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Scouting report: Cowboys vs. Lions

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I finished watching the Lions game against the Vikings from last week and it was ugly. Maybe it was one of the worst games the Lions have played this year because they couldn’t be 6-6 with that kind of performance regularly. Here’s the scouting report.

Lions offense vs. Cowboys defense

Last week, we played a team that likes to throw the ball. That was nothing compared to the Lions and their offense. Basically, the Cowboys can forget all about the running game and should stick with their sub-packages of nickel/dime defenses. It’s hard to imagine the Lions could hurt the Cowboys in the run game even going against passing sets on defense. Kevin Jones was more effective as a receiver than as a runner. There weren’t enough running plays to even get an idea of what they like to do in that phase of the game. Even when they 2nd and goal from the half-yard line –seriously, the ball couldn’t have been closer to the goal line – they ran a play-action pass. It was successful for a TD but they didn’t have the confidence to run it in from that short distance.

In the passing game, Jon Kitna completes a high percentage of his passes. You would think that with a team that throws that much and a QB who completes the passes they would be a high-powered offense, but they aren’t. The reason is that Kitna rarely had time to throw deep. The large majority of passes were quick throws underneath the defense. They like to throw crossing patterns underneath the linebackers and have their receivers work after the catch. The Cowboys linebackers and secondary need to be sure tacklers this week. The Lions formations looked a lot like the Packers from last week; empty backfields or 4-wide with one back kept in to block or run dump-off patterns.

They have a problem at RT where Damien Woody is now starting. Woody has been a good interior lineman for most of his career but had never started at tackle before last week and he struggled out in space. Greg Ellis could have a huge game this week. They also tried to block the defensive end with a TE more than normal teams would and it wasn’t that successful. The Lions simply don’t have the offensive line necessary to run the offense that Mike Martz is using and Kitna was under constant pressure. They were much more successful when they rolled Kitna and moved him in the pocket. Kitna does throw a good ball and he uses all of his receivers, but he’s under attack on almost every play resulting in a lot of short passes.

Lions defense vs. Cowboys offense

The Lions defense is an undisciplined unit. They aren’t very good about keeping pass rush lane integrity and the Vikings QB was able to gain yards on scrambles and move around to find receivers. Tony Romo should have a big day if they are that sloppy in their pass rush on Sunday. They are also a poor tackling team. You would need a calculator to count the number of missed tackles on the day. They also couldn’t get off of blocks and the Vikings run game obliterated their front seven. Draw plays were extremely effective and gouged them for big gains. Their linebackers would bite on the slightest play-action and leave the zone behind them wide-open. They would try to blitz but even that wasn’t very effective.

In short, there was absolutely nothing impressive about their defense in the game. Earlier in the year the Lions defense was an opportunistic bunch that created a ton of turnovers and would score on defense. But on this day, they only got one turnover on a terrible pass. Whatever they had going for them earlier in the year on defense seems to have evaporated.

Summary

The Lions are the ultimate boom-or-bust team on both sides of the ball. On offense, if they can protect Kitna they have a chance, if they don’t the offense is awful. On defense if they can create turnovers they can succeed, if they don’t they get dominated.

They are also one of the least physical teams I’ve seen on film all year. They can’t run the ball so they don’t wear out the defense’s front seven and their linemen are always backing up in pass protection. On defense they don’t tackle well and they rarely punish the ball-carrier or the QB.

Like I said at the beginning, this game might have been somewhat of an aberration because they are 6-6. But my guess would be they were getting a little lucky at the beginning of the year and injuries have also taken a toll.