By Ashley Scoby
Lions fans haven’t been shy about wanting offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi to give up play-calling duties this season, after a lackluster beginning.
And wide receiver Golden Tate added fuel to the fire when he said in a radio interview that opposing players had come up to him each of the past three weeks to say they knew what play the Lions would be running. But after Tate clarified his comments to the Detroit Free Press, saying he didn’t mean any slight to Lombardi, several other Lions have said the whole situation was blown out of proportion.
“Nobody has said anything to me,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford when asked if he had heard opponents calling out Detroit’s plays. “I know the two interceptions that I threw last week were on plays that are brand new in our playbook, so maybe they know something I don’t know. Maybe they’re hacking into our computers or something, I don’t know. But as far as how we’re lining up, I couldn’t tell you. Those guys are maybe smarter than me.”
David Bruton Jr – the safety who intercepted Stafford on Sunday – came out and told Mile High Sports that he had read the formation, as well as Stafford’s eyes, to make the pick.
According to Lions safety Glover Quin, defenses often read opponents’ formations and situations, then make calls based on those tendencies. For example, when a receiver lines up tight to the line of scrimmage, Quin says that “99 percent of the league” runs that formation when the receiver is about to run an under route.
“That’s just a concept,” he said. “It’s not so much, ‘Yeah, they came out, oh, they lined up in two-by-two, boom, I automatically know the play.’ It’s not like that.”
Teams all have certain schemes they want to roll onto the field, and that goes for both sides of the ball.
“They might motion guys or do different things, or flip it and run it to the other side,” Quin said. “But at the end of the day, you have different concepts that you like to run and that’s what you run, even on defense. We have coverages that we like to run; sometimes you just make it look a little different, but it’s the same stuff.”
Regardless of how much opponents specifically know about the Lions’ formations, verbage or any other tip-offs to their plays, head coach Jim Caldwell says it doesn’t matter.
The Lions have averaged 305 yards per game during the first three weeks of the season (27th in the league), including an average of 45 on the ground. Whatever the problem is, Caldwell doesn’t think it’s offensive predictability.
“In my days, back in the old days when Bo (Schembechler) and Woody (Hayes) ran all of the same plays all the time, you knew they were coming,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, could you stop it because they could execute them so well? And I think there’s something to be said about that as well.”