MNF in Detroit: The Lions' spread offense

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
2:45
PM ET
DETROIT -- Greetings from the general Detroit Metro area, where people keep telling me that Monday night will feel like a playoff atmosphere at Ford Field. I can tell you this much: Members of the tourist industry -- airline employees, car rental agents and hotel staff -- are all decked out in their Detroit Lions garb. When you arrive in Detroit, there is no doubt a football game is fixin' to be played.

That's a start!

I'll be heading downtown in a few hours. But first I wanted to hit a topic that ESPN's Trent Dilfer treated with better context than I could. In his weekly ESPN Insider column, Dilfer breaks down the Lions' offense in a way I haven't seen before.

First, the raw numbers from ESPN Stats & Information:

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 88 percent of his passes (141 of 161) from the shotgun. Through the first four weeks of the season, Stafford had thrown 27 more shotgun passes than the next most-frequent NFL quarterback.

But an interesting thing has happened on the rare occasion when Stafford has taken a traditional center snap. He's completed 15 of those 20 passes, including six for touchdowns, and hasn't thrown an interception.

Dilfer, naturally has a strong opinion on this dynamic. He thinks the Lions are smart to be in the spread as often as they are, considering their lack of a power running game and the premium they're putting on protecting Stafford. Their success in the small sample of under-center plays should not spur them to do more of it, Dilfer writes. Instead, it reflects in several cases an audible by Stafford. In others, the Lions lucked into favorable matchups.

Many NFL teams use the shotgun, some as their most popular formation. But Dilfer writes that Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has devised the NFL's purest form of the spread offense that he's seen:
Without getting into all the nuances of the various spread offenses you see at the college level, I'll say this: In reviewing the film, I've watched every snap the Lions have taken on offense this season (more than once, in fact), and I don't remember a team running a system closer to what, say, Kevin Wilson was running for years at Oklahoma, producing a run of great quarterbacks. Even New England isn't quite like this, and Tom Brady is in the shotgun constantly. But that's what the Lions under offensive coordinator Scott Linehan are doing this season.

As we get closer to game time Monday, the Chicago Bears should know what the Lions plan to do. How to stop it will be their challenge. If you're interested, here is a handy filter link for all of our "MNF in Detroit" posts over the past week.

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