Lions philosophy is ahead of the curve

Ok I think I see what DC and BH’s plan is here.

In the 80’s NFL teams were all about smash mouth football. Big OL, Big DL, Big LBers. Punch you in the mouth football. Offenses lined up in tight formations and pounded it down your throat.

In the late 90’s teams were transitioning towards more spread formations to counter the size of defenses. Everyone started running single back 11 personnel. The best way to neutralize these big guys was to spread them out and use their size against them. Their size and lack of speed created soft zones in the defense.

As a result teams got smaller at LBer and along the DL. Todays NFL defenses are now smaller than ever. They’re rushing just 4 DL and dropping everyone else into coverage, and using heavy sub packages to counter the speed and spread of todays offenses. That’s how teams filled the soft zones. With more speed. Todays defenses are all about speed. They have went to the extreme the opposite way of teams from the 80’s.

The counter to that. Is to build a big nasty OL, run tight formations, run 12, and 13 personnel. Force teams to put more men in the box and then run it directly at that softer, smaller front. Use their lack of size against them.

That’s what we’re doing on offense.

The Lions thinking is ahead of the curve.

Our offense has the weapons at WR to spread out and attack like todays NFL teams do but we also have the size and ability to tighten up and play smash mouth football.

I do believe a few coaches are trying to figure this puzzle out. Pete Carroll being one of them. He shipped out Wilson. Is focusing on a run heavy scheme designed to reduce turnovers and be more of a game management style of offense.

If this strategy works our offense will be ahead of the curve and teams will transition back towards heavier defensive fronts.

Don’t get me wrong. Todays rules favor the QB and faster offenses so it will never revert back to what it was in the 70’s and 80’s. But I think teams will transition back towards a heavier run attack. Right now the best way to beat these small defenses is to run right at them.

The key to making this work is that you can’t have a ton of mistakes that kill drives. You can’t have turnovers. If you can establish long scoring drives you can counter the speed of todays game.


I found footage of Air, just before he made his findings public:

Always Sunny Reaction GIF


I’m heavily influenced by The Athletic article highlighted in another thread and posted below; I swallowed it hook, line and sinker because it was several levels above my pay grade.

I think our early offensive success is more that just being novel and going contrary to “light” trend, though that has some advantages similar to when college teams encounter a triple option team from the stone age. It’s more about multiple blocking schemes performed well, a perceptive, strategic OC in Ben Johnson, and Goff being adept at switching plays within what I presume to be Ben’s either/or options. One highlighted example that impressed me was a bunched 13 formation that drew heavy D personnel on the field, then Goff switching to a spread formation and getting a chunk play to Brock Wright.

The NFL catches up to quickly, so will teams learn to break our code? I dunno, but The Dan Campbell Experience is fun.


Absolutely awesome article. Love The Athletic.

This is it. My theory is that this is all happening because the coaches and players have an open minded approach. It used to be a head-strong HC or OC would say “here is what we are going to do” … and try to force a certain style to work.

It’s finally more like chess than checkers now. Thank you Ben Johnson. The offense forces you to defend multiple quadrants, and that becomes a real challenge for a defense when the offensive line has the strength and scheme to move the chains on the ground.

There will be a few teams with the personnel that can slow down our run game, and as a result probably make Goff struggle a bit. But we have more options to move the ball than (maybe) we’ve ever had. We don’t rely too heavily on one guy, which is great.

Great post. I was listening to a national podcast I’m blanking on the name, I don’t think it was sims unbuttoned……my memory is shit these days. the other day that touched in this but from the aspect that we will see BIG LB’s again at some point….just not now…

I love our versatility. If they spend enough energy and resources on stopping our run, I believe Goff is good enough to make them pay…BIG. JaMoss, Swift and Ra, brother!

OL must protect him. If they can, we will see a lot of home run balls. Swift’s
YPC may be an NFL record this year. That OL is unreal. No, this does not mean Swift is the best RB of all time. It means the oL is kicking ppl’s ass and stealing their lunch money.

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I think the staff came in and saw the way this team was built with a solid rb and great oline and decided to build the offense around it. It also fits the strength of goff game too.


I just love the idea of the lions being trend setters and not trend followers……


…and five years too late, i.e. - Quintricia.


The Lions offense is reminding me of how the Browns were built. Build a solid O-line, acquire RB talent, smash defenses in the mouth and then use play action. Obviously, Watson is a scumbag, but they are going to be dangerous when he returns. Cleveland was just running the ball down the Steelers throats last night and that was with a backup QB, who you should be able to stack the box against and force to throw.


That’s the same baseline requirement with the dink-and-dunk passing, too. You can’t have your quarterback throwing interceptions if the passes are all 3-yarders. The risk/reward isn’t there.

The running game is inherently less risky from a turnover perspective. Because of that, you can afford to be a little bit more of a gambler as a quarterback. It always bugged me that we never tried to run something like this with Stafford, as it suits his skills and masks his deficiencies more than the dink-and-dunk, 1000 short passes offense.

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You know what’s interesting is that the year Reggie Bush had 1000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving, a 1500 yard season for a RB, Stafford had a down year and his QB rating was only 84 and he threw 19 interceptions.

You would really have thought the only year he had a solid running game it would have helped him, but it didn’t. Very strange. We went 7-9 that year and it got Jim Shorts fired. Caldwell was then hired, the run game got worse and we won 11 games the next year.

So, the narrative of if only Stafford had a run game in Detroit we would have won more actually doesn’t make sense when you look at the history of what happened.

When people say…. “If Stafford only had a run game” what they mean by that is a run game that NFL defenses have to respect enough to free up the deep pass. Stafford didn’t have that. In fact he had just the opposite.

2013 was the year teams figured out how to stop Stafford by using two deep safeties and taking away his deep game. This forced the Lions into 3rd and long situations. Facing two deep safeties, the Lions offense only completed 29% in those situations.

Throw in the fact the Lions lost Nate Burleson and were forced to start Kris Durham, who couldn’t beat man coverage. Defense we’re able to double CJ and blanket him over top with a safety. Ultimately we lost 6 of our last 7 games as a result.

The two deep safety is the main reason Bush had 1000 yards. They weren’t worried about him. The run game wasn’t freeing up the pass. It was just the opposite. Stafford’s ability and CJ seeing triple coverage freed up the run. Defenses were respecting Stafford and Calvin, by dropping 8 into coverage, and letting the RB’s get their yards.

This sparked a trend in the NFL we’re DC’s used this strategy to disrupt strong arm QB’s it was short lived because during that offseason OC’a put plays in to specifically attack those looks.

Too bad the Lions and Jim Schwartz couldn’t have figured it out before losing 6 of their final 7 games. We may have had a shot at the division if they had.


For sure!
Similar principle to the idea → some say Matt had a great OL under Linehan. They SUCKED. Matt had the 2n fastest release in football (behind P. Manning) to compensate for lack of OL talent. If you look at stats, the OL didn’t give up sacks/hurries/pressures…but the reality is…every pass was damn near a hot route.

Thanks for the input @Air2theThrown
I feel like I can see more than an average fan (when it comes to X’s and O’s), but I learn a ton from posts like this and always appreciate your input.

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Thanks, Air. I love the long memory here and the deeper dives beyond the familiar frustration as a Lions fan.


That wasn’t what I was getting at.

My point was that I always hated trying to make Stafford into a precision dink-and-dunk guy in an offense that needed 70% completion rates and where an interception here or there was a killer. That always struck me as square peg / round hole stuff.

My theory is that Matt will throw an interception every [X] number of passes. It’s who he is. Rather than worry about the interception, how about making each successful pass more valuable? An interception every 50 attempts when when a completed pass is only 3 yards is a killer. An interception when every 50 attempts when a completed pass is 10+ yards, much less so.

I think Bevell realized that, and his offense got much more aggressive after the immense weight of Patricia was removed from the team (both metaphorically and literally).

I always wanted to see an offense with Matt that would make the ghost of Al Davis ask, “Are you sure you want to be passing downfield that often?” Bombs away, all day, erry day.


I forgot all about Durham, was that the year Burleson got injured chasing a falling pizza in his car, only the Lions, haha.

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Really well put.
IMO, both styles can come into play, and leadership is most important.
one particular quality of leadership I enjoy in a QB is really what the “beef” some have with my take…and that’s a fun thing to look at and be appreciative of as well.