By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi will put 15 to 20 percent fewer plays on the call sheet for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, and he explained his rationale for the adjustment Thursday.READ MORE: FDA Advisers Vote To Recommend Authorization Of Pill To Treat COVID-19
“We weren’t really on our details this last game, and when you miss those details, bad things happen, can kind of put you in the hole,” Lombardi said. “As a coach, you look at that and you know that that’s largely your responsibility, so we have to be more detailed, maybe try to do a few less things and so all those alignments and execution things that maybe we missed out on, we can practice them and be a little more detailed during the week so that we don’t find ourselves in those tough situations.
“So you have a certain number of calls, and maybe you get this one play repped against one or maybe two defenses,” Lombardi continued. “So if you have less calls, you can kind of show them more situations and you’re not just talking about them. It’s just a matter of practicing fewer plays and they’re able to handle all the different looks that might come up.”
The coordinator hinted that there is sometimes temptation to go a little too far with preparation, but the staff decided that paring down the playbook would be the proper approach this week.
“You kind of over-plan and have more offense than maybe what you need, there’s kind of some being prepared for different situations, so it’s just being a little bit more precise during the week and maybe having a little less insecurity as a coach,” Lombardi said. “Sometimes you’re like, ‘Hey, I want all these plays in case – ‘”
“It’s not this huge deal,” Lombardi added. “It’s just kind of limiting a little bit somewhere around the perimeter where we’re practicing the things we know we’re going to do with a little more precision.”
Players agree that approach should be helpful. The Lions failed to score a single touchdown last week against the Arizona Cardinals, and penalties played a role. The team expressed hope that narrowing the focus should allow players to be more detail-oriented.READ MORE: 'Georgia's Defense Is Just So Good': CBS Sports’ Houston Nutt Previews SEC And Conference USA Championships
“I think it’ll help us play faster,” running back Reggie Bush said. “I don’t know about easier; the game’s always tough, especially when you’re playing a tough opponent like the Patriots. I don’t think us simplifying the game plan is going to make the game any easier, but I think as for us, from our standpoint, it’s going to help us play faster.
“There’s not too much thinking at the line of scrimmage or as you’re walking up to the line of scrimmage and trying to think about what you have or what route you have,” Bush added.
The simplification of the offense could be particularly helpful for the offensive line, which has struggled at times to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has been sacked 31 times. With more experienced linemen Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle both dealing with injuries, rookies Travis Swanson and Cornelius Lucas will likely be counted on again this week. Lucas said paring down the options makes a big difference in how thoroughly players can prepare for each possibility.
“It helps a lot because you can focus in on the plays that will be called and you can really specialize your techniques and stuff like that,” Lucas said. “Instead of being spread out, you can just focus in and just think about the fewer plays you actually have.”
“Really with us it’s we see so many different fronts, so with each play, you have to learn that play towards six, seven different fronts,” Lucas added, “so if it’s fewer plays, then it’s lesser fronts and stuff that you have to memorize and things like that, so it helps a lot.”
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said Detroit adjusts the number of available plays each week depending on the upcoming opponent. Caldwell indicated the adjustment this week has more to do with emphasizing some plays rather than eliminating others.
“Often times you’ll go into a ball game and have a series of plays that you feel that you just can’t get repped enough, and maybe there’s some built-in reps from training camp, from the spring, whenever it might have been, but sometimes that’s not the case and you just think you need to refine it a little bit more,” Caldwell said, “so in order to do that you have to be able to kind of reduce a little bit of what you’re doing in particular categories.”MORE NEWS: Whitmer Seeks $300M For COVID-19 Testing At Michigan Schools