Lions offense braces for explosion

The Detroit Lions are 6-2 entering Sunday's contest at Arizona, off to their best start since 1999, and they don't feel they have played up to their potential yet, especially on offense. More inside, including Detroit's still unwrapped offense.

As the Lions prepare for Sunday's game at Arizona, quarterback Jon Kitna will take nothing from last year's 17-10 loss there.

Well, almost nothing.

"I think the one thing I'll watch from that game is how far we've come and how bad of a football team we were last year at times," Kitna said. "You just know that, hey, we just didn't deserve to win a game down there last year."

That game was brutal. The Cardinals had lost eight straight games, had made headlines for their infighting and had a lame-duck coach in Dennis Green. They were the only NFL team with a record worse than Detroit's when the day began. But they took a 17-0 lead, and when the day was over, the Lions were tied with the Cardinals and the Raiders for the worst record in the league at 2-8.

But now the Lions are 6-2, off to their best start since 1999, and they don't feel they have played up to their potential yet, especially on offense.

The Lions' passing attack is supposed to be the strength of the team. The theory coming into the season was that the Lions would have to throw a lot and try to win shootouts because the running game was weak and the defense was porous.

But the passing attack hasn't really clicked yet. The running game has improved lately, and the defense has come up big. The Lions' 24 sacks are tied for fifth in the NFL, and their 14 interceptions rank first.

"Offensively, I still believe the best is ahead of us," coach Rod Marinelli said. "I know that."

Look at the Lions' No. 1 wide receiver, Roy Williams.

At the halfway point last year, Williams had 44 catches for 719 yards. He ended up leading the NFC in receiving yards with 1,310. At the halfway point this year, Williams has 43 catches, virtually the same number. But he has only 568 yards, a big drop-off.

"We're not getting the chances to throw the football down the field with the way teams are playing us -- a lot of Cover 2 and safeties really deep and things like that," Kitna said. "They're trying to see how patient we'll be with the running game. I think that's the biggest thing."

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has been more patient with the running game the last three weeks. Running back Kevin Jones has continued to improve since returning from a serious foot injury. The more the Lions have run the ball, the better they have run the ball, as the offensive line has gotten into a rhythm.

"We're just going to continue to run the football, if people want to play like that, and then when we get opportunities, we're going to take it down the field," Kitna said. "Teams are trying to take the explosion plays away from us. That's kind of where the league is headed right now. We'll just continue to be patient."

SERIES HISTORY: 59th meeting. Lions lead, 31-22-5. The teams have played eight times in the last nine years, and the Lions have gone 3-5. The Lions haven't won in Arizona since 1993.

Notebook:

  • Coach Rod Marinelli preaches playing one snap at a time. Obviously Sunday's game at Arizona comes first. But that doesn't mean the Lions never look at the big picture. The Lions are 6-2, and their remaining schedule includes every NFC team with a record as good or better. They host the Giants (6-2) and Cowboys (7-1), and they have home and road games against the NFC North rival Packers.

    "We play all the top teams in the NFC," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "It's up to us. It's all right before us. Coach Marinelli says it every day. We've got everything to gain. It's right there. We have no excuse. We play everybody."

    Kitna has not thrown an interception in three straight games and in four of the Lions' last five games. "I think turnovers come when you get in kind of desperate situations," Kitna said. "The last few weeks, we've stayed in football games and we haven't had to take a lot of chances and things like that and you can be a little bit smarter with the football. But I need to be even more aggressive with the football so we score touchdowns instead of field goals."

  • Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance Sunday against Denver -- a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown, 21/2 sacks, four quarterback hurries, three tackles and a pass defense. But center Dominic Raiola said Rogers should be defensive player of the month for that performance alone, and Kitna challenged Rogers to earn the honor over the next three games. "I think Shaun should win defensive player of the month for this month," Kitna said. "That's what I think. That's his goal for this month, to win defensive player of the month. He could carry us through this whole month of November."
  • Rogers prefers not to talk to reporters, but he spoke for a little more than two minutes Wednesday. He said he was having more fun than he has had in a while, but couldn't explain the somersault he did to celebrate a sack Sunday.

    "Man, I don't know," Rogers said. "I have no real answer for any of those actions Sunday. Just going out there and playing on emotion, trying to help my team get a win."

  • Offensive lineman Jonathan Scott suffered a broken thumb Sunday when his hand got caught in a facemask. He had surgery Tuesday and guessed he would miss two-to-three weeks. "It's really fine," Scott said. "I know I'm not going to be out for the season. We've got eight more games. I know I'll be available to play the majority of them, so it's not really a big deal. I've just kind of tripped a little bit, and now I've got to get back up and keep going forward."
  • Asked what he noticed about the Lions defense on film, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said: "Speed. Every NFL defense is fast, but the Lions defense doesn't slow down. What I see with these guys is a tremendous amount of hustle, especially on plays away. They're putting themselves in positions to make plays, whether it's in the backfield, whether it's a couple of yards downfield. That's everybody. That's the linebackers. That's the defensive ends. That's the defensive tackles. As far as hustling to the ball and hustling to the play, they're playing with very good speed and very good hustle, which shows up on the tape."
  • BY THE NUMBERS: 6 - QB Jon Kitna's interceptions through eight games. He had 10 at the halfway point last year.
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: "Don't piss him off. Do not make him mad." -- QB Jon Kitna, on what he learned about Lions DT Shaun Rogers while preparing for him in Cincinnati.

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