Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

In part two of our Behind Enemy Lines series,'s Nate Caminata is back to discuss more of Sunday's game, this time with editor Bill Huber. How does Matt Millen still have a job? And will the Packer defensive backs maul the Lions receivers at the line of scrimmage? Answers inside.

Bill Huber: The one thing everyone wants to know: How does Matt Millen still have a job?
Nate Caminata:
I don’t even think the Hadron Collider could answer that question, but it’s probably the one hope Detroit has of getting rid of him (see: end of the universe). Two questions will perpetually plague the Lions organization when the Millen-era is reflected upon: Why did they hire a mediocre color commentator to run a professional sports franchise, and once that error became obvious, why didn’t they fire him?

BH: What is the feeling among fans there after getting spanked by the Falcons?
NC: Lions fans in our message board typically enter each season cautiously optimistic (I know, I know ...), and while this year was no different, an undefeated preseason and great reports from training camp had people believing the team was finally rebuilt under Marinelli. Speculation hit critical mass when ESPN's Tom Jackson proclaimed Detroit division champs in his pregame show before the Atlanta debacle. So, after the first 15 minutes of Sunday's game (when the Lions were down 21), that optimism was replaced by a bitter hatred and diabolical rage that would make most European soccer fans blush. Think DeNiro's character from "The Fan."

BH: Once he's up to speed, how will Rudi Johnson mesh with Kevin Smith? With two quality backs, is that the offense Marinelli wants to run?
NC: Detroit wants to wear opponents out with the run, and both Johnson and Smith are capable of doing that — especially as a tandem. The idea behind turning the Lions into a run-first oriented team is two-fold in that it will make the passing attack that much more potent, especially if the play action can be sold. It will keep the defense off the field by balancing the time of possession, something that devastated the team in 2007.

BH: Is Calvin Johnson ready to become a superstar?
NC: Johnson is poised for an explosive campaign. Even when he went relatively ignored at Atlanta, he managed seven grabs. He's too strong to be pushed around at the line of scrimmage (a favorite tactic of Green Bay's defensive backs), too fast to stay with him stride-for-stride, and too tall to challenge him for a jump ball. This is the year where Johnson rises to stardom, and Roy Williams becomes the sidekick — a role he seems completely content with so long as Detroit wins ...

BH: How is the defensive line without Shaun Rogers?
NC: Did you watch Sunday's game?

Nate Caminata: Packer cornerbacks typically maul opposing wide receivers at the line of scrimmage (and get away with it). Has this been the strategy thus far in 2008, and should Lions receivers expect that treatment on Sunday?
Bill Huber: Yes, the Lions should definitely expect that. The only way to stop those big guys the Lions throw out there — Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams — is to not let them get out on their routes. That might be especially true if Charles Woodson doesn't play with his broken toe. His replacement is 5-foot-10 Tramon Williams, a good player but one who clearly can't match those guys' height.

NC: Even after his performance on Monday night, what percentage of Packer fans would still trade Aaron Rodgers to the Jets for Brett Favre?
BH: It's funny. In the Green Bay area especially, the fans have taken the Packers' side in the whole Favre saga. It's the out-of-state fans — the ones who may not be in tune with the day-to-day dealings with the team — that want Favre, even if Rodgers completes all 30 practices on Sunday against the Lions.

NC: After witnessing what happened to Detroit in Atlanta, are Packers fans writing the Lions off for the season (or does that usually happen in the preseason)?
BH: Packers fans already have written off the Lions in 2009 and 2010. Why wait for Week 1? There's something missing over there. The talent seems OK but it just doesn't compute on the playing field. I think it helps that Marinelli has an offense that fits his personality, finally.

NC: Green Bay has a solid stable of receivers, but has Rodgers developed a rapport with any particular receiver that Detroit will be forced to key-in on?
BH: No, Rodgers doesn't have any favorites. If he did, it would be Ruvell Martin. They spent a lot of time playing together on the scout team, and he has a definite rapport with the 6-foot-4 Martin. But Martin has a broken finger, and he's not quite the talent of Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.

NC: Most of Vegas, the media, and Lions fans are dreading this game. If you're the Detroit Lions, how do you leave Ford Field with a victory on Sunday? (Give us the color-commentator special keys to the win)
BH: The Packers aren't looking past Detroit, that's for sure. They expect one ticked-off group after what happened last week. Detroit's recipe for victory isn't too far-fetched: The Lions have to keep the fans in the game, first and foremost. If they can run the ball with effectiveness, that in turn will keep the heat off of Jon Kitna so he can find Johnson and Williams. If it's close, it will be interesting to see how Rodgers fares with a hostile crowd and if he can bounce back from a mistake. He was flawless last week. And finally, keep the ball away from Will Blackmon on punts. He's not Devin Hester, but he's electric.

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