Few fans have been more vocal in their dislike and disappointment in Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi than I have. I’ve often referred to the first year signal caller as “Coach LINO”, Lombardi In Name Only. So trust me when I say that the Lions drubbing of their divisional opponent was more than just beating up an inferior team.
No, that isn’t what happened. While it’s true the Bears were ranked very low defensively, there was a crossroad for the offense and Joe Lombardi turned that corner full tilt with no breaks.
For the first half of the season, and bleeding into the beginning of the second half, Joe Lombardi’s new offense was painfully predictable. The run game was putrid, the passing game wasn’t much better, and the team seemed allergic to the end zone for 58 minutes of every game.
His counterpart on the other side of the ball, Teryl Austin and his Free Hurt Defense, made him look even worse as he was also in his first year and was leading the number one defense in the NFL. Joe Lombardi’s offense needed a shot in the arm, and while we’re seeing the effects of it now, the change was actually made last week.
The week before the Patriots game, after the loss in Arizona, Joe Lombardi trimmed the playbook by about 20%. That’s often viewed as a negative by fans, but on a team struggling to implement a new system it can be a godsend.
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The Lions managed to put an even weaker effort against the Patriots in terms of actual production than they did against the Cardinals, but that doesn’t mean it’s all on Joe Lombardi again. Lombardi’s play-calling consistently put the team in position to score, but with four dropped touchdowns and repeatedly busted protection the team didn’t stand a chance.
The improved play-calling and game time awareness carried over this week against the Chicago Bears and the Lions seemingly found the end zone with ease. Suddenly the team was able to use its dynamic weapons. The once awful run game was starting to chug, with big pass plays to start the game and solid, power running to close out the game.
This is the Joe Lombardi the Lions believed they were getting, and as one of his biggest critics I am legitimately excited. I’ll get more into specifics of why after I complete my film study this weekend, but for now it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy the Lions blowout of their division rivals on a national stage on a short week and to believe that it will, in fact, get even better.