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.
"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:
"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."