I kind of brushed off Rod Marinelli's postgame comments about keeping "your locker room tight (and) no finger-pointing" as preventative coach-speak, but the more I think about it the more I believe Marinelli really did want to nip something in the bud.
The Lions have a pretty good locker room. No real problems, plenty of vets, and powerful personalities like Jon Kitna, Dwight Smith and Cory Redding. But a day after their season-opening loss to Atlanta there was at least one sign of micro-fracturing. Nothing too concerning on its face no offense vs. defense sniping but nothing you want to see grow, either.
From receiver Roy Williams: "We want to run the ball, I love to run the ball, but there's nobody in this world that can stop our four-wide package and it wasn't in. We get in two-minute late in the (first) half and we go down and score. I mean, that's what we were supposed to be in. I look at those guys, (Atlanta's) secondary, they had to trade for a guy. So to me, I'm putting my four best wide receivers on the football field, bring out your four best corners. That's a mismatch all day long."
Williams, Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Lions receiving corps (Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald) had a decided advantage on Atlanta's young, inexperienced cornerbacks. While most of the post-game attention was rightfully focused on the defense's JV-like tackling performance, it's legitimate to question why the offense wasn't better able to capitalize on those mismatches.
Williams clearly felt like the Lions should have passed more, and quarterback Jon Kitna seemed to agree. Kitna had a very visible and emotional outburst in the first half that appeared related to the Lions' new establish-the-run offensive philosophy, at least as it related to Sunday's game. He demonstratively motioned to the sideline to throw more during Detroit's 12-play, second-quarter touchdown drive, and later in the same series he stormed off the field screaming in the face of receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. To be clear, Jefferson was not the reason for Kitna's tirade, he just happened to be in the middle of it.
"You sit over there and you're down 21-0 and nothing's really going right for you and that frustration's building and then something else happens that kind of triggers the blowup," Kitna explained. "That's really what happened."
After barely attempting to run the ball in several games under Mike Martz last year, it was nice to see Jim Colletto with a balanced gameplan Sunday. But at the end of day, the Lions' strength is their receivers and they have to do more to take advantage of Johnson and Williams, especially against a team like Atlanta. Staying committed to the run is good, but winning is the ultimate goal.
Marinelli said Monday he doesn't believe the locker room is in any jeopardy of splintering. I would hope not after one game. Still, he cautioned players to ignore the negative "outside influences" that can drag down a team.
Back in the locker room, players said they already turned the page on Atlanta and will show their real selves in this weekend's home opener against Green Bay. Whether or not that includes a modified offensive gameplan remains to be seen.
"I think we have a better idea of who we really are on offense," Kitna said. "I think we're going to be able to make some pretty minor changes that should have a pretty significant impact for us as we move forward."