REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Everything the Lions have been saying about Mike Martz's passing game is slowly but surely coming to fruition. QB Jon Kitna's consistency was a major factor in the upset of Atlanta. He completed 20 of 32 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown. His only interception came on a misdirected shovel pass. He got big help from WRs Mike Furrey (four for 72 yards) early and Mike Williams (six for 138 yards and a TD) late. Again, Kitna spread the ball well. In all, seven players caught passes.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- After a season of uncertainty in 2005 when RB Kevin Jones had to share the job with two other backs and averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, he is again showing that he can be an effective NFL back. He slashed his way for 110 yards on 26 carries and scored twice. It helped that the Lions had their offensive line as close to complete as possible. LG Ross Verba and RT Rex Tucker were back in pads after missing most of the first half of the season with injuries. RG Damien Woody is lost for the season, but Barry Stokes has moved into that vacancy and the line play was solid.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Lions couldn't shut down QB Michael Vick entirely on the ground, but they did an exceptional (for Detroit) job of controlling the Falcons passing game. CB Dre' Bly got his first interception of the season, setting up the second Detroit touchdown, and SS Kenoy Kennedy snuffed out the Falcons' final scoring chance with an interception as time ran out. Rookie S Daniel Bullocks had his first NFL sack, and the Lions held Vick to a passer rating of 52.0, which is 56.8 points below the opposing QBs' average in the first seven games.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- With two-time Pro Bowl DT Shaun Rogers missing the second game of a four-game suspension, the Lions had their work cut out for them. It helped that they got LBs Alex Lewis and Teddy Lehman back from injuries, and LB Boss Bailey was back at the strong-side position he seems more fitted to play. The Falcons still managed to rack up 165 yards on 26 running plays (including 10 for 80 by Vick) but they were operating from bad field position much of the afternoon, so the damage was minimal.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Lions' field position was much better than it had been in recent weeks and the special teams deserve a big share of the credit. Jason Hanson was 3-for-3 on field goals (28, 19, 36 yards) and he had two touchbacks on kickoffs. Nick Harris only had to punt twice, and he put one of them inside the 20. Coverages were good on both punts and kickoffs, and Eddie Drummond had a 30-yard punt return.
COACHING: B -- The bye week helped coach Rod Marinelli get a few healthy bodies back on the field, and he made a couple of lineup adjustments that seemed to pay dividends. And, while the Lions are still only a 2-6 team, it seems Marinelli's persistence and attention to detail might be paying off. Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson couldn't shut down Vick completely, but he did a good job of keeping him contained. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz continued to push the right buttons in an improving offense.