Undlin says lack of pass rush isn’t all on D-line: ‘The best pass rush is a good coverage’

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions’ defense held Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in check for three quarters. But the pass rush continued its struggles from last year and couldn’t get much pressure on Chicago’s pocket.

Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said Tuesday that the lack of pressure wasn’t exclusively the fault of the defensive line and that it takes a holistic approach from the defense to generate a pass rush.

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“We ended up with one sack there,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “So I think if we asked any of players right now, we would like a little bit more.

“But when you talk about pass rush, it’s not just the four guys that are rushing by themselves. It has a lot to do with the linebackers in coverage, it has to do with the secondary in coverage and it all works together. You guys have heard that phrase before.”

Trey Flowers got the Lions’ lone sack in the loss — in the fourth quarter on third-and-13 from Detroit’s 43-yard line. The sack resulted in a forced fumble the Bears recovered at their 29.

But the Lions managed that kind of pressure infrequently Sunday. They had just four quarterback hits and their 2.78% sack-per-pass attempt ratio ranks 26th.

Undlin wants the defensive line, linebackers and secondary to work together to mount consistent pressure, especially as the Lions prepare for a lethal player like Aaron Rodgers. Even the Minnesota Vikings’ potent defense failed to sack the Green Bay quarterback, who threw four touchdown passes in the Packers’ season-opening win.

[ Detroit slides in our NFL power rankings after collapse vs. Bears ]

“Now, the best coverage is a great pass rush and the best pass rush is a good coverage,” Undlin said. “So it all works together. So when you talk about pass rush, I’m not going to put that on the D-line by themselves. We’ve got to do a better job in coverage. I can help those guys at times, I’m sure, when we look at some of calls and some of the positions I put them in.

“But when you talk about getting pressure on (Rodgers), you’ve got to cover first. And when you can cover, it gives those guys an opportunity to rush. If you don’t then the ball comes out of his hand in less than 2 seconds — a lot less than that actually most of the time. So it’s out. It starts with the coverage first and then if the coverage is good and it’s sound, then we can help those guys actually have a chance to get to the quarterback.”

[ Lions will continue Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson, D’Andre Swift RB rotation ]

Mum on Okudah

Rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah was inactive for the opener with a hamstring injury. Undlin wouldn’t guess at what his availability status might be this week.

“We’re going to go through the week,” he said, “and we’re going to evaluate everybody and we’ll see what happens when we get to Sunday.”

Starting cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Desmond Trufant both left the game with hamstring injuries. Coleman was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. The Lions are expected to work out four cornerbacks Wednesday: Jamar Taylor, Jaylen Watkins, Alexander Myres and Grant Haley.

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Lions’ stunning loss to Bears answered 9 important questions

Red-zone stalls

The Lions converted touchdowns on only 40% of their five drives that penetrated the Bears’ 20-yard line. After the first week, they are tied for 25th in red-zone efficiency. They’re far below last year’s red-zone conversion rate of 59.52%, which ranked 12th.

Bevell said it was a mixture of problems with pass-catching, the run game and play-calling that led to two field goals on the Lions’ first two trips in the red zone.

“There are just different things, really, on both of those,” he said. “The first one — I think (Quintez) Cephus had a chance to catch the ball, which ends up putting that third-down play much closer with better opportunity to convert it. So I think we ended up with a third-and-8 on that one.

“Then the second time we got down there, some of the things (the Bears) were doing — we started with a couple runs so just continuing to make good decisions, give them good calls to be able to be successful with it, execute calls.”

The Lions scored touchdowns on their next to trips to the red zone on D’Andre Swift’s 1-yard run and Matthew Stafford’s 4-yard pass to T.J. Hockenson.

“All of it I think works together,” Bevell said, “and we’ll continue to try to improve in that area.”

[ Lions’ Week 1 collapse was bubbling long before D’Andre Swift’s dropped pass ]

Roster moves

In corresponding practice-squad moves, the Lions released defensive end Jonathan Wynn and signed defensive end Kareem Martin.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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