Lions looking to shut down the Jets

Practice this week was focused on three particular parts of the Jets offense, QB Geno Smith, TE Jeff Cumberland and WR Jeremy Kerley.    Smith, well because, he is an effective quarterback, Cumberland because of the injury to WR Eric Decker and Kerley because he leads in balls thrown to him (24) and receptions (15 for 141 yards)

“I’m definitely a lot more comfortable with Jeremy than I was last year, because we had an off-season together, we’ve had a bunch of time to bond for me to really get to know him and vice versa,” Smith said. “We’re still building, we’re still building on our chemistry, we’re still getting better, but as of right now, it’s definitely been a positive sign that he’s been getting the ball and really sparking our offense.

The Lions will be visiting the Jets  this Sunday with kickoff at Noon.  Plenty of great seats and cheap tickets are still available so be sure to get yours now!

Lions Cut 7, keep Freese

The Detroit Lions have made another round of cuts that brings their team total down to 75 before Tuesday’s mandatory deadline.  Those waived include Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, Cornerbacks Jonte Green & Aaron Hester, Fullback Chad Abram and Quarterback James Franklin.

In game three of the preseason, the Lions defeated the Jaguars bringing their preseason record to 2-1 with a victory over the Browns and a one point loss to the Raiders.

The Lions fourth preseason game will be this Thursday on the road against the Buffalo Bills.  Great seats and cheap tickets are still available so get yours now!

Bush is the key to Lions Super Bowl goals

When the Detroit Lions went after running back Reggie Bush in the Spring, it was a full court press that found Bush sitting in a private plane across from Head Coach Jim Schwartz, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan and most importantly Quarterback Matthew Stafford.  It was an offer  hard to turn down but more than that, it was an opportunity to return to greatness.

“We talked the whole plane ride,” Bush said Wednesday as the Lions prepare for the season-opener against Minnesota. “They just kind of showed me how wide open some of these running lanes are because of the way they have to play Calvin and because of the way defenses are so worried about the passing offense.

The addition of Bush to the backfield will force opposing defenses to play honest and not blitz Stafford so much.

“I just feel like this is maybe my best opportunity yet,” Bush said

“He can take a short pass and make a big play out of it,” Schwartz said. “I like what he can provide in the run game but also in the pass game. He’s a weapon … he has the ability to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.”

The Lions take on the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday at 1 p.m. Tickets are still available

 

Lions face a crisis point


Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— What’s done is done. If you are the Lions, nothing good can come from looking back and trying to rationalize the penalties, the turnovers or the absurd meltdown by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on Thursday.

All of it is indefensible.

“They can say what they want about us,” coach Jim Schwartz said after the 27-15 loss to the Packers.

Oh, they have. The Lions, by their own actions, have turned perception into reality. And until they provide evidence to the contrary, they are what the rest of the country has been saying they are — a reckless, undisciplined football team.

There is ample talent on both sides of the ball, but until they can collectively get their emotions properly harnessed, until they prove they can play big in the big moments, they can’t be considered legitimate playoff contenders.

At this point, even though they are still in the chase at 7-4, how can you consider them anything but a long shot to get a wildcard spot?

The losses are to arguably the four best teams they have played — the 49ers, Falcons, Bears and Packers. That cannot be dismissed. They are 2-4 since starting 5-0. They have lost three of their last four at home. They are melting down as the stakes get higher.

The season and their reputation are certainly salvageable, but this is a crisis point for the Lions. They will have a chance at redemption, a chance to re-stake their claim on a wild-card spot, a week from Sunday in New Orleans.

They will have the national stage again — NBC “Sunday Night Football.” They have an opportunity to show they are a quality team, not a collection of talented thugs.

But you have to wonder if too much damage already has been done — to their reputation and to their roster.

The Lions may have to play against the Saints’ high-powered offense without two key defensive starters: Suh and safety Louis Delmas.

Expect Suh to be suspended for his untimely unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejection in the third quarter Thursday.

Delmas injured his knee in the first quarter and said via Twitter he could miss the next couple of games.

In addition, the Lions on Friday put starting running back Jahvid Best (concussion) on injured reserve; he’s done for the season. Kevin Smith, who took over the starting spot on Thursday, is questionable with a high ankle sprain.

Cornerback Chris Houston left the game with a knee injury.

Schwartz has a lot of fires to put out before he can even begin working on the team’s emotional balance. But it has to start with Suh. Even if the league doesn’t suspend him — the consensus is they will — Schwartz needs to.

Schwartz has had Suh’s back to a fault, up until now. If he doesn’t take a drastic step to get Suh’s temper under control, he runs the risk of doing long-term damage to one of the franchise’s biggest assets.

He punished right tackle Gosder Cherilus for a lesser offense in the season opener, not playing him in Week 2 after he took a late personal foul penalty. He would be hard-pressed explaining to his team the double-standard if he didn’t sit Suh for at least a game — playoff chase or not.

“I know Suh. I’ve talked to him several times,” former running back Marshall Faulk told NFL.com. “The person and the player that we see at times, there’s a disconnect. Something’s going on and he needs to get to the very bottom of it to find out what it is that, when someone is getting the best of him, angry Suh comes out.”

Somebody needs to show Suh how to restrain angry Suh. The league will take first crack at it.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Friday that Suh’s stomping on the arm of Packers offensive guard Evan Dietrich-Smith was likely to be reviewed for possible disciplinary action.

“We have said nothing about a timetable but we have said this — plays from Week 12 to be reviewed for potential discipline will be done so under our normal procedures after the completion of all games,” Aiello wrote in an email.

Tuesday is the day, typically, that the reviews are done.

Suh has been fined three times already in his young career, so he would be considered a repeat offender. Former Tennessee Titan Albert Haynesworth was suspended for five games back in 2006.

Earlier this season, Minnesota’s Brian Robison was fined and not suspended for kicking Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang in the groin.

Expect Suh to get a one- or two-game suspension from the league, which Suh and the Lions should graciously accept and then start making reparation.

Let the rest of football nation take their shots and make their judgments. There’s no defense to the accusations right now. It’s circle-the-wagons time. The Lions have five weeks to be the team we all thought they were through the first five weeks — the team with the dynamic offense led by a smart, strong-armed quarterback and a violently aggressive, though law-abiding, defense.

They are 7-4 with games at New Orleans, at Oakland and at Green Bay, and home games against San Diego and Minnesota.

If they can regain their balance, physically and mentally, and manage two or three more wins without any more incidents, they will have the last laugh on their critics.

Even if they don’t make the playoffs, they will still be considered a team on the rise. But if this goes completely off the rails these last five weeks, then, say it with me — it’s the same old dysfunctional Lions.

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

(313) 222-1489

Lions cornerback Chris Houston expects action


Terry Foster/ The Detroit News

Allen Park —Lions cornerback Chris Houston knows the test is coming.

He has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season and word has spread around the league. That can only mean one thing: Quarterbacks are going to go after him more often and with a different game plan.

Lions Hall of Fame cornerback Lem Barney holds the Lions record with three interception returns for touchdowns in his rookie season in 1967. He predicts teams will try to use Houston’s aggressiveness against him instead of choosing not to throw his way. That’s what happened to Barney.

“He is up and running,” Barney said of Houston. “But once you make those returns the offenses are going to test him more so he had better be ready. They have companion routes they are going to use against him.”

In other words, that simple 5-yard buttonhook will turn into a hook and go, hoping to get Houston off-balance so teams can beat him deep.

“I am sure the coaches are teaching him and training him to watch for those things so that won’t happen,” Barney said.

The Lions defense has returned three interceptions for touchdowns and defensive end Cliff Avril returned a fumble for a touchdown. The defensive scores all had similar results. The Lions won each game and the scores sent a spark through the sidelines.

Houston knows teams will come after him. Opponents want to see if he is jumping routes or playing smart. Houston said his scores came off studying opponents. He knew the play was coming against Dallas and he ran 56 yards for the touchdown shortly after Bobby Carpenter returned one from 34 yards. The Lions turned a 27-3 deficit into a 27-17 game and eventually won in overtime.

The 100-yard touchdown against Denver came when the Broncos tried to run the same play on him. Houston agrees with Barney that teams are going to come his way more.

“They want to see if I am jumping routes,” he said. “I want to continue to play within the scheme and not jump routes unless I see something. I am just not jumping routes or guessing. I jump routes because I know something is coming. I am going to work within the scheme and know where my help is. I am not going to leave my teammates out to dry.”

Houston is athletic and fast but is allowing superior game study to guide him. Barney did the same thing. He was a student of teammate Dick LeBeau, who told him extensive film study would supplement his superior athletic ability and talent. Barney took it to heart and many of his career 56 interceptions were a result of knowing what the opponent was going to do. Houston is the same way.

“That first interception (against Dallas), they had scored on a pump route the year before,” Houston said. “I watched film and remembered the formation. When he (the quarterback) made the motion, I knew it was coming.”

When the defense scores, it gives a lift to the sidelines and makes it more difficult for the opponent to recover and win. Players jump up and down as enthusiasm and momentum take over.

“It gives you a spark no matter if you are losing or no matter the circumstances,” safety Louis Delmas said. “We play off that momentum.”

Offensive players get excited for their defensive brothers when they score.

“Man, it is so unaccounted for,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “When the defense scores, I hate to say it as a player but you are thinking we got this thing locked up.

“When the D scores it makes us more comfortable.”

Houston said seeing all that green grass in front of him on the return is exciting.

“It is an unexplainable feeling knowing your hard work is paying off,” he said.

terry.foster@detnews.com

twitter.com/terryfoster971

Bob Wojnowski: Lions shine on prime-time stage, run record to 5-0


Bob Wojnowski

Detroit— The noise and the numbers are ratcheting so quickly now, they’re starting to echo. The Lions no longer are just Detroit’s riveting fresh story. They’ve gone national and gotten numbingly tough, rolling in ways we’ve almost never seen.

The Lions were determined to make their loudest clamor yet Monday night. So were their fans. And with an offensive blur and a defensive blast, they hammered the point — repeatedly.

The Lions beat the Bears 24-13 in front of 67,861 shrieking fans, and there’s no turning back now. Every expectation for this team has rocketed, now that it’s 5-0 for the first time in 55 years and has won nine straight for the first time in 57 years.

See what I mean about the numbers? And the noise?

“It was electric — the fans did an unbelievable job,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was 19-for-26 for 219 yards. “You saw what it can do to an opposing offense, and our defense fed off it. You couldn’t even hear yourself think.”

The frenzy for the Lions’ first Monday night game since 2001 was incredible, as loud as Ford Field has ever been. The full-throttled crowd literally affected the game, causing Bears players to be penalized nine times (yes, nine) for false starts, unable to hear the signals over the din.

There’s nothing false about this start. The Lions have stars in key places, and each one did something big, from Stafford to Calvin Johnson to defensive menace Ndamukong Suh to speedy back Jahvid Best. They’re hitting from all directions, upstaging even playoff baseball. Shortly after the Tigers dropped a crushing, 7-3, 11-inning game in Texas, the Lions launched their whomping, and they whomped hard.

The comeback team in a comeback city, tied together by talent and toughness? It may be trite, but if it fits, go for it.

Past meets present

It fits the Lions, that’s obvious. They trailed at halftime again and took off in the second half again. When Best sprinted 88 yards for the clinching touchdown, and defenders then took turns flattening poor Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, the physical punishment was complete.

“We need to get used to playing in games like this, in prime time,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “It was a big step for this team and a big step for this city.”

You can’t say the Lions shocked anyone this time because they were favored, and probably will be favored in their next three games, at least. You do the math and you realize this is a playoff team, arriving ahead of schedule.

There were ghosts in the building, a convergence of past, present and future, stirred in a cauldron. Barry Sanders was here, the Lions’ preeminent symbol of lonesome glory. On the Bears’ side were Rod Marinelli, the beleaguered former Lions coach, Mike Martz, the former Lions assistant, and Roy Williams, the former Lions receiver. At some point, all were symbols of fake swagger, slowly reduced to footnotes.

“Imported From Detroit” is the auto theme and it’s just a coincidence the car companies are rebounding along with the Lions and the Tigers. But it sure adds to the depth of the pride, and you didn’t have to be wedged into Ford Field to feel it.

If this wasn’t the biggest day in Detroit sports history, it was one of the busiest. In droves, people swarmed in and around Ford Field, clamoring to see first-hand what was going on. In many ways, this was an unveiling for the Lions — to the nation and to their own fans.

The Lions had played at home only once so far, returning after huge road comebacks at Dallas and Minnesota. For hours beforehand, the streets filled, and as the Lions warmed up on the field, fans watched the Tigers on the stadium scoreboards. When Jose Valverde escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, the crowd erupted. It was the last roar for the Tigers on this night, but it was only the start of the noise.

“There was so much energy in the building, I’ve never felt anything like it,” tight end Brandon Pettigrew said. “You could physically feel it on you.”

Almost out of control

This was it, the chance for the hungriest fan base in the NFL to release the beast within. It was almost, dare I say, too much racket and rancor, as the Lions came out determined to prove they’re one of the feistiest, nastiest teams around.

It’s a badge of honor and they’re happy to shove it in the opposing quarterback’s face. The Bears were rattled, no doubt. On their first possession alone, they committed three false-start penalties.

The energy was incredible and the Lions feasted on it — and initially, gorged a bit too much. They had six penalties in the first half, most for committing general acts of mayhem upon Cutler.

The Lions were hitting with impunity (which is still permitted, I believe), and officials tried to keep things under control. Cutler was getting up slowly but he was getting up, and the Bears hung in.

For the Lions these days, it goes back to their stars, and in one stunning sequence, they all made their mark. Facing fourth-and-inches at the Lions’ 25 in the first quarter, Bears coach Lovie Smith inexplicably disdained the field goal and went for it. Running back Matt Forte was crushed by Suh in the backfield, killing the drive.

Three plays later, Stafford lofted a perfect pass to Johnson, who caught it in stride for a 73-yard touchdown. After Johnson leaped atop the end zone wall to celebrate, the Lions had a 7-0 lead and “Megatron” had his ninth touchdown of the season.

But this is the NFL and the Bears are defending division champs, and a team can only ride raw emotion for so long. Somehow, the Lions were outscored 40-3 in the first halves of their last two games, and won both. And when Cutler hit Kellen Davis for a 9-yard touchdown, the Bears were on top at the half, 10-7.

Not for long, of course. Remember, if you can, the last time the Lions lost a game. It was last Dec. 5, 24-20 to Chicago. That was the Bears’ sixth straight victory in the series, so the Lions still had demons to address here.

They addressed them head on, without ambiguity, with everyone watching. The stage was theirs, and they took it like they absolutely meant it.

Bob.wojnowski@detnews.com

Twitter.com/bobwojnowski

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis utilizes skill, swagger on his ‘Island’


The NFL’s best: A Detroit News series

Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Ninth of 13-part series ranking the best NFL players at each position

The NFL’s transition into a passing league has made cornerbacks one of the most important players on the field.

“I think it’s the quarterback first and the defensive back second,” former safety and current NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots told USA Today.

Offenses have gotten complicated and are incorporating so many weapons, that defenses without a gifted corner or two are playing from a disadvantage.

A corner that can shut down half the field and take an offense’s No. 1 receiver out of the game is a defensive coordinator’s dream.

Interceptions don’t accurately measure a cornerback’s effectiveness, either. The truly talented corners don’t get thrown at enough to make an impact with interceptions.

So, taking into account those standards, there are two lockdown corners that stand above the rest: Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders, free agent).

Revis is so good, his real estate on the football field has been coined “Revis Island.”

Receivers rarely get off Revis Island.

Calvin Johnson (Lions) and Andre Johnson (Texans) combined for five catches and 45 yards against Revis last season.

Despite finishing last season with no interceptions and 10 pass breakups, Revis was a unanimous choice to start the Pro Bowl, and earned all-Pro first-team honors.

At only 25, it’s amazing to think Revis might only be reaching his prime.

As for Asomugha, the Raiders couldn’t afford his $16 million price tag, so they voided the contract in January.

With his production — eight interceptions for the Raiders in 2006, teams got wise and stopped throwing at him (three the next four years) — Asomugha will be inundated with calls when free agency opens.

He’ll likely become the richest cornerback in history.

The Lions’ situation at corner is up in the air.

Chris Houston was the most consistent performer last season, but says he’ll test the free-agent market.

Alphonso Smith started 10 games on the right side last season and led the team with five interceptions.

But his confidence seemed to waiver toward the end of the season, especially after a terrible game against the Patriots on Thanksgiving, when he allowed three touchdowns.

Smith is also coming off shoulder surgery that forced him out of the last four games.

The Lions do have a number of other players who’ll compete for time during training camp, including Aaron Berry, Nathan Vasher, Brandon McDonald, Prince Miller and Jack Williams.

But expect the Lions to be big players in a deep free-agency market.

Top 10 corners

 1. Darrelle Revis, Jets: What more can you say about a player who week-in and week-out performers at an all-Pro level against the best receivers? The Jets had the No. 3 defense last season and were No. 6 against the pass, thanks in large part to Revis.

 2. Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders: The three-time Pro Bowler surrendered a mere 10 receptions last season and didn’t allow a touchdown. He’s right there with Revis among the elite.

 3. Charles Woodson, Packers: He’s a jack-of-all-trades for Dom Capers’ defense. He plays corner, safety and rushes the quarterback. A seven-time Pro Bowler, his 92 tackles and five forced fumbles in 2010 were career bests. He’s three interceptions shy of reaching 50 for his career.

 4. Asante Samuel, Eagles: The career leader with four postseason interception returns for a touchdown, Samuel allowed 20 completions and one touchdown in 11 games last season. Unlike Revis and Asomugha, teams continue to target Samuel — and he continues to make then pay (36 interceptions the last five seasons).

 5. Champ Bailey, Broncos: Bailey continued to be one of the most dominant cornerbacks in 2010, with two interceptions and 13 passes defended. At 32, his 10 Pro Bowl appearances are the most by a corner.

 6. Tramon Williams, Packers: Williams certainly benefits from having Woodson on the other side, but he’s a playmaker in his own right. He’s notched 15 interceptions the last three seasons (six in 2010).

 7. Devin McCourty Patriots: His biggest accomplishment last season was earning the starting job on a Bill Belichick-coached defense as a rookie. He rewarded Belichick with 82 tackles, seven interceptions (second in the league) and a Pro Bowl nod.

 8. Dunta Robinson, Falcons: He was the free agent catch of 2010 — and proved it. Teams stayed away from his side of the field, and teammate Brent Grimes benefited. The pair form one of the best secondary duos in the NFL.

 9. Brent Grimes, Falcons: Teams had to pick their poison — pick on Robinson or Grimes? Grimes made them pay when they chose his side of the field. The undrafted corner out of Shippenburg University earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2010, finishing with 87 tackles, five interceptions and 23 pass break-ups.

 10. Antoine Winfield, Vikings: Like Bailey, the 12-year veteran is as productive as ever. He’s one of the best at supporting the run defense — he had 91 tackles last year. He also chipped in two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Schedule

June 22 Quarterbacks

June 23 Running backs

June 24 Receivers

June 25 Tight ends

June 26 Offensive tackles

June 28 Guards

June 29 Centers

June 30 Safeties

July 1 Cornerbacks

Saturday Outside linebackers

Monday, July 4 Inside linebackers

Tuesday, July 5 Defensive ends

Wednesday, July 6 Defensive tackles

ttwentyman@detnews.com

twitter.com/ttwentyman

Bob Wojnowski: Big Bad Ben will beat the warm, fuzzy Packers


Bob Wojnowski

The Green Bay Packers are a nice, warm story straight out of the cold. Aaron Rodgers is a freshly minted star, clean-cut and sharp-throwing.

Fans like the Packers. Experts love the Packers to beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. One ESPN survey of national prognosticators had 31 of 45 picking the Packers.

I’m not here to spoil anyone’s Super fun. You’ll probably ruin it anyhow by serving too many vegetables and not enough meatballs at your party. I’m here to tell you the newest American Anti-Hero is about to be Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, like it or not.

Hate Big Bad Ben if you wish. Some of his alleged off-field behavior has been deplorable. I don’t know if he has become a better person, but it doesn’t really matter today. The man is as tough and clutch as any quarterback ever, and the Steelers are the nastiest bunch in football, which is why they’ll beat the Packers.

Advertisement



This should be a classic because both teams belong, both play great defense and both have tremendous quarterbacks. The Steelers will win 31-24, and that should set up an entertaining dilemma for Disney, which always tapes a post-Super Bowl commercial, asking a star player where he’s going next. To Disney World? Uh, not sure that’d be Roethlisberger’s choice, but if you want your sports stars wrapped in neat, tidy packages, sorry.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the NFL’s shiniest long-time stars. Rodgers, playing in his first Super Bowl, probably is next. But guess what? Roethlisberger’s playoff record (10-2) is better than all of them, better than Brady’s 14-5 and way better than Manning’s 9-10.

As you know, the Lions have steadfastly declined to participate in Super Bowls, and the popular theory is, it’s because they’ve never had the quarterback. We don’t know if they have him now, with Matthew Stafford’s shoulder woes. But it’s not that simple. You must have the defense too, and Pittsburgh and Green Bay have the league’s best.

The AFC has been dominated for years by Roethlisberger, Brady and Manning. But you know how many different NFC quarterbacks have reached the Super Bowl the past eight years? Eight. The Lions certainly aren’t ready for that yet, but eventually, it’ll be there for the taking, and it doesn’t just take a great quarterback.

When the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field, Roethlisberger was mostly miserable — 9-for-21 for 123 yards and two interceptions. That was five years ago, and even though he was outstanding beating the Cardinals two years ago, it’s as if Super Bowl XL somehow tainted him.

If the Steelers prevail now, Roethlisberger, 28, officially would rank among the all-time elite, only the fifth quarterback to win three Super Bowls, joining Joe Montana (four), Terry Bradshaw (four), Troy Aikman (three) and Brady (three).

At 6-foot-5, 241 pounds, Roethlisberger sometimes is unorthodox, sometimes inaccurate. But he makes clutch plays and shakes off tacklers better than anyone, and he’ll need to. This won’t be easy, with standout rookie center Maurkice Pouncey sidelined, further weakening Pittsburgh’s offensive line. The blitz-happy Packers, led by Clay Matthews, had 47 sacks in the regular season, second only to — naturally — the Steelers’ 48.

The Steelers’ defense is slightly better, and more punishing. Linebacker James Harrison, who rang up $100,000 in fines this season, spent part of the week mocking commissioner Roger Goodell for cracking down on brutal hits. Harrison’s classic: “I just want to tackle them softly on the ground, and if ya’ll can, lay a pillow down where I tackle them so they don’t hit the ground too hard. OK, Mr. Goodell?”

Niiiice. And nasty.

The Steelers’ ground game, with underrated Rashard Mendenhall, is better. Green Bay won’t be able to run on Pittsburgh, and one dimension just isn’t enough.

That’s my dime-store analysis, and I’m sorry if it’s not as in-depth as the biggest story this week out of Dallas: “Roethlisberger took teammates to a piano bar Tuesday night, warbled a Billy Joel song and ran up a $1,000 tab! Oh no!”

Oh who cares? It’d only truly be a story if Roethlisberger belted out a Josh Groban tune.

Actually, it’d only be a story if Roethlisberger displayed more ugly behavior. He has been accused of sexual assault twice in two years, and although he wasn’t convicted of anything, he was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

No one’s brushing aside disgusting behavior. But just as Michael Vick is entitled to rebuild his image, so is Roethlisberger. He tried mightily during Super Bowl week, answering critical questions with charm and humor.

People shouldn’t be fooled by that, either. Perceptions rightly are forged on the field, and Roethlisberger is one of the toughest, grimiest ever to play quarterback. That’s who he is, who the Steelers are, who they’ve always been. A vivid, vicious reminder is due.

bob.wojnowski@detnews.com

Preview: Lions (3-10) at Buccaneers (8-5)


Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

Lions (3-10) at Buccaneers (8-5)

1 p.m. SundayTV: FoxRadio: WXYT

Lions player to watch Ndamukong Suh

The rookie defensive tackle has become one of the most feared defensive linemen in the league.

Advertisement



Suh leads the Lions, rookies and defensive tackles with eight sacks. His 52 tackles are fourth-best among defensive tackles.

Suh’s a player teams are having to scheme against and that extra attention is allowing teammates to make plays.

Through Week 14, the Lions are tied for eighth in the NFL with 25 takeaways and also are among the top 10 in sacks and QB pressures.

The Bucs are battling through injuries on their offense line, and if Suh can disrupt their backfield, the Lions have a chance to break their 26-game road losing streak.

Buccaneers player to watch Josh Freeman

Since he made his first NFL start in Week 9 as a rookie last season, Freeman has been one of the hottest young quarterbacks.

He’s led the youngest team in the league (average age of 25 years, 190 days) to an 8-5 record and into playoff contention.

Freeman is completing nearly 60 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.

And he’s been good in the clutch: Seven of Freeman’s 11 career victories have been fourth-quarter or overtime comeback wins, including five this season.

“There’s a reason he got drafted in the first round,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.

He has a quarterback rating of 94.3 in the fourth quarter this season, second only to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (109.4) among NFC quarterbacks.

“There’s a reason he got drafted in the first round,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz of Freeman. “There’s a reason he’s playing well right now. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a good arm, can make all the throws, has good leadership qualities.”

Lions’ biggest advantage Running football

The Lions are coming off their best rushing performance of the season with 190 yards (4.6 average) in their 7-3 victory over the Packers last week.

“We got contributions from a lot of different people,” Schwartz said.

The Lions hope to continue that production against the Bucs, who ranks 27th against the run, allowing 133 yards per game.

The Bucs have allowed 97 rushing first downs. The league average is 78.

The Lions had seven different players carry the ball at least once against the Packers and four players finished with more than 30 yards rushing.

With their starting quarterback situation still up in the air, the Lions offense could use another successful rushing attack.

Lions’ biggest problem Second-half offense

The Bucs defense has given up the fourth-fewest second-half points this season and has five second-half shutouts.

The Bucs are tied for the third-most interceptions (18) in the league and rank seventh in opponent passer rating (77.5).

Meanwhile, the Lions offense has sputtered as of late in the second half. In their last four games, the Lions have scored 26 in the second half.

The Lions’ inability to put touchdowns on the board late in games has cost them a number of times this season.

ttwentyman@detnews.com