Mike Martz is coming off his worst game as the Lions' offensive coordinator, and he is being questioned inside and outside the locker room. But he isn't going to alter his approach Sunday against Tampa Bay.
"Here's what you all need to understand, and you do need to understand this," Martz said. "I trust and believe in these players, and we will not do something because we stop trusting or believing in them, whether or not they fail or they succeed.
"The way we do things is our way of empowering them to play at a high level. Because someone stumbles or fails at something momentarily does not mean that we quit doing what we do."
In their last game, a 34-3 loss Oct. 7 at Washington, the Lions posted their worst point total under Martz. Their 144 yards of total offense were their second-fewest under Martz, only two more than the 142 they gained in a December game at Lambeau Field last year. Quarterback Jon Kitna threw for 106 yards, his lowest total as a Lion.
The Redskins kept their safeties deep and dared the Lions to run the ball, but the Lions didn't take advantage of it, at least in the first half. And in the locker room, where Martz is usually hailed as a genius, there was grumbling. Running back Kevin Jones said he disagreed with the decision not to give him the ball in the first half. Running back Tatum Bell, who asked for a trade, said he was frustrated the Lions didn't run the ball more -- and that he wasn't the only one.
"We run the ball all throughout the week, and we get in games, for some reason, we don't run it," Bell said. "So like I said, it's frustrating for all the backs, not just me. KJ, we feel the same way. The line. Everybody. But coach calls the plays. We've just got to execute the plays."
Martz doesn't think there is anything fundamentally wrong with his play-calling. Martz agrees that the Lions have to run the ball better and even that they have to run it more to run it better. But he is actually calling runs at a slightly higher rate than he did last year. Through five games last year, the Lions were running the ball 29 percent of the time. They ran it 32% of the time in the end. Though five games this year, they're running it 34% of the time.
"You do what you have to do to win the game, the best way that you can or know how," Martz said. "The run-pass ratio shouldn't be the concern. What needs to be the concern is how well you're doing both of those things, and we didn't do either one of those things very well in that game the other day. There's a lot of things that we addressed and I think we resolved."
Martz said he thought the Washington game was an anomaly and that the Lions had lacked confidence lately. The health of key players like receiver Calvin Johnson, Jones and left tackle Jeff Backus played a role, and all improved over the bye.
"The biggest issue is early in the season we were making plays that we weren't making now -- or that we haven't been making lately -- plays that we just made with ease," Martz said. "That needs to get resolved, and I think we've resolved that. This is a game of attitude and passion, and if you're a little tentative or if a little unsure of yourself, then you don't play as well."
Individual Players Notes