The Mariucci Way

You got a glimpse on Saturday (Detroit's 26-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers) of what the early years under Lions coach Steve Mariucci will look like; tough run defense coupled with precise execution in the red zone. Lions' insider Mike Fowler takes a look at how coach Mooch will make up for a lack of talent on defense.

(ALLEN PARK) -- You got a glimpse on Saturday (Detroit's 26-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers) of what the early years under Lions coach Steve Mariucci will look like; tough run defense coupled with precise execution in the red zone.

This is likely to be the Mariucci way until the Lions can get more talented playmakers on the roster. It is a sound, solid philosophy that has been used by more than one talent-deprived coach.

No, the cupboard isn't bare in Allen Park, but the Lions still lack players in certain positions that can make the big play. That is why Mariucci will likely play it close to the vest the way a golfer might do so on the links -- look for opportunites to attack the pin when it's there, but when it's not, play it safe, take a par, and move on.

In football terms, Mariucci early on will try to play field position football. Did you notice how aggressive Lions punter John Jett was in trying to pin the Steelers inside their 20 yard line?

Jett made a point of hanging the ball high inside the 20 yard line and not putting it into the end zone for touchbacks. The results were dramatic. Several times in the contest on Saturday, the Steelers were on a long field, meaning any mistakes would stall their offense. The Lions were often on a shorter field, meaning they would have a better chance to getting into the red zone.

Lions quarterbacks Joey Harrington and Mike McMahon were able to play to their respective strengths once inside the scoring zone. Harrington threw a nice jump ball to Scotty Anderson who made a good play to come down with it for a score. McMahon scrambled outside the pocket for another score.

The Lions run defense was agressive and made several plays to stuff the Steelers run game. Earl Holmes, Boss Bailey and Barrett Green were all active and effective against the run forcing Pittsburgh into several 3rd and long situations.

What, though, will happen when Detroit faces a team that excels in throwing the football, like a St. Louis, a San Francisco or a Green Bay?

That is the $24,000 question that Lions defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer and Mariucci will have to solve, because Detroit showed itself vulnerable to the long ball on several occasions, most notably a couple of underthrown balls by Tommy Maddox that could have been touchdowns.

But at least early on, the Mariucci way is likely to be play it close to the vest, win the battle for field position and score touchdowns, not field goals, when you get the opportunity.

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