By: Herman Moore
Ford Lions Report Live Analyst
Rebounding from a 27-19 loss this past Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers has to be the key for the Detroit Lions this week.
No question there; it wasn’t a pretty game for the offense, and the defense was given a hearty dose of running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown.
The Lions have a good shot at redemption if quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson can pick up where they left off against the 49ers.
Johnson caught eight passes (targeted 12 times), notching 94 yards en route to an 11.8-yard-per-catch average. As one of the league’s top receivers, Johnson has to shine Sunday, demonstrate his big-play ability and consistently get open for Stafford, who completed 19-of-32 passes for 230 yards Sunday against San Francisco.
The Titans are coming off a 38-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers and have struggled to optimize scoring opportunities and take a firm hold on their offense, evidenced by an 11.5-point-per-game average and brutally-modest 29 yards per game on the ground.
Of course, Titans star running back Chris Johnson should be the focus of the Lions defense, despite the fact that he has just 21 yards on 19 carries this season. A former 2,000-yard rusher, Johnson’s blazing speed and devastating athleticism are typically difficult to contend with.
Stopping Johnson from getting on a roll will be imperative. Frustrated by lack of production or not, he’s still among the league’s best in terms of raw talent.
Former Washington Huskies star Jake Locker hasn’t been spectacular this season by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s shown that he can somewhat manage the offense. That’s always a plus, especially for a young, talented signal-caller working to find his identity in the pro game.
Don’t be fooled by Locker’s modest stats (403 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions); he’s capable of delivering the long ball with his cannon-like arm. He just needs to be more consistent in doing so. Locker has found a somewhat reliable target in tight end Jared Cook, who leads Tennessee with 87 receiving yards and is second on the team with seven catches.
Tennessee’s game plan Sunday will likely include heavier use of receivers and tight ends as Johnson struggles – but that doesn’t mean Johnson should be discounted.
Throwing the ball against Detroit may be a viable option for the Titans. Louis Delmas, the leader of the Lions secondary, continues to nurse his knee and the likes of Jacob Lacey and John Wendling had a hard time defending the pass against San Francisco.
However, the Lions may get a little new life injected into the secondary with the addition of Jerome Murphy, who joined the team after cornerback Kevin Barnes was released. Rookie Bill Bentley could return this Sunday, too. He had a positive showing in the preseason against the Cleveland Browns and is without a doubt a young player to keep an eye on.
The Stafford-Johnson combination is always a key factor in winning for the Lions. But this week, utilizing the ground game may prove more beneficial. The Titans have the second-worst rush defense in the league. Sunday would be a great opportunity for Kevin Smith to have a big game after rushing for just 53 yards (3.3 yards per carry) against the 49ers.
Joique Bell may have an opportunity to contribute more as well; he only rushed for 14 yards on six carries in the loss.
Starting quickly would bode well for Detroit, which hasn’t been sharp offensively from the get-go in either of its two games this season. Remember, Stafford threw three early picks against the St. Louis Rams in Week 1, and Detroit trailed San Francisco 20-9 in the fourth quarter before Jason Hanson’s 48-yard field goal and Brandon Pettigrew’s nine-yard touchdown closed the gap. Stafford will get better as the season progresses and so will the Lions’ offensive production.
Detroit shouldn’t have as many issues with Tennessee this week, though. The Titans give up 155 yards on the ground and 248 through the air, putting them in the bottom third in each category. A run-oriented attack could be enough for the Lions to get their second win of the season.
Herman Moore joins Tom Leyden and Rob Rubick on the Ford Lions Report Live every Sunday at 11am throughout the season. You can follow Herman on Twitter @HMAN84
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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