Mike Martz is still getting used to some things as an offensive coordinator.
For starters, the former St. Louis Rams' head coach has finally decided that he belongs on the field, as opposed to in the booth. In the season opener against Seattle, Martz chose the latter. Against Chicago, he orchestrated the team's offense a few feet from coach Rod Marinelli.
"I get too frustrated upstairs," said Martz during practice this week. "You want to talk to the quarterback. I just feel like I see things better on the field to get a better feel for the game, and I can talk to coach Marinelli about different situations or ask him a question."
Added Martz, "When you're putting something new in like this, you want to talk to the guys and calm them down when things aren't going good, and get them regrouped. I think that's important. But I feel more comfortable down there then I do upstairs."
But one thing that Martz won't adapt to is the 13 total points his offense has generated in Detroit's two losses.
In Martz's Motor City rendition of the 'Greatest Show on Turf', the Lions have been unable to consistently maintain long drives or show any semblance of continuity, often times dooming themselves with penalties or small miscues. The team ranks in the bottom half of the league in virtually every offensive category, a not-so typical reflection of a Martz-run offense that relies upon the pass. It hasn't been pretty. It hasn't been what everyone expected from what many consider a league mastermind. But it also hasn't stopped the punctilious Martz from remaining optimistic.
"We'll improve every week," said a confident Martz. "I'm excited about where these guys are headed. They're starting to really understand why we do things and what we're trying to accomplish. In the opener, we were pretty clueless sitting there, but I think the light is starting to go on for everybody. That part is really fun to watch in practice."
Martz also said that starter Jon Kitna, who ranks third among NFL starting quarterbacks in completion percentage (65.7), finally feels completely comfortable with the team's rather intricate offense.
"Jon said to me this week that for the first time now he can go out and call the play and he's got it, and he doesn't really have to think about it," said Martz, who added that the intensity of the receivers has improved.
A noticeable improvement in the passing game has been the lack of dropped balls. Over the past five years, Detroit has been near the top of the league with the most passes dropped, but the problem hasn't been as prevalent thus far. Although he doesn't even acknowledge the idea of a dropped pass (according to Martz, "I don't talk about dropped balls, I don't even think about them. I can't ... I don't even identify with that"), Martz said the improvement is a sign of an offense coming together.
"That's what (the receivers) are there for," he said. "If you're having fun, believe in what you're doing and you're aggressive for it. There's an energy and a chemistry that starts going with these guys when they're sure about where they're supposed to be, and they're going fast, and their quarterback is getting them the ball quick.
"It catches fire and they can't wait to get their hands on the ball."
The penalty situation has been at the crux of the offense's woes. Against Chicago, Detroit committed 14 penalties, a handful nullifying offensive gains or otherwise further complicating drives and affecting field position.
To their credit, the Lions have yet to play a game with its starting offensive line intact; something that has also had a detrimental impact on Detroit's running attack.
That will change on Sunday against Green Bay with the return of former Packer Ross Verba, although they will be without starting right tackle Rex Tucker. Martz wasn't buying any excuses, but did believe the penalty situation would ultimately be remedied.
"Enough is enough," he said."They were in ugly in the preseason and they've continued into the regular season. Enough is enough. They have to take accountability and responsibility and they will (fix it)."