Mariucci Sends Lions Into Off-Week

ALLEN PARK - Coach Steve Mariucci did the humane thing: He gave the Lions four days off in observance of their bye week after a Wednesday morning practice at the Allen Park headquarters.

Probably figured they had suffered enough for one week in the 38-6 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

It obviously was not for a lack of corrections the team will have to make if it is to have any chance of competing for an NFC North title and its first playoff appearance since the 1999 season.

Before dismissing the team for the extra long weekend, Mariucci and his coaches took a long look at the problems that surfaced in Chicago and spent two days on the practice field making corrections.

"There were a lot of things that we have to improve upon in a game like that," he said. "But the two obvious would be running the football on offense, which is something that we are making a commitment to and it is going to be important for us to do that; and, conversely, stopping the run on defense."

Against the Bears, the Lions managed only 29 net yards on 18 rushing attempts before falling so far behind that it became impractical to run the ball. And the Bears, by comparison, rushed for 187 yards on 37 carries, including 139 by Thomas Jones.

"The other thing was in the passing game - protecting the quarterback and conversely putting pressure on the quarterback," Mariucci said. "Those are the two things that we are looking hard at right now.

"When I say protecting the quarterback, I think often times we make the mistake of saying, 'Well, it is the offensive line' and that is not necessarily the case. There are so many other things involved in terms of backs protecting, in terms of audibilizing and in terms of running quick throws and hot throws with the receivers or adjusting routes and changing the protection at the line of scrimmage."

Although Lions quarterback Joey Harrington was sacked only twice in 39 attempts to pass the football, he was harassed and hit constantly, which was a major factor in his five interceptions.

And the Lions, again by comparison, did virtually nothing to get Bears rookie quarterback Kyle Orton out of his comfort zone. They sacked him twice but for the most part he was able to stand in the pocket and make his throws without fear of being hit.

"When we looked at the film and talked through it with the defense, we actually blitzed the Bears 25 times but we didn't get home enough," Mariucci explained.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3.54 - The Lions' average yards per play on first down, which explains why they so frequently left facing third-and-long situations. Only two NFL teams (Houston with 2.84 and Tennessee with 3.47 yards) are worse on first downs after two games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've encouraged them to shut it down, rest and heal their joints and their bones, and aches and pains, get treatment and be back on Sunday, because we will have a busy Monday." - Coach Steve Mariucci on his advice to players for the four days off during bye week.


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