Tim Fuller–US PRESSWIRE
The Detroit Lions may have a daunting task ahead of them this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. As if the running combo of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter wasn’t enough, the Lions will have to stop a more dynamic passing attack as well.
Niners QB Alex Smith has been surrounded with more weapons this year than in previous seasons. While still having the versatile tight end Vernon Davis and sure-handed receiver Michael Crabtree, the 49ers bolstered their receiving corps over the offseason. With the addition of vertical threats Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, the Niners now have a legitimate passing attack to compliment their run game.
What does this mean for the Lions? It means that the defensive front will have to be effective against the run. If the Lions defense can slow the run game down, it will force Smith to go to the air. In past seasons, the Lions run defense has been questionable, but if they can shut down Gore like they did the St. Louis Rams all-pro running back Steven Jackson in week 1, the Lions may have shot. The Lions were able to stop Jackson, limiting him to 53 yards and just 2.5 yards per carry.
The Lions defensive backfield has shrunk even more as well. The Lions lost cornerback Bill Bentley, in his first career start, to a concussion. While still missing safety Louis Delmas, the Lions backfield will have their job cut out for them. Chris Houston, the Lions starting cornerback, who missed week 1 because of a lingering ankle injury from the preseason, will likely be sidelined again headed into San Francisco despite practicing earlier in the week. That leaves the fourth year corner Jacob Lacey as the starter this Sunday. Lacey, who filled in for most of the snaps in week 1 impressed Head Coach Jim Schwartz enough to get the nod for week 2.
“He’s earned trust since the day he got here; he’s a good player. He’s a young veteran; has starting experience,” Schwartz said.
Pass defense will be that much easier for Lacey and rest of the defense if Gore and company cease to gain traction on the ground. If this proves true, the Lions defensive tasks will inevitably become focused solely on the passing game. Not that Smith, Moss and the rest of the passing entourage is lagging by any means, but their job will be that much easier if they don’t have to worry about the play-action pass coming from the Niners.