Marinelli remaining true to system

Even with his Detroit Lions at 1-6 coming off their bye, Lions' rookie head coach Rod Marinelli isn't going to start focusing on long-term goals. "I'm not thinking about January or next year," he said Wednesday. "I'm thinking about today and tomorrow." More game and player notes inside as Lions prepare for Falcons.

ALLEN PARK -- Rod Marinelli is staying true to his system.

Even with his Detroit Lions at 1-6 coming off their bye, the rookie head coach isn't going to start focusing on long-term goals.

"I'm not thinking about January or next year," he said Wednesday. "I'm thinking about today and tomorrow. That's how we have to do things."

One of Marinelli's mantras this season has been "play the next snap," and that hasn't changed heading into Sunday's home game against Atlanta.

"This is our eighth game, so that makes it the end of our second quarter," he said. "We need to try to win this game, and then set ourselves up for the third quarter."

Unfortunately for the Lions, they will have to find a way to stop Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn and the rest of Atlanta's offense with a decimated defensive line. Tackles Shaun Rogers (drug suspension) and Shaun Cody (foot) will miss the game, and end James Hall is questionable with a shoulder injury. Hall and Rogers are the only two Lions with at least two sacks.

Detroit will be hoping that getting players back at linebacker and in the secondary will make up for the absences up front. Linebacker Teddy Lehman (ankle) and Alex Lewis (knee) are expected back, as is safety Kenoy Kennedy (foot).

On offense, Jon Kitna and Roy Williams will be trying to take advantage of Atlanta's biggest weakness, the 27th-ranked pass defense in the league.

"We need to play well, because they've got a lot on offense," Williams said. "But we can do that. As I always say, we are the only team that can stop us. If we play well, no one else can."

GAME PLAN: The Lions will attack when they have the ball. The key to their success is getting the ball to both Roy Williams and Kevin Jones. When only one of the two has been effective, teams have been successful at focusing on them and shutting down Detroit's attack. However, in the only game where both went over 100 yards, the Lions won their only game of the season. On defense, Detroit will have to find a way to stop Atlanta's ground attack. Last year, the Falcons rushed for 256 yards in a lopsided 27-7 Thanksgiving Day victory.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
 -
Lions RB Kevin Jones vs. Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall -- The college roommates, close friends since high school, will collide when Detroit tries to run outside. The pair met as track rivals and decided to attend college together, picking Virginia Tech over Penn State and Florida State.
 - Atlanta QB Michael Vick vs. Detroit linebackers -- The whole Lions defense will be trying to keep one eye on their assigned matchup and one on Vick, but it will be the linebacking corps that will have to keep him contained. Detroit has a lot of speed in players like Ernie Sims, Boss Bailey and Alex Lewis, but not much experience.
 - Atlanta OL vs. Detroit DL -- The Falcons rushed for 256 yards in last year's easy win over the Lions, and will be expected to do much the same with Shaun Rogers and Shaun Cody out of the lineup.

SERIES HISTORY: 32nd meeting. Lions hold a 22-9 advantage. The teams are playing for the third year in a row, and at Ford Field for the second straight season. Last year, Atlanta dominated Detroit and ended Steve Mariucci's coaching stint with a 27-7 win on Thanksgiving Day.
BY THE NUMBERS: 496 -- the number of rushing yards this season for Atlanta QB Michael Vick -- 22 more than Detroit RB Kevin Jones.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Playing Michael Vick is the ultimate challenge. That's who I want to test myself against -- me against him. My speed against his." -- Detroit rookie LB Ernie Sims.

PLAYER NOTES

WR Kevin Kasper was signed by the Lions to replace waived WR Az-Zahir Hakim. Kasper, who played at Iowa, hasn't caught a pass since 2003, and has only 24 catches in a five-year NFL career. His only three touchdowns came at the end of the 2002 season.

WR Mike Furrey is coming off the best game of his career, a nine-catch, 109-yard performance against the New York Jets on Oct. 22. Furrey has already set career highs in receptions (37) and receiving yards (431).

DE James Hall is questionable for the Falcons game with a shoulder injury. Lions coach Rod Marinelli wasn't giving out many specifics about the exact nature of the problem, saying simply "it hurts."

WR Mike Williams had the last good game of his NFL career against Atlanta last season, catching six passes for 84 yards. Williams only caught four passes in the season's remaining five games, and does not have a reception this season in very limited action.

CB Dre' Bly has not had an interception since picking off current teammate Jon Kitna, then playing for Cincinnati, on Dec. 18 last season.
 


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