By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) - Any time a defense can shut down a team that went 12-4 the previous season and that enjoys a three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback at the helm, that defense can claim a good day at the office.
For defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit Lions, Thursday fit that description. In the third preseason game of the year, the Lions pummeled the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, 40-9.
“Our front rushed very well,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “They created pressure. We didn’t blitz a lot. When we did, it was effective. I thought that those guys did a good job of making it difficult for their quarterbacks to find guys. That’s a very good passing offense, that’s a very good scheme, they’ve got good players within it and they’ve got one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League. Our pass rush was able to combat a lot of that.”
The Detroit defense looked solid against Brady in particular. He completed 16 of 24 attempts for 185 yards, threw one interception and was sacked twice for a total loss of 19 yards.
The pick Brady threw was one of four turnovers New England committed in the game. Aside from that, the Patriots also turned the ball over twice on downs. Lions defensive end Jason Jones did an especially good job of creating havoc, recording both sacks of Brady and recovering a fumble. Suh spoke highly of Jones and fellow defensive end Israel Idonije.
“Those guys are doing a hell of a job just from the simple fact of collapsing the pocket,” Suh said. “I told J.J. when he got his second sack, I had a double team, but the thing is that’s beautiful. I get to watch him make the play because I’m pushing two guys back, and he’s right in my field of vision collapsing the pocket. It’s something beautiful to see. And then that gives me opportunities. His first sack, I was back there, and we’re going to meet at the quarterback, so that’s exciting to have. They just – if you watch Izzy in practice, he knows exactly where the quarterback depth is, every single time, and that’s something exciting to have in a defensive end.”
As much as limiting the Patriots so severely buoyed the Lions’ confidence, the unit was not without its shortcomings. Detroit committed 11 penalties that totaled 102 yards. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley alone committed two infractions during New England’s opening drive, and defensive end Willie Young drew a personal foul for taunting Brady.
Schwartz was not pleased, to say the least. Young did not play the rest of the game. Suh said the issue had been addressed among the linemen but that it was something of a tricky issue.
“It’s something that you mention, and you talk to them about it, but you don’t harp on it because we’re all grown men, we all understand the mistakes that we make, and we want to be able to grow from those,” Suh said. “You make them aware of it, and I think every last one of the defensive linemen understand that. It’s something that, we pride ourselves on playing tough, but there’s always a limit, and we respect that limit, and we’re always going to respect that limit, and so as individuals as well as a defensive line, we’ve got to really manage ourselves but at the same time be accountable as a unit.”
Still, the lack of discipline demonstrated through penalties did not outshine the accomplishment of an overwhelming positive turnover margin. Last season the team’s margin was minus-16, the second-worst in the National Football Conference, so Thursday’s performance was a complete reversal from what Lions fans grew used to in 2012.
Suh said that while drills and coaching have not been focused on turnovers any more than usual, getting takeaways is something the players are making a priority.
“We want to make plays, and we want to get the ball back, and that’s how we really want to feed off each other, just making plays, getting turnovers, getting the ball back to the offense,” Suh said. “We want to make plays particularly in practice. When we do goal line drills, we’re not letting that running back get into the field, we’re not letting that receiver catch the ball in the end zone, so it’s things like that that we’re practicing that we want to make sure we’re not allowing it if we can’t get turnovers.”
It is still the preseason, but Thursday’s performance seems to be a good sign for the Lions. If nothing else, it is a solid building block.
“That’s a good start,” Suh said. “You’ve got to start somewhere. We obviously haven’t done it as much in the previous year, in the first two preseason games, so it’s a good start.”