ALLEN PARK -- Rod Marinelli says he would rather forge ahead with the remaining nine games of the season, but the bye week has arrived for the Detroit Lions. And perhaps not a moment too soon.
The 31-24 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday at the Meadowlands, dropped the Lions to 1-6, their second such start in four years and, despite Marinelli's protests, they have the appearance of a team that needs a break in the schedule.
And, after what the Jets did to them with their running game -- 221 yards on 42 carries from a team that was averaging only 97.8 yards per game -- it is obvious they need to go back to the drawing board to devise a way to survive the next three games without defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who is serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Marinelli, a defensive line coach by trade, looks at the failed defensive effort against the Jets in practical terms -- bad angles to the ball, over-running too many plays and bad tackling.
"I have to look at the film but it seemed like we were over-running the ball sometimes," Marinelli said. "We talked this week about them having a quick little back, cutting back on us and how we had to have the discipline to stay in our gaps. I also thought tackling was an issue."
The fact is, if the Lions can't get on track during they bye, they could be facing a season of disastrous proportions. Perhaps not as bad as the 2-14 season in 2001 but nothing close to the break-even season that some were predicting for the first year under Marinelli with his highly-regarded coordinators -- Mike Martz on offense and Donnie Henderson on defense.
The Lions will return from the bye week with home games against Atlanta and San Francisco, a road trip to Arizona and a home game against Miami on Thanksgiving Day. Three of those four games -- against the 49ers, Cardinals and Dolphins -- would seem to be winnable.
After that, the schedule gets tougher with New England, Green Bay and Dallas on the road, sandwiched around home games against Minnesota and Chicago.
But if the Lions cannot stop the run any better than they stopped the Jets -- 129 on 20 carries by rookie Leon Washington, 49 on 12 carries by Kevan Barlow and another 16 on three carries by rookie Brad Smith -- they will probably struggle the rest of the season.
They need to get their best offensive linemen healthy and back on the practice and playing field, and they need to get their young linebackers back in the lineup.
Offensively, the Lions continue to make progress. Running back Kevin Jones had 86 yards on 15 carries against the Jets and, with the Jets applying the defensive clamps to wide receiver Roy Williams (two receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown), Mike Furrey provided an appealing option for quarterback Jon Kitna, catching a career-best nine balls for 109 yards and a touchdown.
The problem for the Lions offense, however, is that the Lions were two touchdowns behind before they got any traction. The Jets scored on drives of 81 and 80 yards on their first two possessions.
It's not as though these kind of struggles are anything new to the Lions. They are now 22-65 in the six seasons since owner William Clay Ford hired Matt Millen to run the team. Their high-water mark during that period was 6-10 under Steve Mariucci in 2004.
But those days were supposed to be over with the hiring of the third head
coach in six years. If Marinelli can't get the Lions regrouped during the bye
week, it seems the resurgence will be delayed for at least another season.