By Ashley Scoby
Playing against premier pass rushers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, as well as Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib isn’t exactly the best recipe to get your offense back on track. But that’s what the Lions will attempt to do Sunday when they take on the Broncos at Ford Field.
The main criticism of the Lions’ offense in Week 1 was the lack of Calvin Johnson targets. Last week, it was mostly the run game (Detroit gained 38 total yards on the ground). Now, they have to find a way to improve both quickly, at the risk of going to 0-3 on the season.
But offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is still optimistic about what this offense can do. With running back depth (Ameer Abdullah and pass-catching threat Theo Riddick backing up starter Joique Bell) and the high-caliber receivers Detroit has (Johnson and Golden Tate), the potential is there.
“Just knowing that we have good players, knowing that we’ve executed well in spots and when we get a little more consistent, we’re going to be a lot more excited about it,” Lombardi said.
Turnovers have been drive-squashers for the Lions so far this season. They’ve lost two fumbles, and Matthew Stafford has thrown three interceptions. There have been flashes of momentum, especially against San Diego, but never enough to sustain through a win.
“We got a little momentum on Sunday and then turnovers kind of derailed us,” Lombardi said. “We shouldn’t fumble. We need to hold onto the ball. That’s two drives that are killed.”
Although Stafford has already thrown three picks this year, Lombardi doesn’t feel like that impacts whether or not Detroit will choose to throw downfield. To him, the potential reward of a deep completion outweighs the risk of getting picked off – especially when some of Stafford’s interceptions this year have been flukey.
“You’re always wanting to be careful with the football,” Lombardi said. “And shoot, of our turnovers, we’ve had two fumbles, we’ve had an interception or two really, that weren’t a factor of going deep. There was a defensive end that jumped up on a ball and you’d like Matt not to throw it into him, but the guy made a really good play. He got hit once, again, where it was an interception. So, no, that’s not a huge factor. We trust Matt throwing deep.”
The Broncos’ secondary probably isn’t the best in the league to throw deep against – they’ve allowed the fewest passing yards through two games (267) than any other team in the league. And overall, Denver is second in the NFL in total defense (243.5 yards a game).
“They’ve got two really good corners, obviously,” Lombardi said. “Their safeties are real good, too. (TJ) Ward is a really active player, smart player. … They’ve got good players all across the board, so when you combine the pass rushers they have with the cover guys they have, it’s certainly challenging.”