If you took a poll around the greater Detroit area and asked everyone what the main problem with the Detroit Lions offense is, they would most likely point directly toward offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Some may even call for his play-calling duties to be removed. The problem with that is it truly won't solve anything. And while some of the blame falls on Lombardi for not always putting his players in the best situation to succeed, it also falls on the players to execute the plays that are called.
"We just haven't executed as well as we can," Matthew Stafford said after Sunday's game. "We have to continue to work to get to that point. We'll go from there."
Out of 10 total offensive drives on Sunday, I counted at least seven where the Lions offense had a negative play that pushed them behind the chains (second-and-12, third-and-13, etc.). I wish it were as easy as pointing to one player or group, but frankly there was below-average play across the board, something Stafford alluded to after the game:
"There were quite a few reasons. I missed some throws, didn't execute in certain areas and it's a team effort. We didn't play well enough as an offense. When you only score six points you're not going to win a whole lot of games."
The Lions gave up four sacks, had multiple run plays for negative yardage and consistently put themselves in bad field position due to penalties. During the Lions' third drive of the game, they overcame an early sack and were marching down the field when Rob Sims' facemask penalty pushed them back to first-and-25 and out of field goal range. Three plays later the Lions punted.
There were plays like this littered across the entire 60 minutes on Sunday. Another drive was stalled later on in the game after Eric Ebron was called for offensive pass interference. That play went from being a first down to a third-and-15 for the Lions.
While Lombardi isn't solely to blame, he does merit some criticism. Through 10 games, the Lions offense hasn't produced consistently enough, and Calvin Johnson being hurt is no longer an excuse worth using. More than anything, I think Lombardi can be blamed for being overly conservative/predictable in certain situations -- most notably, two run calls after starting a drive in the red zone right before halftime. The Lions have several targets on offense that rival those on a basketball court. Not even targeting any of them is an inexcusable error.
I think the Lions may have gone into a buzz saw on Sunday against a very good Arizona defense, but offensive miscues only magnified the problem. Whether they can correct the errors this week against New England is a completely different story.