Monday, September 9, 2013
Upon Further Review: Lions Week 1
By Michael Rothstein
A review of four hot issues from the Detroit Lions’ 34-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings:
Sunday wasn't the first time Lions coach Jim Schwartz has seen a play from Ndamukong Suh come under scrutiny.
Ndamukong Suh facing discipline: Suh’s low block on Minnesota center John Sullivan eliminated an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker DeAndre Levy in the second quarter. Frankly, it isn’t that surprising, either. By the time Suh made contact with Sullivan, Levy already was well past Sullivan and on his way to the end zone. Suh told reporters he spoke with Sullivan about the play and that he wasn’t going for his knees. Watching it again, it is tough to say. Suh said he was aiming for Sullivan’s waist, but it is not clear from the re-watch exactly where Suh was trying to hit Sullivan. Either way, Suh’s conduct and play will come into scrutiny again this week.
First-half miscues can’t happen again: In some ways Detroit got away with one Sunday against Minnesota. Yes, Reggie Bush was special and the defensive line put a ton of pressure on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and did a good job tying up Adrian Peterson, but Detroit cost itself too many points off of its own errors. Suh’s penalty cost the Lions a touchdown because Matthew Stafford was intercepted on the following play. A poor hold from rookie Sam Martin cost Detroit a field goal. A hold by Brandon Pettigrew on a fourth-and-1 call also killed a drive and Detroit had to settle for a David Akers field goal. Do those types of things again and it’ll cost Detroit a game.
The defensive line could be really good: For all the discussion above about Suh’s questionable play, he and the rest of the defensive line were extremely effective and showed their depth. The Lions rotated eight defensive linemen and although Suh (87 percent) and Nick Fairley (75 percent) took the majority of snaps at defensive tackle, there was enough of a break to keep them fresh. Reps were almost equal at defensive end, with starters Willie Young and Jason Jones each taking 29 of 55 snaps and Israel Idonije and Ziggy Ansah taking 26 each. If Detroit has success this season, it will be because of this position group. As a group, they combined for three sacks and five of six quarterback hurries and also helped contain Peterson.
Blocking was strong: Detroit’s offensive line had three new starters Sunday -- left tackle Riley Reiff, right guard Larry Warford and right tackle Jason Fox -- but looked like a competent, veteran group that has been playing together for a long time. Add to that Fox played only 15 snaps because of a groin injury and was replaced by Corey Hilliard, and it is impressive Stafford was sacked only once and hit four times. Three of those hits and the sack came from Jared Allen. Otherwise, Minnesota’s defense was well blocked almost the entire game.