Round Two: Vikings Next Up For Stafford

Last week, the Lions offense was challenged (and defeated) by what was considered a "suspect" New Orleans defense. The opponent in week two? Arguably the league's best defensive line.

Last week, the Lions offense was challenged (and defeated) by what was considered a "suspect" New Orleans defense. The opponent in week two? Arguably the league's best defensive line, led by sack artist Jared Allen, which no doubt has its eyes cast on one target in particular: rookie Matthew Stafford.

So is he still sure about this football career thing?

"There's definitely a chess match, and guys are going to come after me," Stafford said. "I'm sure, just being a rookie, defensive coordinators are probably licking their chops, thinking they've got a shot to come in there and rough some young guy up. It's my job to be prepared for it and try to make them pay for it when they do come after us."

Stafford received virtually no help from his running game last week, making errant throws en route to a 16-for-37, 205-yard performance. He underthrew, overthrew, and even lost the handle on one pass that landed in the grasp of a Saints' defender.

It wasn't the most memorable performance. But Stafford claimed he had to get rid of the ball before he wanted to at times.

"I think he was just playing fast," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "A lot of that, there's a reason why you're throwing the ball quicker. Everybody would like to hold it a little bit longer. But sometimes you just can't. I think that happened on a couple of those, where he probably let them go a little early. But there's a lot more to it than him playing too fast."

But if the Lions want Stafford to succeed, they need better than the 33-yards managed by the team's run department. That might be tough sledding, however, considering Minnesota's defensive front was the best in the league one year ago.

If Stafford isn't forced to carry the entire team, especially in a deficit, it will open up opportunities on the offense -- and give him more ease in the pocket.

Ill-timed penalties won't help, either.

Trailing 28-10 against the Saints, Detroit had the ball on the Saints' 15 following a Reggie Bush muffed punt. After a false start, the team faced a first-and-15. Stafford slung the pass behind receiver Calvin Johnson, and it was picked off by a New Orleans defender.

"We were in a situation where we were trying to score a touchdown at the end of the half," Linehan said Thursday. "Maybe if you were in a different situation you would have been a little more selective as to what we were trying to do there, not putting him in a position where he's got to feel like he's got to keep up with somebody."

Linehan said it's part of the experience.

"He knows what he did well; he knows what he didn't do well," Linehan said. "The biggest thing is, he's a great competitor and he's a real accountable kid. He knows what he's going to have to do next game or the next time he's in that situation."

Player Notes:

  • DE Turk McBride was claimed off waivers from Kansas City. He was a second-round pick in 2007 when Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham worked for the Chiefs. He didn't fit the Chiefs' new 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, but the Lions see him as an end and inside rusher.
  • DT Orien Harris was cut to make room for McBride on the 53-man roster.
  • K Jason Hanson said he is close to 100 percent. He was at less than full power in the opener at New Orleans, and an average opening kickoff led to a short field for the Saints and a 7-0 deficit for the Lions.
  • DE Cliff Avril did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a hamstring injury, bringing his availability for Sunday's game into question.
  • LG Daniel Loper was listed as limited in practice Thursday and Friday because of a knee injury, although he is probably for Sunday's game.
  • DT Grady Jackson did not practice Thursday and was limited on Friday. It likely is part of managing the 36-year-old veteran, who had knee surgery in the offseason. He is also probably for Sunday.
  • CB Phillip Buchanon, who missed last week's contest, made a return to the injured list (neck), but is still probable for Sunday's game.

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