(ALLEN PARK) - When does logic defy conventional wisdom?
When the Detroit Lions line up to face the Atlanta Falcons.
Simple logic would dictate that the Lions play eight and nine men in the box to shut down the Falcons running attack (average 174 yards rushing per game, rank, 1st in the NFC) and make Michael Vick (47-of-79 for 605 yards, 2 touchdowns and an 81.5 passer rating (10th out of 16 in the NFC), team average 151.3 yards per game passing, team rank last in the NFC) beat them with his arm.
But with the lack of range exhibited by Detroit's safety tandem of Bracey Walker and Brock Marion, and the possible absence of Dre' Bly from the secondary, can they afford to try this scheme?
Vick has shown the ability to make big plays on occasion, hooking up with backup running back Justin Griffith on a 62-yard completion for only one of his two TD passes this year.
However, if Detroit can't stop Vick, Warrick Dunn and former Michigan State star T.J. Duckett from running the ball, it figures to be a long afternoon in the Georgia Dome.
Vick has struggled to adjust to the new West Coast Offense that new Atlanta head coach Jim Mora, Jr. brought with him from San Francisco where he was Lions head coach Steve Mariucci's defensive coordinator when the two were together there.
Instead of stretching the field with plays to the Falcons featured "Z" receiver, the capable Peerless Price, Vick has been more content to check down to his backs and tight end Alge Crumpler, the biggest beneficiary of the new system.
Crumpler caught five passes for 85 yards in the Falcons win 27-10 win over last years' Super Bowl loser Carolina.
"It's a two- to three-year process for a quarterback to feel real comfortable in this offense," said Greg Knapp, the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator. "Mike's going to have to stay extremely patient this year."
Carolina attempted to pressure Vick and even to try to bully him into losing his patience with some ill-timed shots (Panthers were flagged three times for late hits on Vick) but the Falcons signal caller kept his poise and delivered the knockout punch in the end.
"They did a great job of containing me and keeping me in the pocket," said Vick. "I had to make sure I got the ball out of my hands quickly and got it to the receivers and backs. We got some big plays downfield, and our execution was good. If we can run our offense like we did in this game every week, I'll take it."
The Lions task is to disrupt the timing of the Falcons offense by crowding the line of scrimmage, jamming the short passing lanes - the way the Houston Texans team did against Detroit in the first half of the Lions win - and hope that Vick gets impatient and makes some bad decisions.
And at all costs, they must keep Vick in the pocket and stop him from breaking down their defensive scheme with his scrambling ability.
Logic says "stop the run." Conventional wisdom says "cover your weaknesses." Can you do both?
--next; How to attack one of the NFC's best defenses--
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