me, just give me a chance to make a play,’” said Burleson. “But when you got one guy pressing him, a safety spying him and a linebacker shooting out to him, in essence you’re basically saying throw it up against three guys.
“We don’t want to put Calvin in a position where the odds are stacked against him. He’s incredible, he’s made that play plenty of times but if he catches it it’s great, you pat him on the back but if he doesn’t then it’s a bad decision by the quarterback. You have to be cautious because teams will try to bait you into throwing it to Calvin. They’ll make it seem like it’s one-on-one coverage and then they’ll shoot everybody over there.”
Also, the Lions aren’t neglecting Johnson as they’ve targeted him 67 times in seven games this season – third most in the NFL. Targeting Johnson more isn’t the answer.
In order for the Lions offense to be successful they need to achieve consistency. The double-edge sword is that the Lions offense is predicated on explosive plays – which are hard to achieve with consistency. Their ability to hit the home run can keep a defense on their heels and opens up the rest of the offense but when they miss the big plays, it seems as if the offense begins to sputter.
The best way to combat the inconsistency is establishing a rhythm.
“Once we get that touchdown, we’re a different team,” said Burleson. “When we nickel and dime and then get stopped and have to kick a field goal or have to punt, things begin to start slowly. When we get in the end zone, there’s a quiet confidence that we have when we go back to that sideline thinking ‘it’s going to be a bad day for whoever’s opposing us.”
The Lions have the tools and the potential to be a explosive offense but in order to be a good offense, they have to be explosive consistently.
Are the Lions destined for the playoffs?
Join the discussion in The Den, the most active online
Detroit Lions fan community. Go Now!