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Old 10-12-2009, 12:07 AM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Late pressure eats up Detroit's opportunities

Late pressure eats up Detroit's opportunities
By Mark Kaboly
Daily News Sports Editor
Monday, October 12, 2009

DETROIT The head coach thought his quarterback should've thrown the ball away, and the quarterback didn't believe it wasn't the best idea to heave the ball down the field aimlessly.

Apparently, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz and quarterback Daunte Culpepper agree to disagree.

During the decisive drive Sunday, the Lions moved the ball to the Steelers' 21. They trailed by eight points with two minutes remaining and had all intentions of stunning the Super Bowl champs.

That is when Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned up the heat on Culpepper, who has played in only 16 games since midway through the 2005 season. The veteran quarterback pretty much melted.

The Steelers sacked Culpepper on three consecutive plays, two of which came on the same corner blitz by William Gay, and that helped secure the Lions' 21st loss in their past 22 games, a 28-20 decision at Ford Field.

Schwartz wasn't happy his quarterback was sacked multiple times, especially late in the game.

"In that situation, where you got it right there, we've got to be able to throw the ball away, protect that, whatever we've got to do avoid a sack right there," Schwartz said. "We can't give up sacks like that because that took us out of the chance that we had at the end of the game."

Three minutes earlier in the quarter, Culpepper, who was filling in for injured rookie starter Matthew Stafford, connected with Dennis Northcutt for a 25-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to eight.

The next time the Lions got the ball, Culpepper never had a chance for a repeat performance because of the three consecutive sacks that moved the ball to the 45-yard line and forced the Lions into a 4th-and-34 situation.

"It's a situation where, what, you are just going to throw the ball up for grabs?" Culpepper said. "You have to try to make a play."

Earlier in the drive, Culpepper made a play in the teeth of the blitz that gave him confidence. He hooked up with rookie Derrick Williams for 19 yards that put the ball on Steelers' 34.

After that, Culpepper was sacked on four of the final seven plays, and it came from a multitude of players Gay, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons.

"I looked back and said: 'What the hell happened, where did he come from, who was it?'" right guard Stephen Peterman said. "I am not sure what happened. We are going to have to look at film and see what we could've done better or if we could've redirected the protection."

Schwartz said the pass plays called required the outlet receivers to pick up the blitzes.

Running back Kevin Smith and tight end Brandon Pettigrew were the ones responsible. Smith picked up a blitzing Timmons on the first sack, but Pettigrew released into the pattern. Ditto on the second one. The third sack came on a delayed blitz up the middle by Timmons.

"They did a tremendous job," Culpepper said of the Steelers' pass rush. "We knew that coming into this game they would do a great job of coming up with crazy and exotic blitzes and they would get on the quarterback fast."

Culpepper just didn't realize how fast.

Mark Kaboly can be reached at mkaboly@dailynewsemail.com or 412-664-9161.
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