The wild-card round playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions is this Sunday. So before that happens, we check in with SB Nation Lions' blog Pride Of Detroit. Sean Yuille answered five questions about the state of the Lions.
Blogging The Boys: So with Ndamukong Suh in the news all week, gives us a breakdown of how important he is to the Lions defense.
Pride Of Detroit: The entire defense is really built around what he does on the defensive line. Opposing teams are forced to double-team him nearly all the time, which opens up room for the rest of the D-line. This has allowed the Lions to have an outstanding run defense, and it's made life much easier on the back seven as well. Suh basically affects all aspects of the defense despite only being a defensive tackle.
BTB: Given the weapons Detroit has on offense, why are they in the lower third of the league in scoring?
POD: There are two main issues. For starters, first-year offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi just has not performed at a high enough level. His game plans have been questionable at best, and his play calling leaves a lot to be desired. He's been a big step down from Scott Linehan, although part of that stems from the Lions' desire to be more conservative and less turnover-prone.
The other main issue is the offensive line. The Lions haven't been able to stay healthy on the O-line all season, and this week they will be down their starting right guard and starting right tackle. Even when everybody was healthy, the offensive line didn't exactly perform at a very high level. This has made running the ball extremely difficult, and Matthew Stafford very rarely has a clean pocket to work with.
BTB: In what ways has coach Jim Caldwell changed things for Detroit, good or bad?
POD: One of the main reasons behind hiring Caldwell was that he seemingly had a plan to make Stafford a better quarterback. Between that and giving Stafford even more weapons on offense this past offseason, everybody expected the Lions to continue to be known for their high-powered offense coming into the season. As it turns out, though, Caldwell has transformed the identity of the Lions by turning them into a defensive powerhouse thanks to his hire of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. The offense, on the other hand, has taken a major step back. I guess those are really the two main differences. The good thing is the defense has come out of nowhere to carry this team, but the offense has gone in the exact opposite direction.
BTB: Calvin Johnson has torched the Cowboys, do you feel like he's the key for a Lions victory on Sunday?
POD: Johnson certainly needs to play a big role on offense on Sunday. Lombardi has seemingly shied away from really opening things up and letting Stafford heave the ball downfield on a consistent basis, but that really has to change this week. By keeping the Cowboys focused on Johnson, Golden Tate should be able to put up some solid numbers, and that could even open up the running game for the Lions a bit as well.
BTB: There's been a lot of discussion about the Lions racking up their wins against bad teams. What are your thoughts on that, is that something that concerns the fanbase?
POD: I would say the more concerning thing is the Lions' inability to beat good teams on the road. Even though they lost last week at Lambeau, let's not forget that the Lions beat the Packers in dominant fashion earlier in the season, so they have at least shown an ability to beat a good team. But that was at home, and in their four road games against playoff teams (Panthers, Cardinals, Patriots and Packers), they went 0-4. What's even more concerning is that none of those games were necessarily all that close. The Lions did lose by only one score against Arizona, but it's not like they were on the verge of tying things up late or anything like that. This trend of being unable to win on the road against quality opponents obviously has to come to an end this week for the Lions to get past the Cowboys.