Going into this season, the Lions’ coaching staff felt Matthew Stafford and Detroit’s offense could score at will, but the defense would give up points due to their lack of experience. That did not happen last Sunday against the Bears as the franchise quarterback was injured, and the offense struggled with only 20 yards rushing and 148 yards passing. The defense did hold its own as they gave up 19 points including stopping the Bears at the one yard line four times. And of course, there was Calvin Johnson’s controversial no touchdown call based on a rule that was hard to comprehend on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and even today – what exactly is the NFL’s definition of a completion.
Even though he was heavily criticized for not critizing the officials in his presser, Schwartz has done a good job this week of getting his team past the Week 1 fiasco and getting them ready for the season home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team had some mental obstacles to overcome after Sunday’s loss - upset over the referees’ call on Johnson’s non-catch costing them their first road victory since 2007, not knowing how long their franchise quarterback would be out, and the old stigma that the Lions still cannot shake off when bad things start to happen - ‘Here we go again…’. Schwartz has faced an uphill battle since Day 1 on changing the losing culture. A win on Sunday will go a long way on changing the culture.
Lions backup QB Shaun Hill will get his first start as a Lion on Sunday. Except for the last drive against the Bears, Hill was ineffective moving the ball. Field position and lack of running game did not help his cause. Hill did have a nice drive leading up to Johnson’s non-catch, but the Bears were playing back in order to not give up a big play and left the middle open. Hill’s career starting record is 10-6 and he has played under Scott Linehan while both were with the Minnesota Vikings.
Michael Vick will make his first NFL start in nearly 4 years. Vick put on a running display last week vs. Green Bay as he came in for the injured Kevin Kolb and almost pulled out a victory. Vick gives the Eagles a different dimension with his capability to scramble for big yards while either being flushed out of the pocket or when running the Wildcat offense. The Eagles have faith in Vick so there is not much of a drop-off between him and Kolb.
The Lions again will be in the spotlight on Sunday due to Vick being named the starter. Vick is in the last year of his contract and wants to prove that can still start for any NFL team. Besides Kolb, Philadelphia sustained three other significant injuries – middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, center Jamaal Jackson and fullback Leonard Weaver. Bradley will not play on Sunday, while Jackson and Weaver were place on injured reserve. The Lions did receive some good news on the injury front — unfortunately it has nothing to do with Stafford. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy and safety Louis Delmas are expected to play on Sunday. The Lions need to be able to rush the ball successfully on Sunday and keep Vick off the field. On defense, the Lions must contain Vick and force him to throw and not run. Both teams will be looking for their first win of the season. Even though Philly is favor by a touchdown, Detroit should win as their offense will get back on track and score points at will using their offensive weapons – Jahvid Best, Calvin Johnson, and Nate Burleson.
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Written by Bob Ballard