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Running Game Represents Why Ken Whisenhunt’s Offense Might Work Perfectly with Detroit Lions

January 6th, 2014 at 2:30 PM
By Max DeMara

On Sunday, the San Diego Chargers ran over the Cincinnati Bengals en-route to a dominating 27-10 victory in the Wild Card round. Phillip Rivers had an average, 12/16, 128 yard passing day with one touchdown.

'Arizona Cardinals Football Training 2010' photo (c) 2010, Nick Bastian - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

For folks watching with designs of Chargers' offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt becoming the Detroit Lions' next head coach, that was only half the story. Perhaps the most important half? The fact that San Diego ran the ball at will against the Bengals to the tune of 196 yards on the ground.

Most of the afternoon, thanks to the punishing running of Ryan Matthews, Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead, all Rivers had to do was be an effective game manager. All three San Diego runners went over 50 yards, and two scored a touchdown. Rivers had to make sure he was accurate on third down (which he was) while hitting a few big plays down the field when available while letting his defense and running game go to work.

Matthew Stafford should have been paying attention. This could represent his future in Detroit. No longer should Stafford be throwing the ball 50 times a game and completing 30. No longer should a wild, dangerous gunslinger mentality be embraced. If Whisenhunt takes the job, he should work on doing his best imitation of Sunday's AFC Wild Card game every week, cramming the ball down the throat of the opposition with power, slashing runs and using that to set up big plays down the field with Calvin Johnson and company.

In Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, Whisenhunt would have an ideal thunder and lightning combination to dominate the line. Perhaps in Theo Riddick, he'd also have a Woodhead clone with an unheralded player who is quick between the tackles. It sets up perfectly for offensive scheming. In Pittsburgh, Whisenhunt had Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. In Arizona, he had Edgerrin James, Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells over a few seasons. He'd also inherit a young Lions' offensive line which is looking tougher by the season.

Watching Sundays game plan, Lions' fans had to be drooling knowing what Whisenhunt could bring to Detroit's offense. A no-nonsense, punch the opposition in the mouth approach would fit the current personnel and mentality of the Lions perfectly. Moreover, it would be the roadmap to getting Stafford get back on track. He needs to learn how to manage a game and make proper throws at the right time, a concept that was on full display Sunday in Cincinnati with Rivers.

If Whisenhunt is eventually the choice, it's safe to say he'd have more than enough tools to succeed in Detroit. It goes beyond Stafford to Johnson and extends into the backfield and offensive line, where major pieces are already in place which could help the coach seamlessly replicate his past and recent success.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

Tags: Calvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Joique Bell, Ken Whisenhunt, Matthew Stafford, NFL, Phillip Rivers, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Matthews, Theo Riddick

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