Lombardi remains upbeat about Lions offense

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Despite an unimpressive showing the first two games, Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi remains confident that his group can turn things around for the remainder for the season.

“I think we’re very optimistic in the direction that we’re going,” he said Thursday. “We’ve had a couple of rough games, obviously, but you’re never surprised. This is a hard league. It’s hard to win; it’s hard to win on the road. But we’re still very optimistic in the direction we’re going.”

So far, the Lions are tied for 25th in the NFL in total offense and tied for 19th in points scored. Neither Calvin Johnson nor Golden Tate has a 100-yard receiving game yet, and Matthew Stafford hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in either game, something he accomplished in one of the first two games each of the last four years.

The Lions also rank 31st in rushing offense and are averaging a lowly 3.3-yard average per run.

The offensive line has obviously been a major factor in the lackluster offensive performance as there have been few holes in the run game while Stafford has had limited time to throw from a clean pocket. To correct the issues, Lombardi pointed to improving communication and fundamentals.

Asked what’s keeping him optimistic that the offense can improve, Lombardi pointed to the team’s “good players” and the fact that the Lions have “executed well in spots.”

“When we get a little more consistent, we’re going to be a lot more excited about it,” he said.

While many of the physical issues are correctable, Lombardi said it’ll be important for the coaches to ensure the players understand everything the coaches want from them. He also pointed to his play calling as a reason for the subpar offensive performance.

“Not good enough, I guess,” he said of his play calling. “We’ve got to score more points. … Not scoring enough points is the problem, so we’ve got to find the formula. We’ve got good enough players. We just have to find the formula to help them succeed.”

Among the players Lombardi is referencing are Johnson and Tate, among the best receiving duos in the NFL, and tight end Eric Ebron and running back Ameer Abdullah, two emerging talents.

In the past, even with offensive line issues, the Lions had little problem stretching the field with Johnson and the strong-armed Stafford. However, Stafford has yet to complete any of his four passes that traveled 20-plus yards downfield, and in Week 2, the Lions’ longest play from scrimmage was just 19 yards.

Lombardi said Stafford’s ailments the first two games haven’t “significantly altered the game plan.” He also said he’s not worried about the ability of Johnson or Tate to win on deep routes and that the fear of turning the ball over doesn’t impact the decision to throw over the top.

“We trust Matt throwing deep,” Lombardi said.