Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett & Carlos Monarrez dissect Lions 31-23 win over Packers on Oct. 7, and discuss where Detroit stands at bye week.
Carlos Andres López, Las Cruces Sun-News

The Detroit Lions are tied for third in the NFL with 17 sacks, but their defensive coordinator isn’t too impressed by that number.

“I’ve always felt this way, and again I’m going to make this statement that the sack is way, way overblown,” defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said Tuesday. “The score is more important. I’m going to say that again. But I’ve always felt, always, that the sack is the result of the front and the coverage working together. The rush and the coverage working together. That’s just the way it is.”

The Lions have one of the NFL’s best pass defenses five games into the season and their happy union of rush and coverage is to thank.

While they haven’t always gotten good push from a defensive line that’s played most of the season without right end Ziggy Ansah, they have gotten above-average play from their secondary.

And because quarterbacks have had to hold onto the ball longer than they’d like, that’s created pass-rushing opportunities for players throughout the defense.

Devon Kennard (five sacks) and Romeo Okwara (three) already have career-high sack totals, and seven different Lions have sacks overall.

“On defense, we have two jobs,” Pasqualoni said. “I’ve already stated the first job, stop the run. The second thing you always, each week, find yourself saying, right after you say stop the run, is make the quarterback uncomfortable. I think it’s more realistic to say that you can have a chance to make him uncomfortable than it is to go in there and sack him X amount of times.”

Pasqualoni said there are plenty of ways to make a quarterback uncomfortable even if they aren’t as easy to quantify as the sack.


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“Maybe it’s the coverage, maybe it’s the disguise,” Pasqualoni said. “It’s certainly the rush. It’s certainly the collapse of the pocket. Making him throw off his back foot. Not giving him lanes to slide and to push up in, and then a lane to throw the ball in. Close those lanes off. Mirror the throwing hand of the quarterback.

“All of those things to me create an atmosphere of the quarterback is being made to be uncomfortable. And personally, overall, that scheme right there, might be more important than the sack.”

The Lions sacked Aaron Rodgers four times in 56 pass attempts last week, and forced two fumbles on those plays.

While those turnovers led to 10 Lions points in an eight-point victory, Pasqualoni said he considers forcing a quarterback to throw the ball away or make a bad pass is equivalent to a sack.

“You play a guy like Aaron Rodgers, that’s so hard,” Pasqualoni said. “If you can just do something to affect him a little bit. (Tom) Brady the same way, right? Any quarterback, if you can just affect them a little bit somehow, some way figuring it out. It’s all important. It’s as important as a sack, I’m going to at least say that. I’m at least going to say all that culmination of trying to be effective is important.”

Contact Dave Birkett: Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!

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