Though the Detroit Lions lost a tough game last week to the San Francisco 49ers, there is a mighty opportunity to rebound well this week. The Tennessee Titans are the next team on the docket, and have been struggling mightily at 0-2. This game is once again on the road, but an entirely different feel exists than last week.
It's football time in the Music City, and despite the Titans' pedestrian early record, the Lions could still have their hands full this week. How will they emerge victorious? These five keys might help tell that story:
1. Defensive Line Play. Early this past week, the Lions were called out by 49er offensive lineman Joe Staley, who inferred that Detroit's defensive line was overrated. That was an interesting assertion, given the Lions haven't been doing a terrible job early in the year getting to the quarterback and hitting up front. With this in mind, how will the line play against Jake Locker, a young quarterback still trying to find his way? It will be important for Ndamukong Suh and company to generate some pressure, giving the backfield a chance to excel.
2. Pass Defense. Last Sunday night, the Lions gave up plenty of easy pitch and catch pass plays. This was especially the case on third down late in the game, as San Francisco marched right down the field and salted the game away. This goes hand in hand with the first point, as Detroit must put the Titans in second and third and long situations to prevent easy passes against the secondary. The Lions look to be healthier heading into this week with Chris Houston and Bill Bentley seeking return, so things might not be as dire here anyway.
3. Matthew Stafford's Efficiency. Again, the focus will be on Stafford for the third week in a row. After up and down performances against San Francisco and St. Louis, how will Stafford fare in the third game of the season? Tennessee ranks 19th in pass defense and 23rd overall, so the opportunity will exist to exploit some potential holes. Stafford has to play more confident and lead the passing attack. He's been far too erratic the first two weeks of the season with regard to interceptions, and needs to relax and make more efficient decisions, including getting more receivers in the mix early.
4. Jim Schwartz And Mike Munchak's Schematic Familiarity. Both Schwartz and Munchak coached with the Titans, so as far as game planning goes, there won't be any secrets. What effect will that have on this game, and game planning? There won't be any surprises when the Titans and Lions clash in this homecoming affair. What type of plays might be used as a gadget to open things up? Whenever coaches from the same coaching tree face off, there's always that added bit of intrigue and spice. The Lions offense has been bad, so what might the staff do to open things up? At least the handshakes will probably be very cordial, being both are still good friends.
5. Return To A Road Warrior Mentality. The Lions fell flat and looked intimidated at times against San Francisco. Though the 49ers are a much better team, the Lions didn't play that way on the road last season, and took their game to opponents both early and especially late. This week, they will try to get back into a solid road groove against the Titans. It will be interesting to see if the Lions can regain their rough mentality. As the season drags on, that edge will be important, especially down the stretch run like it was last year.
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