Game Week: Goals To Beating Atlanta

Run the ball. Stop the run. Basic football should have a lot to do with the outcome of the Lions' season opener Sunday at Atlanta. More inside, including comments from Lions' offensive coordinator Jim Colletto and defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

Run the ball. Stop the run. Basic football should have a lot to do with the outcome of the Lions' season opener Sunday at Atlanta.

The Lions want to run the ball for two reasons:

One, they struggled to run it in the exhibition season and need to get it going.

"Our first group hasn't run the ball real good in the preseason, and that's a concern and they're going to have to do it this time," offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said.

Two, if they can force the Falcons to respect their running game, they can take advantage of some matchups in the secondary.

The Lions' starting wide receivers are 6-foot-5 Calvin Johnson and 6-3 Roy Williams. The Falcons' starting corners are 5-11 Chris Houston, in his second season, and 5-10 Brent Grimes, a rookie.

"I think any time with Roy and Calvin it's going to be tough on anybody," Colletto said. "The key kicker is, we don't run the ball, they can put 18 guys out on them and they won't catch a ball. There's some things that have to happen to make it a little bit easier for them to function, and one is to make sure they don't double cover them all day long. Everyone is going to have a matchup problem with those two guys."

The Lions want to stop the run for two reasons:

One, the Falcons have two good running backs -- Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood.

"I think they went out and signed Michael Turner for a reason," said defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who used to be Tampa Bay's linebackers coach. "Jerious Norwood is a heck of a back. I've had to defend him for years being down in that division."

Two, rookie quarterback Matt Ryan is making his first NFL start. The Lions want to force the Falcons to pass and put pressure on Ryan. If Ryan makes mistakes, the Lions' new-and-improved secondary will have a chance to make plays on the ball.

"I would think with a rookie quarterback making his first start, they're going to want to run the ball," Barry said. "But that's the game plan of every NFL offense for the most part every week, so this week's no different."

Notebook:

  • RB Rudi Johnson is expected to contribute Sunday, though offensive coordinator Jim Colletto isn't sure how much. Johnson's hamstring seems fine, and he has gotten a quick grasp of the offense since agreeing to a deal Monday.
  • RB Marcus Thomas, claimed off waivers from San Diego on Sunday, also could play right away. He can make special teams contributions on coverage units and perhaps as a returner.
  • TE Dan Campbell is expected to play after battling elbow and hamstring injuries, but he isn't expected to play the whole game. Campbell played only two games last year and missed much of the preseason.
  • OT Gosder Cherilus is expected to start at right tackle at some point, but the first-round pick will begin his career as the backup at both tackle spots.
  • DE Cliff Avril, a third-round pick this year, could be active Sunday. The Lions might want to make use of his speed off the edge on the Falcons' fast artificial surface.

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