ALLEN PARK -- As the Detroit Lions prepare for the Atlanta Falcons, both teams will notice significant changes since their last regular season meeting in 2008.
The game was quarterback Matt Ryan’s first contest. The rookie took full advantage of a weak Lions defensive backfield, tossing his first career pass downfield to Michael Jenkins for a 62-yard touchdown.
Ryan didn’t have to do much after that, as running back Michael Turner burned the Lions for 220 yards en route to a 34-21 victory. The loss started Detroit's historic 0-16 campaign.
“Man, it seems like a long time ago,” said Ryan on Wednesday. “But it was, obviously, some good memories of that game. It is always special your first NFL game and the way it started for myself, personally, with a touchdown pass on the first throw, it was a special day. But that was then and this is now. We are going against a good football team this week and there are a lot of different players on our side and a lot of different players on their side.”
One roster changed that occurred for both teams was cornerback Chris Houston.
At the conclusion of that season, the Lions traded a sixth round pick and swapped fifth round picks with the Falcons in exchange for Houston. He was considered expendable by the Falcons after they signed Dunta Robinson to a six-year, $57-million contract.
The Falcons considered Robinson a more attractive option than Houston, who they selected in the second round of the draft – with the 41st overall pick – only two years prior to the trade. They were disappointed in Houston’s ability to play the ball in the air and felt the position could be upgraded.
In 21 games with the Falcons, Robinson hasn’t been a bust but seems to carry a hefty price tag for his performance. He has recorded 80 tackles with one interception and nine passes defended. In that same time, Houston has 86 tackles, four interceptions and 20 passes defended. In fact, Houston has two more interceptions and one less passes defended in six games this season than Robinson in his 21 games with the Falcons.
As they say, success is the best revenge.
“No hard feelings for what happened over there because it worked out for my best interest,” said Houston. “I’m not mad or anything because I’m in the position I’d want to be in.”
Houston has said that the coaches in Atlanta didn’t spend additional time with him helping him improve his ball skills – the area they felt he most lacked.
In Detroit, he has spent significant time improving his play-making ability and the results are showing.
Now, there is no place he’d rather be.
“No, not there,” said Houston. “(this season’s accomplishments) wouldn’t have been possible. I feel like I have a better understanding of the game from being here as opposed to being there. I have coaches that fit me, here, opposed to there. I just feel I fit this scheme better.”