Friday, May 25, 2018
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Marinelli backs air war for Lions


Cardinals' Terrence Holt is unable to keep Detroit's Kevin Jones from scoring Sunday. The Lions lost 31-21 to Arizona.

Matt York / AP Enlarge

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Rod Marinelli hasn't changed his mind.

One day after his Detroit Lions ran the ball just eight times in a 31-21 loss at Arizona, Marinelli defended the decision by offensive coordinator Mike Martz to abandon the ground game.

"We felt that our most favorable matchups were in the passing game, and that our best chance of moving the ball would come through the air," he said. "We knew with Arizona's defense, running the ball was going to be tough sledding."

Detroit's running backs didn't do anything to change their coaches' thinking.

The Lions finished with minus-18 yards rushing, the lowest total by an NFL team since Oct. 13, 1946, when the Chicago Cardinals held Detroit to minus-24.

"We had a lot of things break down in our execution," Marinelli said.

"This was all about fundamentals, and those are correctable. That's the good news."

During their 6-3 start, the Lions found some offensive balance with the return of Kevin Jones from a foot injury.

However, Jones was troubled by soreness in the foot against the Cardinals and vanished from the offense.

He carried just four times, all in the first half, and finished with minus-4 yards. He did catch eight passes, but none went for more than seven yards.

Jones has practiced little this season while recovering from the injury, and is still missing most workouts to save his foot for the games.

"He hasn't practiced a lot, and that's hard, but we've got to get him going," Marinelli said.

"It has hurt him to miss practice time, just like it would hurt any player. A good football player has to always be working on skill development, and Kevin hasn't been able to do that."

To make matters worse the Lions now face two tough games in five days: the New York Giants (6-3) on Sunday and the Green Bay Packers (8-1) on Thanksgiving Day.

Marinelli acknowledged he isn't sure Jones will be able to play both games - he usually doesn't practice until Friday of most weeks - but he isn't ready to rule anything out.

"We may have to make a decision on that, on which game to use him in, but that's going to depend on how he feels this week," he said. "Maybe he'll play against the Giants and come out of that game feeling great. We don't know."

Detroit's rushing numbers were skewed by a 15-yard loss on a botched end-around by Shaun McDonald, but Jones wasn't the only one struggling. With Tatum Bell benched, backups T.J. Duckett and Aveion Cason combined for just one yard on two carries. Cason ended up leading the Lions in rushing with one yard.

"That's not good at all," Duckett said. "We've got to find a way to get things going against the Giants, and if K.J. is hurting, they can give me the ball, and I'll do anything I can."

With a negligible running game, Lions quarterback Jon Kitna ended up throwing 45 times. He enjoyed the chance to put the ball in the air, but knows it isn't a good solution.

"I love throwing - I'd do it on every play if I could - but it is brutal on our offensive linemen," Kitna said. "They don't get the chance to fire out and punish guys like they do on running plays. We need to be able to do both."

NOTES: Marinelli said Kitna was undergoing tests on a sore lower back, but Kitna dismissed any concerns. "I feel better than I have in five weeks. My lower back always hurts, but I'm fine." ... CB Fernando Bryant was having an MRI on his sprained foot Monday, and Marinelli said he was questionable for the Giants game. DE Dewayne White (arm) could return for Sunday's game after missing the Arizona loss, but OT Jonathan Scott (thumb) is expected to miss his second straight game.

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