Breaking News: Lions 0-3 Again

OK, that's hardly a surprise, but at least this version of the Lions has some pieces in place as they get ready for their trek to Lambeau. The defensive line is their strength and will have to carry the load until the injured skill players get back on the field.

The Detroit Lions are 0-3.

And in other shocking news, the sun rose in the east and gravity remains the law of the land.

Detroit is off to its fifth 0-3 start in 10 seasons, but these Lions are not to be confused with any of the other Lions teams that have allowed Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy to pad his record to the tune of 8-0 over the past four seasons.

"The Detroit Lions are an improved football team," McCarthy said. "I think that is clearly evident to everybody. I would start with their defensive line. I think that is the strength of their football team. They have been in three tough football games. They are improved in what they are trying to do on defense, relying on the front four, and with the production they are getting from their front four. Offensively, I think Scott (Linehan, the offensive coordinator) does an excellent job and I think they are off to a good start. This is going to be a good challenge, no doubt about it, always is."

With a potential franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford, two playmakers in receiver Calvin Johnson and rookie running back Jahvid Best, a talented tight end duo and one of the best defensive lines in the league, this club has little resemblance to those Matt Millen bands of misfits from a few years ago.

But, for coach Jim Schwartz, 0-3 is 0-3. Potential is not production.

"Well, going in the right direction isn't our objective," he told Packers beat reporters during a Wednesday morning conference call. "Our objective every week is to go out and win the game, and that's the only thing we focus on. We don't chart it any other way. So, that's really not for me to say. I think that if you look at where we've gone with this team the last couple years, we‘ve drafted well. Particularly last offseason, we added some pieces that fit exactly what we were looking for. We sort of went out and were aggressive to go get them. Guys like Corey Williams, guys like Tony Scheffler, guys like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nate Burleson, we were very aggressive to be able to get those players because they fit exactly what we were looking for. But none of that stuff really is something that we chart from a progress standpoint. It's only one objective each week, and that's to go out and win each Sunday."

Those additions had the Lions poised to make a big step forward after finishing 2-14 last year. Instead, the Lions lost the opener at Chicago 19-14 in infamous fashion, when the officials denied Calvin Johnson's game-winning touchdown catch. Detroit lost its home opener vs. Philadelphia 35-32 despite a furious rally. Last week, the Lions lost at Minnesota 24-10 but were in position to make it a one-score game until an end zone interception. Now comes a trek to Green Bay, meaning the Lions will have played all three NFC North teams on the road to open the season.

Jahvid Best
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Not only has the schedule been cruel and the luck typically bad, but the injuries haven't helped. Stafford, coming off a preseason in which he completed 71.1 percent of his passes, went down in the first half against Chicago with an injured throwing shoulder and will be replaced again by mistake-prone Shaun Hill against the Packers on Sunday. Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, sat out the game at Lambeau Field last year and was at far less than full strength because of a separated left shoulder for the game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field.

"It's very tough on Matthew," Schwartz said, "because he had such an outstanding preseason, outstanding offseason, finished the season hurt last year and was really looking forward to doing some good things and was doing some really, really good things in the first half of the Chicago game.

Best, the dynamic first-round pick who ran circles around the Eagles, is being slowed by a turf toe injury that knocked him out of the Vikings game. Burleson, who was signed in free agency to take some of the attention away from Johnson, sprained an ankle on the first play against Philadelphia. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy missed the first two games with a groin injury.

"When (Best) went out with the toe, we sorely missed him," Schwartz said. "He gives us a little different dimension on offense. He had a couple electric runs early in that game. He's probably not the kind of running back that's going to be getting 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 3. He's going to have some zeroes but he also has some explosive runs. He has a chance to score every time he touches the football. He brings that dimension. The one things that he has done a much better job of, particularly over the last couple weeks, is avoiding lost-yardage plays. If we run it on first down and he gets 0, we're still OK on second-and-10. He's dealing with some injuries that have set him back just a little bit but he adds a different dimension, not only to our running game but to our passing game."

Where the Lions are healthy and will offer a big challenge on Sunday is with their defensive line, which is the driving force behind their second-ranked 11 sacks.

"We'll have our hands full," right tackle Mark Tauscher said.

Top draft pick Ndamukong Suh had a sack in each of his first two games. Former Packer Corey Williams, back in a 4-3 scheme after two poor seasons playing end in Cleveland's 3-4, has a sack and an interception. Veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch, who had two double-digits sacks seasons with Tennessee, has 1.5 this year. Cliff Avril is the other starter at end. He had a sack in the game at Lambeau last year. Sammie Hill, Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson add impressive depth.

"That's the plan," Schwartz said of building a strong defensive line. "You want to be strong up front, you want to be able to pressure with four and not have to blitz. You've got to blitz on your own terms. We've had some good sack numbers in the first three weeks of the season. We can even be better. I think that we've put some pretty good pieces together there."

Suh, arguably the top player in the collegiate game last year during a singular junior season in which he had 12 sacks, 26 quarterback hurries and 23 tackles for losses, hopes he'll be the star of a group with the potential to turn around this hapless franchise.

"I think everybody on this team feels that their own group can change (Detroit's losing history)," the powerful Suh said during his conference call. "But I think the defensive line as a whole, I think we want to be that group and I think we work to be that group every day in practice and games and be that game-changing group. We really want to be that group that continues – especially on the defensive side of the ball – (to) be that consistent backbone that you can always rely on."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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