Lions using at-the-snap motion less than other offenses

Detroit News

When things are going bad, like they are for the 0-2 Detroit Lions, you start looking for any reason to explain why. The obvious answer is the team’s defense, which is getting gouged both through the air and on the ground, but the offense has had its shortcomings, as well. 

The Lions opened Sunday’s loss against the Packers with two long touchdown drives. That’s about as good of a start as the unit could have hoped for. But then it went ice cold, with four punts, a missed field goal and an interception as Green Bay rattled off 31 straight points, essentially putting the game out of reach by the start of the fourth quarter. 

The perception might be the Lions struggled to adjust after running out of scripted plays, but offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell doesn’t see that. 

“We had a good mix of run-pass (early in the game),” Bevell said Tuesday. “Even on the third drive, we’re off the script on that one, and we’re at midfield, converted third-and-10, then throw the bubble (screen) and get tackled for zero, but we get the late penalty, so now it’s a third-and-25 rather than a third-and-10. I think that would have made a big difference. And then the very next drive is the backed-up 2-minute drive, which we didn’t handle that very well.

“I think as far as the script goes, we were off the script and we were moving it well, then we just got out of sorts there for a minute,” Bevell said. “…We’re at our best when we’re able to mix the run with the pass and we’re able to get tempo, that we’re able to get on the ball and move and we’re not stagnant. We got to continue to work to do that.”

Speaking of being stagnant, one area where the Lions aren’t particularly active is with motion at the snap. ESPN’s analytics department has done studies determining that offenses are more effective when a player is moving at the time the ball is snapped. 

The Lions successfully executed one such play in the season-opener, throwing a quick pass for a sizable gain to tight end T.J. Hockenson, who was laterally moving at a quick clip before the snap. 

But on Sunday, against the Packers, the Lions were last in the NFL, utilizing this type of motion on just one offense snap. Although different schemes, the Rams and Ravens led the league in at motioning players at the snap this past week while combining to score 60 points.

“I don’t know how much our percentage is,” Bevell said about motion, in general. “We do use it. Most of the time you’re using it to set up things or gather information from the defense. We’re trying to make sure we’re using the motions on run and passes. Sometimes you get a little predictable that way, so we’re trying to make sure we do that in both of those situations.”

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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