Lions' quarterback Jon Kitna was sacked a league-high 63 times last year. And by his count, he was hit nearly 100. Taking precautions to protect both their investment and help get the team's talented weapons off the ground, Detroit revamped their offensive line in the off-season.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz had clashed with previous offensive line coach Larry Beightol. Beightol was subsequently fired, and Jim Colletto was hired.
Martz and Colletto were expected to be on the same page because Martz once worked for Colletto at Arizona State.
On the personnel side, the Lions acquired right tackle George Foster (Denver) in a trade and left guard Edwin Mulitalo on the free-agent market. Right guard Damien Woody lost a significant amount of weight and restructured his contract.
The result? The Lions are on pace to allow 83 sacks this season. That's right, eighty-three. They have allowed 26 sacks in five games, 20 sacks over their past three games.
Naturally, it's the most in the NFL.
There are all kinds of reasons, however. Martz throws the ball a ton, increasing the chances for sacks. He doesn't keep people in to protect, increasing the chances for sacks. Kitna holds onto the ball too long sometimes, increasing the chances for sacks.
But it all comes back to the offensive line, the heart of the offense.
"It has to be, in this offense especially," center Dominic Raiola said. "Nothing works without what happens up front, whether it be running the ball or passing the ball. I think as a unit we have to be (better). Yeah, those guys make the plays, they make the touchdowns, but all that starts with us up front. That's Football 101."
The Lions put on a clinic of how not to pass protect in Sunday's 34-3 loss at Washington. The Redskins didn't blitz. They relied on a four-man rush, despite being outnumbered by five and sometimes six pass protectors.
"You've got to block four," coach Rod Marinelli said. "You've got five on four and a chip. So you've got to get it right. That's got to happen. You've got to go back and work on it in practice. That's the only way you do it."
The coaches will spend the bye week evaluating their personnel. They already have replaced Foster with Jonathan Scott in each of the past two games. Stephen Peterman started for Woody when Woody had sore ribs Sept. 30 against Chicago, and he started for Woody again Sunday even though Woody was healthy.
The offensive line fairy isn't going to give the Lions a new, stud offensive lineman. So the Lions have to live with what they have, manage their weaknesses and make it work.
"Exactly," Marinelli said. "That's just what I pointed out. That's the things we've got to look at this week. That's who we're going to play with. We're fine with that. And we've just got to get some of those men just better. Maybe with the scheme, maybe with chip help, maybe with whatever it is without affecting how we do things."