Did Schwartz Provide Blueprint to stop Lions?

Jim Schwartz had a triumphant return to Detroit and successfully shutdown the Lions talent-laden offense. The Bills defense was so effective against the Lions, the team’s future opponents will likely take notice.

About an hour before kickoff, with the stands more than half empty, former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz jogged onto the turf at Ford Field, in his Buffalo Bills gear, for the first time since being fired by the organization.

Schwartz, the current defensive coordinator for the Bills, spent the last five seasons in Detroit. He was jettisoned when the team collapsed down the stretch last year.

The fans greeted the Lions former bench boss with jeers while the PA system blared a song that repeated the phrase “I ain’t never scared” – surely a reference intended to poke fun at the coach for comments he made after a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last year.

"You can all say whatever you want about me," Schwartz said after the road loss last November when discussing a failed fake field goal. "Don't say I'm scared, because we ain't. This team is going to be aggressive."

The music that accompanied Schwartz’s first appearance on the field drew some laughs from the few already in attendance and even some from those in the press box.

About four and half hours later, it was Schwartz smiling.

His defense stifled the Lions offense to the tune of 263 yards and seven points.

“That was a good defense we played, well coached and had a good scheme coming in,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Stafford, who spent the last five years operating under Schwartz’s watch, is very familiar with the coach. Subsequently, Schwartz may understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Lions offense as much as anyone. As a result, he had a game plan for stopping it.

“I think that their corners were playing very deep-ball conscious,” said Stafford. “They were aggressive with their safeties but playing over the top with their corners. Again, it was a good scheme, they clouded the middle of the field quite a bit. A lot of guys in-between the hashes and trusted their corners to play one-on-one outside. They were effective.”

It wasn’t only what the Bills defense did with coverage, it was also the pressure they created on Stafford that thwarted the Lions offensive attempts. What makes the pass rush - which generated six sacks and four quarterback hits - impressive is that it came with only two blitzes – both against the run – from Buffalo.

To accomplish this, the Bills didn’t often allow for one-on-one matchups at the line of scrimmage. Instead they sent two linemen at the same gap or used stunts and delayed rushes to break through the Lions offensive line.

“lot of games, they run a lot of games, a lot of things that we take pride in picking up that we weren’t able to pick up today,” said Lions guard Rob Sims. “I thought one-on-one, head up, we were OK. They saw we were weak and they took advantage of it over and over again.”

Not only did Schwartz’s devised defensive scheme prove to be key in this week-five loss, it could provide the framework for future opponents looking to give the Lions fits on offense.

“Absolutely,” said Sims when asked if he expects to see similar schemes from the opposition going forward. “I would assume down the stretch we’ll see a lot more games. The good thing about that is we know that now and this week - and going forward - we’ll work to get that corrected.”

Some of Schwartz’s current players rewarded him by carrying him off the field at the conclusion of the game, rubbing salt in the wounds of many who were still reeling after the game-winning 58-yard field goal Bills kicker Dan Carpenter had hit only moments prior.

Schwartz exited the field on the shoulders of his players with his left fist in the air.

“I did see that, I did see that,” said Sims. “We lost the game, it doesn’t matter if they carried him off on a throne. We still lost the game, it doesn’t matter.”

On this day – whether Lions fans like it or not – Schwartz had the last laugh at Ford Field. However, rather than contempt, there should be concern. As it isn’t what the Bills defense did to the Lions on Sunday that will be the story of this season, rather it may be whether or not every other defense is successful in doing the same thing that could define this campaign for the Lions.

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