Lions

Detroit Lions Strategy And Personnel 10-20-11

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TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Wide receiver Nate Burleson #13 of the Detroit Lions dives toward the endzone during the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

TAMPA, FL – SEPTEMBER 11: Wide receiver Nate Burleson #13 of the Detroit Lions dives toward the endzone during the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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PLAYER NOTES

–WR Nate Burleson relates the Lions’ passing attack to a shooter’s rhythm in basketball. “It’s like with a really good shooting guard in basketball,” he said. “When you can get the ball in the hoop early, that rhythm will carry you through four quarters. For us, we need to get the ball into our playmakers’ hands early, move the chains, get that adrenaline going and continue it through four quarters.”

–SS Amari Spievey was excused from practice on Wednesday so he could attend the funeral of his cousin, professional basketball player Chauncey Hardy, who was killed in Romania.

–RB James Davis (Clemson) was signed to the practice squad.

–TE Nathan Overbay was released from the practice squad.

INJURY IMPACT

–CB Chris Houston did not practice on Wednesday because of a sore back. He expects to return on Thursday. He’s obviously looking forward to Sunday. He was benched and then traded by the Falcons before the 2010 season. “For me, I am just looking at it like it’s another game,” he said. Nobody was buying that one.

–S Vincent Fuller (elbow) is still unable to practice. The Lions have three healthy safeties – Louis Delmas, Spievey and John Wendling.

–RT Gosder Cherilus had a sore knee Wednesday and was limited at practice. He is expected to start Sunday.

Coach Jim Schwartz was asked if there had been any internal discussion about putting TE Tony Scheffler, RB Jahvid Best or OLB Justin Durant – all suffering concussions – on the injured list. “No, we’re going to get those guys back as soon as possible,” he said. “As soon as they pass all their test they will be back. We feel good about all those guys.”

That said, it appears only Durant has a good shot of getting back this week.

GAME PLAN
The Lions will have to do what they say they set out to do every week: stop the run and force the Falcons to be one dimensional on offense. That was the plan against the 49ers Sunday and Frank Gore gashed them for 141 yards. You have to fear their chances against Michael Turner. After putting extreme pressure on Bears QB Jay Cutler, the Lions couldn’t get at Alex Smith. If they don’t put pressure on Matt Ryan, it will be a long day for the secondary.

The Lions haven’t had to deal with two vertical threats like Roddy White and Julio Jones. Corners Chris Houston and Eric Wright will have their hands full.

Offensively, if they can contain the pressure from defensive ends Ray Edwards and John Abraham (six sacks between them), QB Matthew Stafford should be able to pick the Falcons’ back seven apart. They are 27th in pass defense, giving up 282.2 yards per game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Lions LT Jeff Backus vs. Falcons DE John Abraham: Certainly Backus’ matchup is vital every week, but it particularly so this week. He is coming off one of his worst games. Against the 49ers’ Aldon Smith, he was beaten for three sacks, seven pressures and one hit. Abraham has been playing through an injury, but he’s dangerous.

Lions OLB vs. Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez: Gonzalez is four catches away from passing Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison for second place on the all-time receiving list. Teams have been isolating tight ends against the left-side linebacker. Bobby Carpenter struggled with Vernon Davis last week. The Lions hope Justin Durant (concussion) will be ready to play this week.

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