Granted, the Lions have played top-notch defensive fronts the last two weeks in the Vikings and Panthers. Still it’s no excuse to allow quarterback Matthew Stafford to be sacked six times in each of those games.
The law of averages says that one time he won’t be able to get up.
Stafford did injure an ankle late in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, but was able to have full practices this week which is a good sign he’ll be ready to go on Sunday in New Orleans.
Still, the sacking has to be limited. The Saints’ defense has sacked quarterbacks 11 times in four games with Cameron Jordan leading with three of the 11.
For the Lions, it’s too simplistic to put all the blame on the offensive line. Part of it is on them, but tight ends, running backs and wide receivers need to improve their blocking. And Stafford has to make sure he’s not holding onto the ball too long.
When Stafford is being pressured on play after play it obviously takes a toll on the offense.
“Anytime a defensive line can get penetration whether it’s in the pass game or the run game, I think it’s a positive for the defense,’’ Stafford said. “You always want to play on their side of the line of scrimmage if you possibly can on offense, and that’s in the run game and the pass game, and anytime they’re in the back field, it’s a disruption to really any play you have going.”
Wide receiver Golden Tate sees if from a little different perspective.
“When you look back and a couple times a game or, however many times a game, you see a quarterback scrambling and kind of subconsciously you start breaking routes off earlier, you start getting away from the details,’’ Tate said. “That’s one thing we have to continue to do is focus on those details and not cut off routes early because we feel there might be pressure. We’ve just got to keep doing our job and get it all figured out.
“When there’s pressure on Matt it makes everyone feel uncomfortable. For sure it makes everyone feel they have to do something extra which is when you really get in trouble. We’ve seen it in the past when Matt is comfortable back there and he has time, he can go through all his reads correctly. He throws a great ball and we march down the field. If you look back to last game when we were scoring at the end of the game we were just marching down the field. We weren’t doing anything really different, just protecting him a little more.
“I guess he had one leg in that game as he led us down for two big touchdowns and I feel if we got the ball back we would’ve scored again. We all have to do our part,’’ Tate said.
The Lions beefed up the offensive line in the offseason with right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard T.J. Lang. Then left tackle Taylor Decker tore up his shoulder in June. He could be ready to return within weeks which will help. Greg Robinson has struggled filling in for Decker.
“We just haven’t done as good a job as we’d like to. The thing about it though is you can’t, as I mentioned the other day, you can’t point to just one aspect and say, ‘It’s a protection issue.’ And that covers a lot of ground. So, yeah it’s our job to get it fixed,’’ Caldwell said. “Right now we’re not protecting as well as we’d like or doing the little things that keeps us out of sack situations often enough.”