Notebook: Can Bye Week Fix an Entire Team?

It's easy to say that the Lions have a lot of work to do before their next game, Oct. 5 against Chicago. They have a ton of problems to fix. But the sad part is, how much can they really fix? It's not like they can overhaul the roster at this stage.

At least the Lions won't be embarrassed next week. They have their bye.

The Lions have started 0-3, losing badly to three teams with quarterbacks who had never started an NFL game before this season. They lost to Atlanta and Matt Ryan, 34-21. They lost to Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, 48-25. Then they lost to San Francisco and J.T. O'Sullivan -- their backup last season, whom they let go in free agency -- 31-13.

It's easy to say that the Lions have a lot of work to do before their next game, Oct. 5 against Chicago. They have a ton of problems to fix. But the sad part is, how much can they really fix? It's not like they can overhaul the roster at this stage.

"This is the team we have," coach Rod Marinelli said. "We've just got to get them better."

The Lions have fundamental problems from philosophy to talent.

After two years with high-flying, high-risk offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the Lions wanted a simpler, safer approach with Jim Colletto. They wanted to eliminate mistakes. They wanted to run the ball to control the clock and open up the field for wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams.

But the zone running scheme Colletto runs is designed to wear down the defense over the course of a game. While the Lions have struggled to run the ball early, opposing teams have kept their safeties back to take away Johnson and Williams.

"I think we have big-play receivers," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "Our problem is, we haven't run the football very effectively early in football games. We're not getting the single high coverages that we want."

The Lions offense has started slowly each game. That would be OK if the defense was good enough. But the defense hasn't been good enough. Not even close. The Lions have one takeaway and three sacks in three games.

So the Lions have fallen behind badly. The Lions faced 21-0 deficits in their first two games and a 21-3 deficit in their third. The offense -- which has routinely put itself in bad situations with penalties and dropped passes -- no longer has the Martz mentality that no situation is insurmountable.

"Our offense is not built for that anymore," Kitna said. "That's not who we're supposed to be. That's not our philosophy. Our philosophy is to play close to the vest. When you play close to the vest, you can't afford mistakes and you can't afford going down by 21 or 18. You can't do it. And we're not built to come from behind anymore."

It's a mess. The Lions simply don't make enough plays. Even worse, they don't execute the fundamentals Marinelli teaches over and over.

"I've said it 100 times, it's the obvious things that we have to be good at, the simple things," Marinelli said. "That's the part that probably bothers me more than anything. We're not good at those areas I've emphasized."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got to look at it with a critical eye and try to find a way to fix it." -- Coach Rod Marinelli, on what the Lions will do on their bye.

LINEUP WATCH: Rookie Kevin Smith started at running back at San Francisco. But he had only three carries for 14 yards. Veteran Rudi Johnson ended up carrying the load with 14 carries for 83 yards.

"We were planning on playing Rudi early in the game, and he kind of got hot and we kept him in," coach Rod Marinelli said. Johnson signed just before the season, but he feels he knows the offense now and will know it even better after the bye, allowing him to contribute even more.

NOTEBOOK:

  • QB Jon Kitna suffered what the team called a sprained right knee and hopped off the field on his left leg. Kitna said the medical staff felt there was no structural damage.
  • RG Stephen Peterman suffered a broken right hand. He kept playing, then came out, got it taped and tried to play again, but he could use only one hand.
  • DT Shaun Cody suffered a sprained knee. The Lions gave no details about his condition.
  • CB Travis Fisher suffered a groin injury. The Lions gave no details about his condition.
  • RT Gosder Cherilus, the Lions' first-round pick this year, made his first NFL start. But he committed a false-start penalty on his second snap.

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