LIONS INSIDER

Notebook: The definition of an efficient run game; need more from Suh and home sweet home

Posted Nov 15, 2012

The defensive strategy teams have deployed against the Lions this year has been well documented: Leave two safeties back to thwart the big play, play a lot of soft zone coverage, and don't do anything stupid like blitz the quarterback and open yourself up to a big play.

The defensive strategy teams have deployed against the Lions this year has been well documented: Leave two safeties back to thwart the big play, play a lot of soft zone coverage, and don't do anything stupid like blitz the quarterback and open yourself up to a big play.

That strategy has forced the Lions to depend more on their run game than they have in the past and has also put a priority on driving the football down the field.

By playing that kind of defense, opponents are daring the Lions to beat them with their rushing attack.

"Well they sure know that we aren't hurting them with big plays in the running game," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.

Linehan is right. The Lions are the only team in the NFL without a run of 20-plus yards this season.

"I think (opponents) see us handing it off and, until we prove that we're going to hit the home run (on the ground), I think they're (thinking), 'Well that's a win because Calvin Johnson doesn't get the ball.'"

Linehan says he doesn't look at it like that, though. The Lions measure their run game as efficient or not efficient.

"Look two weeks ago (at Jacksonville) how effective our running game was and it really set the tone for the game when we scored four rushing touchdowns," Linehan said. "So there's some give and take there. Yeah, we would like to be able to get explosive plays, but we also would like to be ahead of the chains with our running game so we're not 3rd-and-10-or-more like we were six times last week against Minnesota. That killed us."

When Linehan says efficient, he means always moving forward.

"On first down you want to be four yards," he said. "I mean, that's an efficient run.

"Second down you want to be half the distance. So if you ran a 2nd-and-10 run, you want to be 3rd-and-5. If you were 2nd-and-4, you want to be 3rd-and-2. I mean, that's really how you look at it in second down.

"Then third down is: you've got to get the first. Those are like the minimal standard. If you're above that it's better. If you're below that it's really critical in your ability to overcome it. That's what we try to get done in the run game."

NEEDING MORE FROM SUH
Whether Sunday was one of the best games Ndamukong Suh has played with the Lions or not, Suh can still do more.

And he knows it.

"No performance is good enough if you're not winning," Suh told reporters Thursday after practice. "I may have played well individually but there wasn't enough of a team effort and I have to help my other teammates so we can win the game."

Suh finished with two tackles and a sack in the loss at Minnesota last week. He has 4.5 sacks and 15 tackles this season, which is well off his 30-tackle, 6.5-sack pace after nine games during his Pro Bowl rookie season.

"I play within the scheme and when plays come my way I make them," Suh said. "When I have an opportunity to make a play I'm all for it. But I'm not going to go out and reach out for anything because that's what inexperienced players do."

The simple fact is the Lions need more impact plays on defense, whether that be from Suh or someone else. They need game-changing plays and they're not getting enough of them. The Lions have just 10 takeaways in nine games (tied for fourth-fewest in league) and 20 sacks (16th).

HOME SWEET HOME
There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

The Lions have played six of their last eight games on the road and are more than happy to be back in Detroit for the next three games, starting Sunday with Green Bay.

"It's something that we're looking forward to," Lions receiver Calvin Johnson said. "Not to say that it's tough, every game's tough, but it feels good. We're in our comfort level at home. Hopefully guys will be on their stuff a little bit more."

The Lions played only three of their first nine at home, but will play five of their next seven within the friendly confines of Ford Field. It's a good thing, too, because the Lions (4-5) have a lot of work ahead of them if they're going to get back into the NFC playoff race.

"It's a very important stretch obviously and it starts this week with Green Bay," Schwartz said of the next three games at home vs. Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis. "It's the only one we can play this week, but after having six of the first nine on the road it is good to get back to Ford Field against quality opponents. It's going to be a very, very important stretch for us."

PRO BOWL VOTING
Receiver Calvin Johnson, who leads the league with 974 yards receiving, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh rank fourth at their respective positions in the current Pro Bowl vote by the fans.

Amongst NFC receivers, Johnson trails Victor Cruz (Giants), Brandon Marshall (Bears) and Percy Harvin (Vikings).

Suh, who's tied for the Lions' lead with 4.5 sacks, is behind Henry Melton (Bears), Justin Smith (49ers) and Dwan Edwards (Panthers).