Gameday notebook

Packers expect the Lions' run defense to show its fangs in today's Week 2 matchup

Last week, the Atlanta Falcons ran through the Detroit Lions like they were facing a scout-team defense.

Michael Turner looked like the guy he'd backed up the last few years in San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jerious Norwood did a fine job in Turner's old role with the Chargers. Turner rushed for 220 yards on 22 rushes and Norwood added 93 yards on 14 rushes in Atlanta's 34-21 thrashing of the Lions.

Instead of licking their chops, the Packers enter today's game at Ford Field with a touch of trepidation.

These are the Detroit Lions of the NFL, not the British Columbia Lions of the CFL. There is talent — led by weak-side linebacker Ernie Sims and defensive tackle Cory Redding — and there is pride. At least coach Rod Marinelli hopes so.

"I know we've got the right guys," said Marinelli, a defense-first coach. "They're wounded, as we all were. All of those things are correctable."

That's where the trepidation comes in. The Lions were embarrassed in Week 1. Nobody likes to be embarrassed.

"I never want to play a team after they do something like that," left guard Daryn Colledge said. "It seems like every time you play a team that gave up a ton of rushing yards or a ton of passing yards, that's all they focused on the entire week and it seems like they're 10 times better at it. I would have rather had them blow out the Falcons."

The Lions run a scheme similar to Minnesota's but with vastly different personnel. Detroit's front four isn't as good as the Vikings', though Colledge compared Redding to Minnesota's Pat Williams in that he has "a million moves and is strong and fast." Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Lions' linebackers are a "little more athletic sideline to sideline." That group is led by Sims, who was taken four picks behind Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk in the 2006 draft and had a more productive first two seasons.

"They were one of the tops in the league in turnovers last year. They fly to the ball," Colledge said. "They do so much stunting, that it can create a lot of problems if you're not prepared."

The Packers were prepared last season. At Detroit, Ryan Grant rushed 15 times for 101 yards and one touchdown in a 37-26 win. In the season finale at Lambeau, Grant rushed six times for 57 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown, in a cameo appearance and Brandon Jackson carried 20 times for 113 yards in a 34-13 drubbing.

"I felt Atlanta's backs did a great job, and I think our backs are going to have to do the same thing," Colledge said. "They beat some one-on-ones and sometimes they beat two guys. If we're assignment-conscious and they do their job, we should have a solid night. But I'm not expecting anything like (the Falcons' 318 rushing yards).

Let's get physical

Kitna had the highest praise for the Packers' defense, who he's struggled against. He's 0-4 against Green Bay as the Lions' quarterback, completing 82-of-154 passes (53.2 percent), with four touchdowns and six interceptions. He's been sacked 13 times.

"They're the most physical defense in the league in terms of 11 guys across the board," Kitna said. "They make you earn every yard you get, and they don't give up a lot of big plays. You're going to have to be able to sustain drives. Really, in a short amount of time, two, two-and-half years, they have amassed an awesome amount of talent on the defensive side of the ball."

New-look Lions

With former Purdue head coach Jim Colletto the offensive coordinator in place of Martz, the Lions feature a more balanced and simplified offensive attack. The playbook has been streamlined to feature a set of core plays.

"We're just going to run those week in and week out," Kitna said. "It's similar to the Packers' defense. They're not going to change what they do week in and week. They have their base, and that's what they're going to do. That's what we're trying to move toward."

Two-back attack

The Lions recently signed Bengals castoff Rudi Johnson to pair with rookie Kevin Smith, who approached Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record during his senior year at Central Florida.

"He certainly looks the part," Kitna said of Smith, who rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown on 16 rushes against Atlanta. "There's a lot of guys who show up on Sunday and will run hard, but what's really impressed me about him is the way he prepares Monday through Saturday. He's a student of the game. He loves football."

A one-two punch will be quite a contrast to the throw-it-all-the time Martz days. Kitna threw it at least 40 times in his three previous matchups with Green Bay in an offensive style that didn't suit Marinelli's personality in the least.

"Hopefully, it gives us two good running backs," Marinelli said. "Two guys that are big, physical type of runners, and that's what we want to be able to do."

Contrasting Smith to Johnson, Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said: "(Smith is) a good, hard-running running back. He likes to stick it up inside, as opposed to Rudi Johnson, who likes to take it outside.

Blackmon vs. Harris

A big factor in the Packers' win over Minnesota was Will Blackmon's punt-return touchdown. On the other hand, Detroit didn't do a lot of good things against Atlanta, but its punting was outstanding. Nick Harris averaged 42.5 yards on six punts. Five of those were returned for a total of 15 yards, leaving Harris with a 40.0 net average.

"He's good," Marinelli said of Blackmon. "We think we've got a heck of a punter. We've got to be able to do a heck of a job with him in terms of the placement of the ball and a great deal of emphasis on our coverage and our speed. They've got be sure tackling against this guy, because he's really good. We have our antennas up."

Final thought

Brady Poppinga echoed what everybody else in the locker room was saying: The Lions can't be looked past in light of what happened in Week 1.

"Looks can be deceiving, because any NFL team has tons of talent," Poppinga said. "That's not an issue. Whenever a team goes out and doesn't live up to the expectations that they set up for themselves, the following week, they come back and play very well. Everybody knows that. That's the history of the NFL. Those guys are very capable of beating us. They know that and we know that. We need to come out and play our best game."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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