By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Right out of the gate Sunday, the Detroit Lions suffered a devastating blow to their endeavor to stop the run when Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson burst away from everyone for a 78-yard touchdown jaunt in the Vikings’ first possession.
After that, though, the Lions limited Peterson, and neutralizing the run game helped the Lions come away with a 34-24 victory.
Head coach Jim Schwartz is convinced that executing the strategy again this week will also be key against Arizona.
“After the first play, we did a really good job of stopping the run,” Schwartz said. “And then you saw the effect of that. When we were able to just rush the passer, we got the lead in the game, and all of a sudden we could really sort of free-wheel and rush the passer. And I think that’ll be the important thing, is getting the run stopped. If we do that, we’ll be able to really concentrate on getting good pressure, but it all goes hand in hand.”
Disrupting Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer will be important considering the targets he has to throw to – Larry Fitzgerald, perhaps the second-best wide receiver in the league after the Lions’ Calvin Johnson, and Patrick Peterson, one of the league’s most versatile and explosive threats on offense, defense and special teams. How the Detroit defensive line holds up will have significant bearing on whether safeties Glover Quin and Louis Delmas can sufficiently limit Fitzgerald, Peterson and others.
“We can rush the passer and get after that guy with our four D-linemen,” Quin said. “If we don’t ever have to blitz and things like that, we’re obviously going to be better because we’ve got more guys in coverage and so we had a lot of sacks on [Minnesota quarterback Christian] Ponder. I don’t think we had two or three blitzes all game, so that was a good thing.”
Replicating that effort will be key given the attention the Lions secondary will need to play to Fitzgerald and Peterson.
“[Fitzgerald]’s great at going up and catching the ball and things like that,” Quin said. “He’s made a living doing those things, so everybody knows him as that type of player. We’ve got to make sure we do a good job of knowing where he is every time.”
While Fitzgerald is a veteran threat, Peterson is more of a wild card, but perhaps the downside of his ability to play in all facets of the game is that playing him on offense is something of a tip of the hand by the Cardinals.
“A guy like Patrick Peterson, I don’t think you put him in there just to waste his time,” Quin said. “He’s got a big challenge this week. He’s probably going to be covering Calvin Johnson, so I’m pretty sure they don’t want to waste him running a go-route when he’s covering Calvin Johnson all day. When he’s in the game, we’ve definitely got to know he’s in the game because something’s different, so they’ve probably got something up.”
Many considered the secondary a potential area of weakness heading into this season, though Schwartz said that, as with the offensive line, the concern was external to the team. Still, the group could take a big step toward proving itself Sunday.
“I don’t think any of us ever thought it was going to be a detriment,” Schwartz said. “We had confidence in the guys there. I’ve said before, our biggest thing in the secondary is just availability, keeping those guys out there. When we’re available, that’s a good group of guys, and that’s going to be the tale of the tape with us.”