Coordinated effort helps Lions overcome image issue

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions, who before Sunday had never won a game in Washington, faced a Redskins defense that bore no resemblance to the defense they had studied on film leading up to the game.
Normally a 3-4 base team, the Redskins played five down lineman the entire game. Normally a zone blitz team, they hit the Lions with a barrage of man blitzes. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked on the first play of the game. On the third play, his pass intended for Calvin Johnson was picked off and run back for a touchdown by cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
To make it worse, the laser printers on the Lions' sideline weren't working. The coaches had no overhead photos to help them see the alignments and make their adjustments.
"We never found out what was wrong," coach Jim Schwartz said on Monday. "They didn't work the entire game. We were flying blind offense, defense and special teams. Gun's (Gunther Cunningham, defensive coordinator) up in the box and he was working hard up there to try to figure out what adjustments we needed to make. Scott (Linehan, offensive coordinator) was on the sideline working with the guys upstairs figuring out what adjustments we needed to make.
"Everybody had to really pull double duty and really get to the bottom. We talked about how they had run schemes that they had only sprinkled in before. They really went to work, for the most part in this game, starting with an all-out blitz on the first play of the game. Offensively, they did some of the same things. They had some wrinkles to their option game that they hadn't really used before, which we needed to make adjustments to. I give credit to our coaches for being able to make those adjustments even without having those pictures, which are so critical during the game."
The Lions managed to get things sorted out remarkably quickly and took a 17-14 lead into the half, at which point Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen agreed to let the Lions use their overhead pictures.
"They shared their pictures in the second half because they knew we were at a disadvantage," Schwartz said. "They didn't have to do that but I thought it was a very sportsmanlike move and shows the class that they have and this organization has."
Stafford was credited for keeping his poise after the rocky start. He finished with 385 yards passing (8.8 yards per attempt), two touchdowns and he converted a key fourth-and-1 on a sneak that led to a clinching 11-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.
"They were able to figure out," Schwartz said of Stafford and Linehan. "Matt did a great job. They blitzed an awful lot. They crowded the middle of the field. I thought Matt played an outstanding game. His completion percentage wasn't as high as it's going to be when it's a zone game, but under pressure, man, we were 8.8 yards per pass play. That's very, very high."
The fourth-down quarterback sneak took some guts. The Lions were up 20-17 with under five minutes left and had the ball at the Redskins 12. Schwartz said he never hesitated about going for it. He said getting a 10-point lead was critical. Even if it failed, they had the Redskins pinned and giving up a field goal couldn't beat them at that point.
Two inside power runs by Joique Bell were stuffed for no gain on second and third down. The Lions correctly assumed the Redskins would remain in the same defense.
"I just asked (center Dominic) Raiola what side he wanted to go to," Stafford said. "He had a feel for that; those guys had been battling all game so they have a feel for which side is stronger and weaker. He told me to go left. We shifted to a more balanced formation. I put my head down and I told Joique (Bell) to push me."
Two yards and two plays later, Stafford hit Johnson with the touchdown that secured the franchise's first victory in the nation's capital.
Notes: Reggie Bush (knee) said he could've played Sunday but coach Jim Schwartz opted to keep him out one more week. "It was not his call," Schwartz said. "We have to do what's right. Every player is competitive and every player wants to play. The injury he has is a little different than if he was a quarterback or an offensive lineman or something like that. He can't control what's going on when you are a running back. You can't control where they are going to tackle you." ... Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (undisclosed injury) left the game several times Sunday and was looked after by the trainers. He was able to finish but Schwartz said he expects Ansah to miss some practice time this week. Ansah sacked Robert Griffin III twice and was in the Washington Redskins' backfield regularly.

What to Read Next