The Detroit Lions' offense is explosive, exciting and effective. However, an
abundance of points doesn't necessarily equate to an abundance of wins. Scoring
points may create excitement but preventing them creates victories.
This couldn't have been more evident than in the Lions victory against the Atlanta Falcons last week. The 30 points the Lions scored helped; however, when it came time for Atlanta to make a late-game comeback the Lions defense stood their ground.
This is a dramatic contrast to pervious weeks, were the Lions found themselves on the losing end of fourth-quarter comebacks after high offensive outputs all too often. One of the major reasons for the defense's improved play may have been the health of the linebacker corps.
"That helps," said head coach Rod Marinelli. "We were able to take (linebacker) Ernie (Sims) off all of the special teams and cut down a little bit of his time… You've got (linebacker) Alex (Lewis) and (linebacker) Boss (Bailey) is fresher and faster the whole game… When you're fresher, you're faster."
This "fresher, faster" linebacker crops helped the Lions hold a team to under 17 points for only the second time this season. In fact, the Lions allowed opposing teams to score at least 30 points in four of their first seven games – all losses. The Lions only two victories this season came in games where they held their opponent to 17 points or less, including last week when they held the Falcons to only 14 points.
Marinelli may have been happy with the defense's performance last week but he recognizes that there is room for improvement – which he will attempt to achieve by working on "the fundamentals".
"It's hard to be really good in this league," said Marinelli. "You have to learn to get into a routine and excel in that routine, not just go through the routine. I just have to keep pounding those things. The fundamentals… Those things have just got to get better."
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who is studying game film of the Lions in preparation for their matchup this week, recognizes the strengths of the Lions' defense.
"They play fast especially up front - solid players up front - very athletic, good speed," said Smith. "They're another good defense that we're playing."
The Lions have firepower; however, they'll want to avoid shootouts, as they are winless when their opponent scores over 17 points. So this weekend the Lions offense may put a plethora of points on the scoreboard but it will be up to the defense to put a win in the standings.
... The Lions are still missing a few key players on the defensive line. DT Shaun Cody (toe), DE James Hall (shoulder), and DT Shaun Rogers (suspension) all missed last week's game and none were at practice Wednesday (Rogers is suspended for two more games).
... Many of the Lions players were still upset about Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall's hit on Lions QB Jon Kitna last week. Marinelli said this when asked if he thought Hall deserves a fine: It's not my decision - but Kitna was sliding. (So) I would think so."
... The Lions will attempt to win back to back games this week, if they do it will be the first time they have done so since beating the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans in Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2004 season.
... There have been rumors that Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz will be considered for some head coaching jobs at the end of the season. Marinelli said this about Martz: "He's been a Super Bowl head coach. I would think with all (the things he's done), there's no question (that he would be a candidate)."
Also when asked if he would have any problems with an assistant being paid more than him, Marinelli said: "No - it's all about Lions' football. From Day 1 I've said that: Lions football."