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A Look at the Lions


An 0-2 Rod Marinelli Detroit Lions team will make the cross country trek from Michigan to California for Sunday's contest at Candlestick Park.

Last week Green Bay pounced early on the Lions, racking up a 21-0 cushion in the second quarter, only to fall behind in the fourth quarter after a pair of Calvin Johnson touchdowns. But three straight interceptions later by the Green Bay defense and the Lions found themselves staring at a 48-25 lopsided loss.

"It all bothers you," said Marinelli. "I mean, 21-0, that's unacceptable. And then not finishing it after we fought our way back into it – it's just unacceptable. It's not what this league's about – it's about winning."

It marked the second week in a row that the Lions offense has struggled to produce much in the run game.

Detroit released last year's starting running back in Kevin Jones and have used a rookie out of UCF in Kevin Smith as their starter the last two weeks. The third-round pick ended week one with 48 yards and a 3.0 average, and then finished with 40 yards and a 4.0 average against Green Bay.

Veteran running back Rudi Johnson was a late sign by the Lions on September 2 and could be featured more this Sunday after having some time to get acclimated to Detroit's offense. Johnson battled a hamstring injury last year in Cincinnati, and finished the year with 497 rushing yards, the lowest total of his seven seasons with the Bengals.

But for what they lack in the run game, Detroit makes up for in the passing attack.

Quarterback Jon Kitna, a veteran in his 12th year, is coming off one of his finest seasons in the league, finishing the 2007 campaign with 4,068 passing yards. With Kitna and now then offensive coordinator Mike Martz running the show, the Lions finished last season ranked ninth in the NFL in passing.

Kitna put up 262 yards and 276 yards the last two weeks. He threw a pair of touchdowns against Green Bay, but his 3 interceptions proved to be lethal with the Packers returning two of them for scores of their own.

Kitna does possess a myriad of offensive weapons for his aerial attack, starting with last year's first-rounder in Johnson, who has notched 100-yard receiving games the last two weeks.

The receiving corps also features Mike Furrey, Shaun McDonald and Roy Williams, with newly acquired tight end Michael Gaines also playing a part in the passing game.

Given their propensity to throw the ball (Detroit has totaled 33 run plays in the last two games in comparison to 74 pass plays), sacks, similarly to the 49ers, have been a problem for Detroit. Their offensive line has allowed 8 sacks over two games.

The Lions tested out Boston College rookie tackle Godser Cherilus in Sunday's loss, allowing the first-rounder to take over at the start of the second half for George Foster at right tackle. After shutting down Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman in the second half, Cherilus may just have earned himself the job permanently.

Cherilus would then start opposite another former first-round Lions pick in left tackle Jeff Backus, on a line that is anchored by eight –year veteran center Dominic Raiola.

After finishing 31st in the NFL on defense, Detroit was extremely active during free agency on that side of the ball.

The Lions leveraged their stud defensive tackle in Shaun Rogers and traded him to the Browns in exchange for cornerback Leigh Bodden and a third-round pick.

Detroit also added to their defensive den with the signing of former Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly, defensive tackle Chuck Darby from Seattle and safety Dwight Smith from the Vikings.

Unfortunately, the new-look personnel doesn't appear to be working.

In week one, Falcons running back Michael Turner annihilated Detroit's run defense with a
220-yard outing. In all, the Falcons totaled 318 yards on the ground.

Although they limited Green Bay to just 123 total rushing yards, they were vulnerable against the pass. Aaron Rodgers threw for 328 passing yards, including an explosive 62-yard pass.

The group hasn't been able to mount much of a pass rush, totaling only two sacks over the first two weeks. Defensive end Dewayne White owns both of those sacks, as well as a forced fumble. The defensive line could be without Darby this week. The starting tackle is day to day with an ankle injury.

Third-year linebacker Ernie Sims remains as their most disruptive force for the Lions defense, leading their unit with 134 tackles last season, a sack, an interception and three forced fumbles. He is surrounded by a veteran middle linebacker in Paris Lenon and a first-year starter in Alex Lewis.

The secondary  features the three new free-agent acquisitions (Bodden, Kelly, Smith) as starters and only one returner in second-year safety Gerald Alexander.

On special teams, Detroit features one of the best in the business in veteran Jason Hanson, who saw his first field goal action of the season against Green Bay with three field goals, including a long one of 53 yards.

They are also solid at punter with eight-year punter Nick Harris often helping the Lions win favorable field position.

Mike Furrey takes care of punt returns for the Lions, and has also fielded a few kickoff returns this season, although the majority of kickoffs have been handled by Brandon Middleton.

Tune in to see who fields opening kickoff this Sunday when the 1-1 49ers host the Lions in a 1:05 PM start time at Candlestick Park.

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