New Offense Suits Well
The Detroit Lions weren't satisfied with Mike Martz during his two-year tenure as the team's offensive coordinator. The San Francisco 49ers, however, have nothing but good things to say about him after two games.
Martz and the new-look 49ers look to continue their rebuilding on Sunday when they host the Lions, who haven't had much luck in their first season without the offensive mastermind.
After a seven-year stint with the St. Louis Rams that included a Super Bowl win as the offensive coordinator and another Super Bowl appearance as the head coach, Martz was hired to revamp Detroit's offense in 2006. The club went 3-13 in his first season, then collapsed after a 6-2 start last year to finish 7-9.
Martz was replaced by Jim Colletto in the offseason, a move that got mixed reviews from Lions players.
"You can keep changing coaches, but every time you change them, that's a new system," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "The reality is, the games that we lost, the majority, the time that things didn't go right, it was self-inflicted stuff. It wasn't a coaching thing where you were outcoached or they weren't putting you in a position to be successful."
Despite Kitna's misgivings, Martz left Detroit and joined a San Francisco team that finished last in the league in 2007 in points (219), scrimmage yards (4,162), touchdowns (24), first downs (218), sacks allowed (55) and third-down conversion rate (31.4 percent).
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made 49ers –4 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on 49ers –4 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
It's only been two games, but the 49ers (1-1) are raving about the possibilities after totaling 365 yards in a 33-30 overtime win on the road against Seattle last Sunday. They had more than 350 yards only once last season.
"It's a whole lot different now," said running back Frank Gore, who had 99 total yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. "Having a leader like Martz, knowing his past and knowing he's won games, it just makes me want to play even harder. You just want to let him know you're good."
Coach Mike Nolan, on the hot seat after last year's struggles, is just as excited about his new right-hand man.
"He's got a great command presence with the players," Nolan said. "They've got a lot of belief in what he does. They know that if they just do what he says, they've got a great chance to get the ball."
Perhaps Martz's biggest success early this season is the play of J.T. O'Sullivan, a journeyman quarterback who spent last season as a backup for the Lions. O'Sullivan, who's been a member of eight different NFL teams over the last seven seasons, completed 20 of 32 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown last week and has looked very comfortable in his first two career starts.
Martz, though, isn't taking the credit for O'Sullivan's breakout.
"I didn't know much about J.T.," Martz said. "In Detroit, he did a real nice job for us as a backup. What he's done so far (in San Francisco) is he's taken an opportunity and made the most of it. To say that I expected him to do this good, I'd be lying to you."
While the 49ers are optimistic about the direction they're heading, the Lions (0-2) continue to struggle as they try to adapt to Colletto's new system.
Wide receiver Roy Williams was vocal in his criticism of Colletto's run-first offense after Detroit rallied from a 21-point deficit to lead Green Bay midway through the fourth quarter only to lose 48-25 last Sunday.
"Last year, we would start the game in four wide and dictate the tempo," said Williams, who led the Lions with 2,148 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches during Martz's two years with the team. "Now, we only get into it in 2-minute situations - or if we're down 21-nothing. Why would you get in that when you're down? Why don't you just start it and get up?
"But I'm just a player."
The frustrated Lions are eager to get back on the field to put last week's collapse behind them.
"The next game can't come fast enough," center Dominic Raiola said. "We have no excuses and no answers right now."
Detroit hasn't had answers against San Francisco lately, losing 10 of 11 in the series since 1988. Gore ran for 159 yards and a touchdown as the 49ers won their last meeting with the Lions 19-13 on Nov. 12, 2006.
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