Take a quick glance at the tale of the tape for Saturday night’s showdown between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions.
The Falcons have been held under 20 points only once this season, that coming in a winning effort back on November 4th against the Cowboys. They scored in all four quarters en route to a 34-0 win over the Giants last Sunday. Michael Turner has re-established himself as a key cog in recent weeks, scoring a touchdown in five consecutive games. Since throwing five interceptions in Week 11 against Arizona, Matt Ryan has tossed seven touchdowns compared to only two interceptions in the last four games.
Detroit is coming off one of its worst offensive showings of the season, putting up only 10 points in a blowout loss to the Cardinals last Sunday. Prior to that, the Lions had scored at least 20 points in seven consecutive games. Calvin Johnson racked up 121 receiving yards last week, but was held out of the end zone for the second straight game. Mikel Leshoure has scored at least one touchdown in four of Detroit’s last four contests.
Atlanta gave up 30 points in its last road game in Carolina two weeks ago, but responded with a shutout of the defending Super Bowl champions back at home last Sunday. The Falcons have been wildly inconsistent defensively, giving up 31, 19, 23, 13, 30, and 0 points in their last six games overall. Their weakness has been against the run, where they allow five yards per rush on the road this season.
Speaking of problems defending the run, the Lions are giving up 4.9 yards per rush at home. Detroit has been absolutely torched lately, allowing at least 24 points in six straight games. With that being said, the Lions have still managed to outgain four of their last five opponents in terms of total yardage. They held the Falcons to 23 points in a losing effort right here at Ford Field last season.
The Falcons should have a field day returning punts against a Lions special teams unit that allows a whopping 14.2 yards per return this season. The problem is, Atlanta has only managed 7.3 yards per return in that department. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant is one of the best in the business, but hasn't been quite as steady as he was earlier in the season, connecting on 31-of-36 field-goal attempts to date.
Detroit is averaging below the league average in terms of both kickoff and punt returning, and won't catch any sort of break against a Falcons special teams unit that performs better than the league average in coverage. Atlanta is allowing only 7.0 yards per punt return, and 21.3 yards on kickoffs. Veteran Lions kicker Jason Hanson has missed only four of 32 field-goal attempts, but one of those misses came on perhaps his biggest kick, in overtime against the Texans on Thanksgiving Day.
Word on the street
“I thought we set the tempo early with our run game and it goes hand-in-hand when you’re able to run the football." Falcons head coach Mike Smith on his team returning to its roots by focusing on its ground game against the Giants last Sunday.
"You know, all we need is to have one play from every guy that we didn't have last week. You know, Calvin's going to have his, but every guy has to have a play that's made." Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan speaking about the top-heavy nature of his receiving corps.