ALLEN PARK -- Three games into the NFL season, the Lions defense -- which many expected to be the strength of the team in the early going -- has proven it can stop the run. Period.
The Lions held Shaun Alexander of Seattle to 51 yards on 19 carries (2.7 yards per rush) in the opener.
And they shut down Green Bay's Ahman Green, limiting him to a 2.9-yard average on 22 carries in the third game.
But the Lions defense has been taken apart in back-to-back games by Rex Grossman of Chicago and Brett Favre of Green Bay, and only five teams have given up more points than the 74 the Lions have surrendered on their way to a disappointing 0-3 start.
Coach Rod Marinelli, whose entire coaching background is on the defensive side of the ball, is clearly not satisfied with the way his defense is doing business.
"The one thing - and we'll continue to do (it) well - is we're playing the run very well," Marinelli said. "Very strong, very physical."
But, as Marinelli noted, third down is the money down. "That's when you've got to come home with your checkbook and that goes with the rush and goes with coverage. It's not just one unit, it's the whole thing.
"We have to rush and cover better, and when we blitz, we have to blitz a little more with our hair on fire. We've got to go. We've got to go with the tempo of it, the speed of it and we have to pick the pace of that up. And the one-on-one rushes, we've got to pick up."
The Lions sacked Matt Hasselbeck five times in the season-opening 9-6 loss to Seattle but they haven't inflicted any damage on opposing quarterbacks the past the past two weeks. Even with defensive tackle Shaun Rogers double-teamed most of the time, the rest of the pass rushers haven't been able to take advantage of one-on-one situations.
Marinelli says his defensive backs have to be "punishing and physical" when opposing receivers make a catch but, perhaps more importantly, the Lions have to do a better job of getting to the quarterback with their blitzes.
"Sometimes there's doubt in their mind where they're going," he said. "Is it that some were on play action passes? So they started slowing down, thinking at times it's a run over here instead of what they might have been playing and they're stopping, shuffling down.
"That's not effort. They're hitting it with a lack of confidence I should
say, or a lack of speed or a lack of trust as they're coming."