It seems like every other week the Falcons are playing a top tier team. With the Detroit Lions suddenly
falling into that category, this week will be no different. Detroit boasts a surprising 5-1 record this year and unfortunately, the Falcons have yet to beat a team with a winning record. With Green Bay looking unstoppable right now and likely to take the NFC North title, it appears that the Lions will be a major contender in the wild card race. That makes this game extremely important for Atlanta’s playoff hopes. With the bye week coming up next week and the struggling Colts the week after the bye, a win in Detroit could set the Falcons up nicely to get back on track. The Lions pose some big issues on both sides of the ball, so this game won’t be as easy as it may have looked prior to the season. Let’s look at a few things Atlanta can do to come away with the win.
Offensive Game Plan:
Looking into a the Lions defense, it is obvious the one thing that will be the most crucial component to wining this game. The offensive line has got to protect Matt Ryan. The improved play that we have seen from them is going to have to continue in a big way. Detroit brings one the most dangerous defensive lines in the game, featuring second year star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh made a huge splash onto the scene last year, wining defensive rookie of the year for the NFL. So far this season his numbers are not as amazing as one might think, but thats mainly because offenses have started to scheme around him. Doing extra things to block Suh this year has opened it up for veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who has 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. There defensive line as a whole is a monster and that’s going to have to be the main focus. Matt Ryan will have to help the line out by making good protection calls and fast throws. If the Ball is out of his hands quick, then they won’t have time to get to him. Assuming that everything goes well up front, our receivers should be able to have a pretty good day. The Lions secondary is not exactly what you would call an all star team. They have one player in the secondary that is really dangerous, safety Louis Delmas. Other than keeping the ball away from Delmas, Ryan should be able to find some open targets, assuming he has time to throw the ball. They do have 8 interceptions as a team, most are pressure related though.
The running game will have to get cranked up once again. That’s probably going to be a blanket statement that I’ll make every week. We have seen early this season that without running the ball well our offense has trouble getting started. Ryan is a good play action quarterback and without the threat of the run, play action is just an extra process giving him less time to diagnose the coverage. As we saw last week Micheal Turner really starts getting better throughout the game with the more carries he gets. So it will be important to not get behind early, so that he can get good numbers running it later. The Lions are giving up 129 yards per game on the ground, so it should be a good day for Turner if he can get his touches. A good threat of the run will slow the pass rush some, giving Ryan the time he needs to pick the secondary apart.
Defensive Game Plan:
The defense is once again going to have their hands full with a great passing team. Coming into the game ranked 8th in the league in passing, the Lions average 277 yards per game through the air. QB Matthew Stafford has thrown for 1729 yards, 62% completion, 15 tds, and 4 picks. Pretty good numbers so far, and he is showing what he can do when he is healthy. With his favorite target Calvin Johnson being a match up problem for any team, Atlanta will have to roll a lot of double coverage his way. With Johnson getting so much attention it will leave one on one match ups for the other receivers and the Lions emerging tight end Brandon Petigrew. They have a lot of targets out there for Stafford to chose from so we are going to have to make sure he does not have time to go through his full progression of receivers before he is getting hit with some pressure in his face.
The Lions running game has already not been the best in the in the league only averaging 90 yards per game, putting them at a humbling 25th. With their top running back Jahvid Best having concussion issues and being unlikely to play, the Lions attempted to make a trade for Eagles running back Ronnie Brown. The Lions side of the deal fell through though when Jerome Harrison failed a physical with a brain tumor. This leaves Detroit very short handed in the back field and will cause them to be very one dimensional for the game. That is advantage Falcons. Every team wants to make their opponent one dimensional, and when you don’t even have to do it for them, it’s even better. They will no choice but to throw the ball a lot. That means it’s time for John Abraham and the boys to go to work. With out a huge threat of the run, they can really tee off on the pass rush. As long as there is some good pressure getting to Stafford than this game should be one that sends the Falcons back to Atlanta with a winning record for the first time this season.