The Seattle Seahawks have aided the Lions already this season, by snatching victory out of the arms of the Green Bay Packers in week 3. They can be of further assistance this weekend if they bring the version of their team that lost to the St. Louis Rams, and struggled against the woeful Carolina Panthers, into Ford Field. Coach Pete Carrol has used a combination of stifling defensive play, and a strong run game to propel the Seahawks into contention for the NFC West. This home game is a quick stop for Detroit, along what would otherwise be a four game road trip. The Lions must use the home field and crowd to their advantage, as they cannot afford to lose any more games at Ford Field and remain in contention in the NFC North.
Lion Run Defense vs. Marshawn Lynch
Although rookie quarterback Russel Wilson has played well this season, Seattle’s 1980’s style offense is focused around Marshawn Lynch and the power running game. Seattle’s game plan focuses on time of possession and field position as much as it does on scoring points. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell attempts to whither, batter, and morally defeat opponents by grinding out small chunks of yardage at a time. Reaching the end zone is the ultimate goal, but with a defense like Seattle has, gaining field position, controlling the clock, and then punting are acceptable outcomes. The Seahawks are the type of team that lay in wait, and slowly pressure opposing teams until they make a mistake.
Pete Carrol and the Seahawks will be focused on keeping the Lion offense on the sideline, and limiting Matthew Stafford’s possessions. Detroit must focus on stopping Marshawn Lynch at the line of scrimmage, and forcing the rookie quarterback to beat them. So far this season, Wilson has been successful, and has beaten teams who dare him to throw. The Detroit secondary will be just as important as the front seven in this effort, as they must offer run support, but will also be called on to lock down Seattle receivers in man-to-man coverage. Detroit has had some success against premier running backs this season, such as Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Lesean McCoy, and Matt Forte through the first 7 weeks of the season. This success must continue against Seattle for Detroit to have a chance. The interior of the Lion defense, specifically Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and Stephen Tulloch will be integral in stopping Marshawn Lynch from entering “Beast Mode”, and running wild. Detroit will also need solid run support from Louis Delmas, who flashed his versatility in Seattle impacting numerous run and pass plays.
Jim Schwartz vs Pete Carrol
Coaching is important in every sport, but Football is where coaches leave the biggest imprint on the game. The Lions have not executed this season. Matthew Stafford is this year’s Josh Freeman, someone who overachieved for one season, and fans will slowly have to realize just isn’t as good as we thought he was. Brandon Pettigrew cannot catch the football, and when he does, he is almost sure to fumble. He has yet to justify his existence on the field at any point. The running backs can’t produce when it matters, such as short yardage, third down, and goal to go situations, where they seem to have more fumbles than positive plays. And Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in the game can’t seem to get open like he did last year, and has had some drops in key situations. The defense has been surprising over the last few weeks, but with the horrible offensive production, poor special teams plays, and the insurmountable amount of penalties, it’s just too hard to compensate.
So yes, the Lions have failed to execute, and have made plenty of mistakes on the field. But when a team continues to make the exact same mistakes, week in and week out, without any improvement, any growth, or any indication that the problems have even been acknowledged, who is ultimately to blame? The coaches are. They are the ones who are supposed to have a team prepared, both physically and mentally. They are the ones who are supposed to address weaknesses and scheme to the strengths of the team. But rather than acknowledge weaknesses, Jim Schwartz would rather quote statistics than face reality. He would rather cite Brandon Pettigrew’s number of receptions, and deny that he has a problem hanging onto the ball. Isn’t admitting that you have a problem the first step towards solving it?
Obviously the players are the ones on the field who drop the passes, commit the penalties, and make the mistakes, but what is most troubling about this coaching staff is the lack of any hint of a game plan from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. It seems as if Linehan is legitimately surprised each week when teams play 2 deep safeties and double cover Calvin Johnson over the top, even though every other person in America knows that it’s coming. What’s even more concerning than the lack of foresight from the Lion offensive coordinator is the lack of reaction. The Lions continue to run Calvin Johnson directly into bracket coverage, rather than move him across the field, or utilize underneath mesh routes to disrupt coverage. There are hundreds of adjustments that could be made to attack the 2-deep shell that the Lions constantly see, but in order to make those adjustments, once again, you have to be willing to admit that what you are doing simply is not working. The predictability of the Lions offense has become comical at this point, and certainly defensive coordinators are laughing on nearly every first and ten as Quarterback Matthew Stafford hands off To Mikell LeShoure on what is certain to be an unsuccessful draw play.
Following the loss on Monday night, the Detroit Lions season is over, but what remains to be seen is whether or not they will make the necessary corrections to get headed in the right direction for next season. Another burning question will need to be answered this winter once the season has concluded. Will Jim Schwartz stop making excuses and fire offensive coordinator Scott Linehan? Or will his stubbornness lead to his own undoing?