Sacks are down but scheme works for Austin, Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Teryl Austin

Allen Park – Sacks are way down in Detroit this season. After averaging more than 40 the past two years, the Lions are near the bottom of the NFL with 25 heading into Sunday’s finale with Green Bay.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin admits the sharp dip is in part related to the schematic decision to concede so many short passes, allowing opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball well before the rush can develop.

“Probably,” Austin said. “The bottom line is if we can stop the run and we cannot let the ball go over our head, it gives us a great opportunity to win.”

There are few things Austin hates more than giving up explosive plays, gains of 20 or more yards. Therefore, he’s constructed his scheme around stopping the run, keeping everything in front of you in the passing game and tackling well.

It’s led to some ugly numbers for the Lions, including the low sack total and gaudy completion percentage for opposing quarterbacks. But in the most important category, points, Austin’s strategy has been good enough. The Lions are allowing 21.8 points per week, and held eight consecutive opponents to 20 or fewer before the Cowboys dumped 42 of them last week.


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“Teams have to drive a long way, a long time, a lot of times,” Austin said. “It’s hard, that’s why field position is so important in this game. You watch teams that have to drive the long field all the time, they don’t score a lot of points because a lot times they’ll make mistakes. …That’s our deal.”

It will be interesting to see how that strategy holds up against Green Bay, one of the league’s more efficient offenses. The Packers rank third in points per possession, fifth in yards per possession and are in the bottom 10 in turnovers and penalties committed.