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Detroit Lions Offensive Line: Under More Pressure From Fans Than Blitzes

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 23:  Jeff Backus #76 of the Detroit Lions sits on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field on November 23, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan. The Buccaneers defeated the Lions 38-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Chris StewardContributor IAugust 20, 2009

As a Bruce Willis type Lions fan, what I am about to say next may shock some of you. Possibly leave you feeling I should be thrown in assisted living for the rest of my days, but hear me out.

The Detroit Lions offensive line is not bad.

There I said it. I feel a huge weight has finally been lifted from over me. Maybe that's how Jon Kitna felt after every 8th drop back attempt. 

Seriously, although this O-line will not pass for the Hogs of Washington's Super Bowl teams it is not as flawed as the stats reflect. Sure some of you will say stats are stats and numbers don't lie. While you would be correct, stats fail to tell the whole story. The report the effect, but ignore the cause.

Effect: Over the last 3 years, a Detroit quarterback has been sacked 169 times. 

Cause: The easy answer is Kitna, but that wouldn't be completely accurate either.  Mike Martz's offense is designed to spread the field, leaving only 5 blockers to keep the QB upright and in most cases is sufficient. But Mr. Martz was different. Most of his passing plays required slick timing and deep routes. 

Each of those two elements require time, time opposing defensive coordinators couldn't afford. So they sent more people than who stayed to block. If you think about it, you only need to send six players to get one free. 

I'm not a coach but I'm sure I could get that right more often than not. With no threat of a running game, the defensive line never had to think about containment and knew they were going to get at least four seconds to get there. I'm sorry but to ask anybody to pass block for four seconds that often is asking a lot. 

Okay, what is the team's excuse for 2008, Martz was gone? You're right, he was, but Jim Colletto's playbook was primarily the Mike Martz playbook with an emphasis on running the ball. And we all see how that turned out. 

Down 21 before the coin toss hit the ground.

Wait a minute. 

Don't big holes usually result in abandoning the run to catch up quickly? It does when your defense is made of wet toilet paper. So the whole treat of run is thrown from the window again. Different coordinator, same playbook, same results.

Effect: The running game was dead last.

Cause: Do we really have to go through this again?  There either wasn't an opportunity to run or the team just chose not to.  Well, at least that was the case until around mid season when the coaching staff put in the right HB and let him carry the load.  Kevin Smith didn't have a break out year in terms of numbers, but when those same numbers are applied to the big picture he played very well. 

Besides, the new coaching staff must have liked enough of the OL to bring back pretty much everyone and just add to it for competition. They drafted skill positions and left the holdovers in tact. 

Don't forget, the same guy Lions fans were trying to boot off the team anchored a line that game up a total of 78 sacks in the 3 years prior to the Mike Martz era. New coaching staff, GM and season means fresh start. Let's extend that to the guys in the trenches as well. 

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