Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Sunday, September 20, 2009
Detroit attacks Minnesota run defense

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert


DETROIT -- I learned something Sunday about Detroit coach Jim Schwartz: He isn’t afraid to get after a team’s strength.

No one has played better run defense than Minnesota over the past three seasons; the Vikings have allowed an average of 70.8 rushing yards per game since the start of the 2008 season. But Schwartz’s game plan was pretty obvious Sunday: Run the ball directly at the Vikings.

And it worked, at least for a half. The Lions ran on 24 of their 32 first-half plays, accumulating 94 yards and taking a 10-7 lead into the halftime locker room. Frankly, it wasn’t until the Lions opened the third quarter in a passing mode that their offense started to sputter.

“We wanted to run the football,” Schwartz said. “And we knew it’s hard to take shots when that defensive line is rushing. … As soon as the game turned [in the third quarter], then all of a sudden we weren’t able to stick with that game plan and Minnesota was able to play a different way on defense.”

It isn’t often that you see a team put itself on a pace to run 48 times against the Vikings, win or lose. The Lions ended with 34 rushes.

You could argue the approach was an attempt to protect rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has now thrown five interceptions in his first two regular season games. But I took it as Schwartz trying to dictate his team’s style of play rather than mold it around the perceived strengths and weaknesses of an opponent.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

One programming note: I’ll put together some thoughts on Stafford for a column to publish early this week.