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Detroit Lions Strategy And Personnel 10-14-11

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 25: Justin Durant #52 and DeAndre Levy #54 of the Detroit Lions looks to tackle Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter on September 25, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Lions defeated the Vikings 26-23. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 25: Justin Durant #52 and DeAndre Levy #54 of the Detroit Lions looks to tackle Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter on September 25, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Lions defeated the Vikings 26-23. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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For the first time this season, the Lions had more than one starter miss a game Monday night.

Starting outside linebacker Justin Durant missed his second consecutive game with concussion-like symptoms and safety Amari Spievey couldn’t go because of a sore hamstring.

“I did some contact drills (before the game) and it kind of flared up a little bit — kind of a headache,” Durant said Wednesday. “It wasn’t a full concussion, just a headache, but I kind of set myself back.”

Durant will be further evaluated on Thursday and will have to be cleared by an independent doctor before he returns to the practice field.

Spievey was limited during the Lions walk-through practice Wednesday and his availability for Sunday is still in doubt.

PLAYER NOTES

–TE Joe Jon Finley was signed on Thursday to fill the roster spot vacated by Erik Coleman. Finley, one of the team’s final cuts before the season, spent last season on the practice squad.

–TE Tony Scheffler (concussion) did not practice Thursday and given that the Lions signed Joe Jon Finley to replace Erik Coleman, he could be out a while. Said coach Jim Schwartz, “We’ll see. I don’t want to read the tea leaves. Joe Jon had a good training camp and he’ll be ready to play if we need him.”

–WR Nate Burleson has been somewhat of the forgotten man in the offense (five catches in the last three games), but he’s not sweating it. “We’re winning,” he said. “You’ll never hear a peep out of me when we’re winning. If we’re struggling as an offense and I am not getting the ball, I might say something. But right now, we’re polished and we’re looking good. We’re 5-0. I can go the rest of the season with zero catches if we’re winning games.”

–OLB Justin Durant (concussion) still hasn’t been cleared for practice.

–WR Rashied Davis (foot), a gunner on the coverage teams, practiced for the first time since Sept. 23.

–CB Aaron Berry (groin) continues to be limited in practice.

–DT Corey Williams limped off with a trainer during the team stretching period and angrily threw his helmet. He got what appeared to be his left ankle or foot retaped and rejoined practice in time for individual drills. He finished practice.

GAME PLAN
Coach Jim Schwartz said the 49ers’ 3-4 defense is very similar to the Packers’ 3-4 scheme the Lions face twice every season. He raved about their front seven and called their secondary aggressive.

The last time the Lions faced the Packers last season they attacked it with 41 rushing attempts for 190 yards. Part of that was due to the fact that backup quarterback Drew Stanton was starting, but the game plan for the Lions against the 49ers will certainly be similar in that they’ll try to establish a run game early on.

The Lions consider quick, short passes an extension of their run game, too, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been calling more and more of those types of plays over the last few weeks.

On defense, not much changes from week-to-week for the Lions. The front four is going to attack the quarterback and rely on the back seven to clean up any draws or screens, which they did a terrific job of against the Bears.

The corners are playing more man-to-man coverage than in years past and that’s allowing defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to be creative in his calls.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who leads the NFL with nine touchdown receptions, vs. 49ers CB Carlos Rogers, who ranks first in the NFL with three interceptions: The 49ers play a lot of zone coverage but expect Rogers to keep a close eye on Johnson and have him when they do man-up. Johnson is averaging 15.6 yards per catch and is certainly Stafford’s first option when looking downfield. Rogers is one of the best corners in the league at playing the ball, making this an interesting matchup.

–49ers WR/KR Ted Ginn, who became the first player in franchise history to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in a single game, vs. Lions coverage units that swallowed up the Bears’ Devin Hester: Hester returned four kicks for 84 yards and one punt for one yard against the Lions Monday. The Lions’ coverage units struggled the first three weeks of the season, ranking 29th in kickoff coverage and 27th in punt coverage. But over the last two weeks against the Cowboys and Bears they’ve been terrific.

–Lions T Jeff Backus, who has started 165 straight games at left tackle for the Lions, vs. 49ers rookie OLB Aldon Smith, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks on the season: Smith doesn’t start for the 49ers but when he’s in the game, you know he’s coming after the quarterback. He had a two-sack performance against the Buccaneers last week and is one of the league’s bright, young pass rushers. The Lions have given up only six sacks this season, the third fewest in the league. Backus has faced Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware and Bears DE Julius Peppers in consecutive weeks and has only allowed a half sack to Ware.

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