Notebook: Lions Defense Coming to Life

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz discusses his team's improvements from week one to two, especially on the defensive side of the football. News and notes inside ...

A week after the Lions allowed 143 yards to Saints running back Mike Bell, the question was how they would handle the Vikings' Adrian Peterson, who led the NFL in rushing last year and just put up a league-leading 180 yards at Cleveland.

Well, the front seven showed up Sunday, and the Lions limited Peterson to a respectable 92 yards. Peterson got 49 of his yards on two carries, thanks to miscues by cornerbacks, not defensive linemen or linebackers. Phillip Buchanon failed to seal an edge, and Peterson ran for 22 yards. Then Anthony Henry missed a tackle, and Peterson scored a 27-yard touchdown.

"I thought we did a very good job inside," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Our defensive tackles played well. Our linebackers played significantly better this week as opposed to last. The issues we had were mainly perimeter of the defense, not only runs, but some check downs on some pass plays that we didn't take very good angles and they got yards after the catch."

Another question was how the Lions would handle quarterback Brett Favre, after allowing the Saints' Drew Brees to go 26-for-34 for 358 yards and six touchdowns. Favre went 23-for-27 and threw two TDs. But his longest pass was only 13 yards and his yardage total was 155. The Lions sacked him three times and hit him a fair amount.

"I thought our pass rush was significantly improved," Schwartz said. "We had a hard time getting to the quarterback last week. This week, even when we didn't get to him, we hit Favre quite a few times. ... When a quarterback's longest pass is 13 yards, it says something about how much time he has to be able to throw. He was getting rid of the ball quick, and he wasn't going to take very many chances down the field because of that rush."

Rookie defensive tackle Sammie Hill was shut out on the stat sheet. But the Lions have been so pleased with him that he has earned a starting job.

"That's been a result not necessarily from need as much as it's been merit-based," Schwartz said. "He's practiced well. He's played very well. He's another guy that improved from Week 1 to Week 2. Experienced offensive line and had some really good inside pass rushes. Him and all our defensive tackles, I thought they played very well against the inside run game."

Now the question is who will take over for linebacker Ernie Sims, who has a significant shoulder injury and could be out at least a few weeks. Rookie DeAndre Levy is a candidate.

"He can play outside or inside," Schwartz said. "We did all that in training camp with him to be able to do both. It spread him a little thin and maybe set him back as far as learning curve, but then after he went through that and it all sort of processed for him, he was better for it."

Player Notes:

  • QB Matthew Stafford is 0-2, with one touchdown, five interceptions and a 40.5 passer rating. He is tied with the Panthers' Jake Delhomme for most interceptions and ranks last in passer rating. But coach Jim Schwartz is sticking with him.
  • RB Kevin Smith rushed for 83 yards on 24 carries Sunday against Minnesota, after rushing for only 20 on 15 carries in the opener at New Orleans. The Lions wanted to establish the run and support Stafford, even though they were facing a defense that ranked first against the run last year.
  • TE Brandon Pettigrew caught four passes for 40 yards Sunday, after not having a pass thrown to him in the opener. The Lions wanted to get him more involved in the offense, and they did immediately. He had an up-and-down day as a blocker against defensive end Jared Allen.
  • WR Calvin Johnson had a modest five catches for 51 yards, but he had a 37-yard catch called back because of a chop block. The Vikings took away the deep ball, and the Lions played it safe with Stafford.
  • WR Bryant Johnson did not catch a pass. He was targeted only once. It would have been a big touchdown, but even though he was wide open down the left sideline, Stafford overthrew him.
  • LB Ernie Sims has a significant shoulder injury, but coach Jim Schwartz said the Lions don't know how serious it is and might not know for a couple of days. It appears he will not only miss Sunday's game at Washington but at least a few weeks.
  • LB DeAndre Levy, a third-round pick this year, is a candidate to replace injured Ernie Sims. He has been impressive in a backup role and on special teams. The Lions could have five rookies in the starting lineup.
  • LB Larry Foote made a big impact against the Vikings, leading the Lions with 10 tackles. He had one sack and two tackles for a loss.
  • LB Julian Peterson played much better against the Vikings than he did against the Saints. The coaches had berated him after the opener.
  • K Jason Hanson said he is back to normal after having knee surgery in training camp. He was good on kickoffs Sunday and 2-for-2 on field goals.

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