On the offensive: Scoring not an issue

Scoring hasn't been the problem for the Lions, at least not for the past two weeks. And if they continue playing offense as well as they have the past two games, they've at least got a chance this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings. More news, notes and quotes inside.

ALLEN PARK -- Scoring hasn't been the problem for the Lions, at least not for the past two weeks.

As coach Rod Marinelli said: "You put up 34 points, you've got to win."

Since the opening game loss to Seattle (9-6) and the 34-7 drubbing in Chicago, the Lions have made progress in putting together an offense for coordinator Mike Martz.

Quarterback Jon Kitna has the third-highest passing production (1,081 yards) in the NFL, wide receiver Roy Williams is the fourth-highest in receiving yardage (384), running back Kevin Jones is steadily improving his rushing output (from 35 yards in the first game to 93 in the fourth) and the Lions have scored 58 points in the last two games.

So far, none of that has translated into a victory, however. The Lions are 0-4 on their way to Minnesota for an NFC North division game, but it has to be assumed that eventually the offense will pay dividends.

"I think it's falling into place," Jones said. "We knew all along we could get to this point. We still have to even score more points."

Jones, like Williams and others among the offensive players, hasn't gone to finger-pointing at the defense, which has given up 106 points in the last three games. Instead, their theory is that they simply have to outscore their opponents regardless of how many points it takes.

"I can't worry about the defensive side," Williams said recently. "Like I said in week two and week three, it's our job to outscore the opponent. If they score 41, we've got to score 42. That's the way I approach the game and I'm pretty sure everybody else does, too."

Considering the complexities of the offense Martz brought with him from St. Louis, the Lions' progress is probably right on schedule. Kitna began working on the Martz offense in early March and the rest of the offensive players began picking it up in the offseason training activities and mini-camps during the spring and summer.

The Martz system features a lot of player movement and stresses the need for a strong running game. For the Lions players who were here for any or all of the previous five years, the current system is a welcome change from the stale West Coast approach taken by former head coaches Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci.

They have progressed now to the point where Martz is able to call plays from the playbook that are not necessarily in that week's game plan, and the players know them well enough to run them in games without the benefit of working on them in practice.

"This is the offense that took them to the Super Bowl," Williams said, referring to Martz's stay in St. Louis when the Rams went to two Super Bowls in three years. "There's nothing that anybody can do to stop this offense. We stop ourselves and that's been proven since week one; Seattle did a good job.

"But Chicago couldn't stop us, Green Bay sure couldn't stop us and the Rams couldn't stop us. Keep this thing going, man. We've got another quarter (of the season) to play, we've got a good division game coming up; we've got to get off this danged schneid here."

They'll get another chance at their first win this weekend against the Vikings. If they continue playing offense as well as they have the past two games, they've at least got a chance.

SERIES HISTORY: 90th meeting in a series that began in 1961. Although the Lions won the first five games against the expansion Vikings, they trail the overall series 29-58-2 and have lost the eight games between the two teams. Their last win at the Metrodome was a 14-13 nail-biter in 1997.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-8 -- The Lions' record at the Metrodome since their last road win against the Vikings, in 1997.

GAME PLAN: The Lions' passing game has been their strong suit in the first quarter of the season and that coincides with the weakness of the Minnesota defense. The Vikings have only six sacks in their first four games and are giving up an average of 200 yards per game passing. The Lions will attack Minnesota with the passing game but they won't forget the running game entirely. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz feels they have to run the ball to make the passing game effective.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Lions DT Shaun Rogers vs. Vikings LG Steve Hutchinson. Hutchinson is generally regarded as the best guard in the NFL and Rogers is the inside force the Lions depend on to disrupt both the passing and running game.
--Lions WR Roy Williams vs. Vikings CBs Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield. Williams is coming off his first ever back-to-back 100-yard receiving games and playing at an extremely high level. Smoot and Winfield are veteran CBs who will try to shut him down.
--Lions RB Kevin Jones vs. Vikings LB E.J. Henderson. Jones and his offensive line have gotten something going in the past two games; Henderson is the Vikings' leading run stopper.

INJURY IMPACT: SS Kenoy Kennedy (foot) and SLB Alex Lewis (knee) have missed the last two games and are listed as out for the Lions' game Sunday at Minnesota, as is rookie guard Frank Davis, who suffered a severe stinger and was kept overnight at a hospital in St. Louis last Sunday. Rookie Daniel Bullocks will start in Kennedy's place and Paris Lenon, the starting MLB in the first two games of the season, will move to SLB in place of Lewis. RT Rex Tucker (knee) and LG Ross Verba (hamstring) are listed as questionable; Brandon Stokes or rookie Jonathan Scott will start in Tucker's place if he is unable to play and the LG job is likely to go to Rick DeMulling, who has played there the past two weeks in Verba's absence.
 


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