Falcons search for first home victory vs. Lions
It’s no secret that Julio Jones makes the Atlanta Falcons a much more dangerous team.
Following a strong opening-day performance against Seattle, Jones missed two games and struggled through two others with a hamstring injury. That was a big reason why the Falcons started 0-5 and fired head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Back in action Sunday against Minnesota, Jones racked up 137 receiving yards and scored twice as Atlanta ended its losing streak.
Jones and the Falcons, searching for their first home win of the season, will try to build off that outing when the Detroit Lions visit Sunday.
The Lions bring in some momentum of their own, winners of two of their past three, tamping down the hot-seat rumors of their head coach, Matt Patricia.
Jones sat out Wednesday’s practice but it’s likely a precautionary measure.
“When he’s out there, we are going to be a better team, I can tell you that much,” interim coach Raheem Morris said. “When he’s not, we will not be as good, but we still have a chance to win.”
With his top weapon on the field, quarterback Matt Ryan enjoyed his best outing this season last week. Ryan passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns without an interception in the 17-point win over the Vikings.
The Falcons have a formidable one-two punch with Jones and Calvin Ridley, but third receiver Russell Gage and tight end Hayden Hurst can also produce impact plays.
“It’s hard to get them all touches,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “Obviously, everything is going to start off running through Julio and Calvin. We’ve been trying to get Hayden more involved. All Russ Gage does (against the Vikings) is have four catches and three explosives. There is only one ball to go around.”
The Lions (2-3), who defeated Jacksonville 34-16 after a bye week, believe the best way to hold the Falcons in check is to pressure Ryan.
“I don’t know if I have a coverage that can handle all of these guys,” Detroit defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “But, I would say that it comes down to trying to be effective and make the quarterback work pre-snap and post-snap. Do our best. Mix it up on him and try to make it hard for him. We all know that it’s going to be a tough cover for everybody on the field. We welcome that challenge.”
Detroit has a top-notch receiver in Kenny Golladay but the Lions have become increasingly reliant on their three-pronged rushing attack.
Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has used Adrian Peterson, rookie De’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson to varying degrees. Peterson has received the bulk of the carries but Swift had a breakthrough performance against the Jaguars, rushing for 116 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns.
“We go in with a plan and then as the game goes along, you have to have a feel for the game,” Bevell said. “So Adrian goes in with the first bit of carries, but everybody has kind of a specific role or even specific plays.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is averaging just 248 yards per game on the season. He has thrown only four touchdown passes in four career outings against Atlanta. Detroit is 1-3 in those games. The teams last met in 2017.
The Lions will go without rookie defensive end Julian Okwara for at least the next three games. He was placed on injured reserve Tuesday due to a leg injury.
Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley sat out Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury.
Detroit’s biggest injury concern among active players is former Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring).
–Field Level Media