DETROIT LIONS (1-0) VS. HOUSTON TEXANS (0-1)
FORD FIELD - DETROIT, MI 1:00 PM EST
FIRST MEETING ALL TIME
(ALLEN PARK) - It's time for Steve Mariucci to put the keys in that new Ford and rev up the engine.
The Lions went to great pains to build a hot new GT-40 for the coach, but
it's already got a dent in it. Mariucci got the fender dinged when prized wide
receiver Charles Rogers, broke his collarbone in Detroit's season opening win
But Detroit made a couple of repairs, calling up David Kircus from the practice squad an moving sturdy rookie Roy Williams over to the flanker spot.
Now it's time for Detroit to see what this thing can do against the Houston Texans.
ANALYSIS: Detroit needs to establish an offensive attack against Houston. Detroit's offense sputtered and stalled as if it has some bad gas in the tank against Chicago.
The key is to get rookie running back Kevin Jones untracked early. While Jones made a few nice moves, coach Mariucci said Jones could have done a few things better.
"I think while he showed some good balance, he broke some tackles, he did some good things. There were a handful of plays that he would like to do over again and he will get the chance to do that and see it a little differently and make a different decision as far as taking it inside or outside, those sort of things. He certainly got his feet wet. He played 33 snaps and he felt good about it. The game was not too fast for him and he's going to get better and better as we go."
But more importantly, even than Jones, is that Detroit get quarterback Joey Harrington out of the haze that he has been operating in for the better part of the last three years.
Harrington continues to operate at around a 50% completion rate, something entirely unacceptable to run the west coast offense efficiently.
Harrington should be hovering some where near the 60% mark. Unless he can snap out of his funk and get the Lions offense onto the high speed ramp, Detroit could have trouble in this one.
Typically, Harrington refuses to even acknowledge the need for his team to build momentum from last week's win.
"Every game has the exact same importance as every other game," said Harrington. "People want to make a big deal about the importance of building momentum or the importance of breaking a road streak or the importance of setting a tone at home or the importance of going 2-0 in your division. They're all important. There aren't any games that are any less important than the others."
Detroit's coach Mariucci knows better and feels differently.
"We need to take another step. We need to learn how to come back with a good win after a win and not be satisfied with success. We need to crave more success and try to improve ourselves and be hungry and be bound and determined and ready to win round two.
"We need to teach this team how to do that and so I'm asking for their undivided attention this week, their complete focus, step it up over last week and this game becomes even more important than last week's game."
To do this, Harrington must take advantage of a soft Houston defense that allowed a 60% conversion rate on 3rd downs, much to the chagrin of Texans coach Dom Capers.
"That's an area that we have to improve in. I believe that we can. We've got the potential to do that. On the other side, we did a better job on offense of converting third downs. We've got to do a better job on defense, of getting of the field."
Still, like many observers, maybe even unwittingly, Capers see's Harrington as managing the offense instead of being a playmaker.
"I look at Joey; he's made an awful lot of strides," said Capers. "I have not studied him as much as I have David and been around him, but he looks to me like he's comfortable managing the team and he's a talented guy and he's capable of making plays. He's got good movement. He runs around well. He doesn't take long. He catches your attention when you're getting ready to play the Lions."
Detroit needs more than just management at quarterback, they need Harrington to put his foot on the gas.
If Detroit can somehow establish their offense and get points on the board early, then it will take the pressure of their defense, which will have its hands full against the high-powered Texans offense.
Detroit should take advantage of rookie Roy Williams, a big physical receiver who punishes opposing defensive backs. Williams appears ready to step into the star role that he occupied at the University of Texas. Williams said he felt being "the man" at Texas prepared him well for the NFL.
Detroit's offensive line needs to improve over a spotty outing at Chicago. In particular, they need to account for Babin, who provided Houston with pressure from the edge.
"I thought he made eight-nine-10 plays that just kind of stand out in your mind that you'd hoped to see him make," said Capers.
"He had to tackle [Chargers RB LaDainian] Tomlinson in the open field. He came hard off the edge and forced a fumble. He was active and did some very good things I thought for his first start."
Again, Detroit's Stockar McDougle will be on the hot seat against Babin.
Meanwhile, Capers feels that Carr, despite throwing two picks last week, is playing the best football of his career.
"I think David is playing his best football. I thought he played very well through the preseason. Other than the two interceptions, I thought that he threw the ball well and directed the team very well on Sunday."
Job one for the Detroit defense is to slow running back Dominick Davis and force the Texans into becoming a one-dimensional team.
With Dre' Bly ruled out of this game, it is no surprise that David Carr is looking away from starter Fernando Bryant and focusing more on the left side of the Detroit defense where backup Andre Goodman will get the start.
"Andre is a good young player," said Carr.
"I think he is in his third year. He's got great athletic ability. He's similar to Fernando (Bryant) on the other side. They're going to play good football. It is not really like he's going to get extra attention, but obviously with Dré being out, is an advantage for us a little bit because he's a great football player.
"The guys that step in for him are going to play just as well and as far as (our) scheme goes, I still have to go through the same reads. It is not automatically going to take me over there because he's going to be pressured to step up in place of Dré and I'm sure he is going to do a good job."
The Detroit secondary, which was outstanding in Chicago, will need to be equal to the task this week because Carr has shown the ability to stretch the field and make big plays to his prized wide receivers Andre Johnson and Jabbar Gaffney.
Carr says he Johnson, Jabbar Gaffney and Davis are all growing together as an offense.
"We're starting to come into our own a little bit. We're starting to get a good feel for each other, obviously, like they are up in Detroit," stated Carr.
"I think that the groups are similar. We have two young receivers. I have Gaffney, who has been here with me since he came out and he has Charlie Rogers, who unfortunately broke his collarbone, and he's got Roy Williams. It is a similar group. Then I've got Dominick Davis in the backfield. Young guys growing up (together) is kind of nice to have and I'm sure he feels the same way."
With Detroit losing their star receiver Rogers, Harrington says it won't impact the team's game plan. "That's why we brought Tai (Streets) in. Obviously my heart goes out to Charles and his family because it's a very tough thing for him to be going through right now. But that's why we brought Tai in, to have that safety net. Tai's going to do a great job for us. He's been a starting receiver for a playoff team for the last five years. I wouldn't think of anybody better to put into that spot."
PICK: Detroit feeds off the raucous Ford Field crowd and normally plays its best football at home, something Capers and Houston tried to prepare for.
"We always practice with noise in our indoor facility," said Capers. "That's kind of standard operating procedure for when we're going on the road. Most of these stadiums, when you are on the road, are loud and noisy. What I understand is Ford Field is very loud."
He'll find out just how loud when the Detroit fans get to cheer for a team that just broke a three-year road losing streak and are on top of their division, albeit for just one week.
Detroit gets a fast start and outlasts Houston in a shootout to go to 2-0
DETROIT 31 - HOUSTON 24