Notebook: Lions might (gasp!) run the ball

When the Lions play Sunday at San Diego, they might use the same strategy they did Thanksgiving Day against Green Bay and Sunday against Dallas. They might actually run the ball.

When the Lions play Sunday at San Diego, they might use the same strategy they did Thanksgiving Day against Green Bay and Sunday against Dallas. They might actually run the ball.

Stunning, yes. This is a team whose offensive coordinator is Mike Martz, a team that has run at historically low rates this season -- eight carries for minus-18 yards Nov. 11 at Arizona, seven carries for 23 yards Dec. 2 at Minnesota. The NFL record for fewest rushing attempts is six.

The Lions fell behind in both of those games, and Martz started throwing to try to catch up. Quarterback Jon Kitna thinks Martz doesn't deserve so much criticism.

"Our offense -- and particular Coach Martz -- seems to be a lightning rod for the media," Kitna said. "But the reality is, when we're in the normal flow of a football game, we're a balanced offense. Check every single game."

But some think the Lions would be in games if they were more balanced, and Martz admitted he abandoned the run too quickly.

"Sometimes, that's my downfall," Martz said. "I can become a little impatient. I always feel like we can move the chains throwing the ball, and that's not a good thing because I just need to be a little more patient.

"Sometimes, the way to work your way back into a game when you're behind is just to come out and grind it a little bit, too, and get your guys grounded."

Coach Rod Marinelli said the Lions wanted to run against the Packers and Cowboys to keep their potent offenses off the field. They might want to do the same with the Chargers.

The Lions simplified their game plan against the Cowboys and then the NFL's last-place rushing team ran for 152 yards against the NFL's fourth-ranked run defense. Offensive line coach Jim Colletto gave the players only about eight plays during the week and told them to know them inside and out.

"I think the way it played out on Sunday, I think it came out to four or five plays that we ran," said left guard Edwin Mulitalo, who once played for Colletto in Baltimore. "So there was no secret."

That allowed the players to feel comfortable, focus on their task and get into a rhythm.

"I know the way we ran it in Baltimore, and the way we ran it on Sunday has that same feel, where you simplify it, you have a certain amount of plays and you run those very well," Mulitalo said. "That worked for us on Sunday."

It felt good.

"When you're able to do things we were able to do (Sunday), your playbook just opens up," right tackle Damien Woody said. "You just feel like you can't be stopped. And that's the way we felt out there. We felt like when we were running the ball that they just didn't know what was coming next.

"And when you have a team like that, man, it's fun to play the game. It really is. It was a fun game (Sunday). Unfortunately we didn't seal the deal, but I had a great time out there."

Individual Player Notes

  • QB Jon Kitna took shorter drops and made quicker throws Sunday against Dallas, part of the reason he took only one sack, on the last play of the game.
  • RB Kevin Jones has carried the ball more than 20 times in three games this season. In each of those games, he has run for more than 90 yards.
  • TE Sean McHugh had several opportunities to make plays Sunday. He caught three passes for 60 yards, but people will remember balls he didn't catch, especially one in the end zone.
  • WR Shaun McDonald led the Lions with eight catches for 96 yards Sunday, but he ran out of bounds during the four-minute drill, stopping the clock when the Lions needed it to run.
  • WR Calvin Johnson caught five passes for 51 yards Sunday. The Lions lofted a ball for him in the end zone, the kind of play fans have been clamoring for, but Johnson didn't come down with the ball.
  • DT Shaun Rogers has no sacks and only five solo tackles in the Lions' last five games, after a huge game against Denver: a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown, 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, three tackles, a pass defense and the NFC defensive player of the week award. Rogers is out of shape, partly because of knee problems.
  • DT Cory Redding has no sacks through 13 games, after posting eight in the Lions' last 11 games last year and landing a huge contact.
  • DE Kalimba Edwards, a pet project of coach Rod Marinelli's who entered the season as the starting right end, was inactive Sunday and might not be active again unless someone ahead of him falters.
  • S Greg Blue recovered a fumble on the Detroit 1-yard line in his Lions debut Sunday.
  • P Nick Harris has had 19 punts downed inside the 20 and only four touchbacks this season.

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