The Lions make no apologies for how they are built. They are built to pass the football. You don't use the first overall pick on a franchise quarterback as gifted as Stafford to have him hand the ball off 30 times a game. They don't pass to set up the run; they pass because passing is what they do best. While they don't necessarily aspire to have Stafford lead the league in pass attempts again this season, if it happens, so be it.
But it's not just about Stafford's skill set. The Lions also have a uniquely-gifted, game-changing receiver in Calvin Johnson who puts as much, and probably more, pressure on defenses as any ball carrier in the league.
"We're going to see different defenses than anybody else sees," Stafford said. "Teams will come in playing one defense, then play a completely different one trying to shut Calvin down."
That's why the Lions have spent most of their time and resources the last three years, not to beef up the run game, but to put more weapons around Johnson. There is no coverage they haven't seen and there is no counter offensive coordinator Scott Linehan hasn't devised.
With Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, rookie Ryan Broyles, even running backs Kevin Smith and Mikel Leshoure -- the Lions can make defenses pay now for overloading Johnson.
"We need to be set up so it's difficult for people to take the chance of doing too much with Calvin," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Everybody's got a different idea because nobody's really been consistently successful in finding a way to get him shut down. As long as we're making good decisions on offense, as long as we have other playmakers out there, it doesn't matter what they do to him because we'll always have other answers."
The Lions will feature three receiver sets, two tight-end sets, no-back, one-back, two-back sets; they will flank Johnson out to either side or they will deploy him in the slot. He had his most productive games last season starting from the slot.
"You can't take this game for granted," Johnson said. "If you don't do it in practice, you won't do it in the games. Teams mix it up on us, but there's only so much they can do. Just from watching film, we should be well-versed to what defenses can throw."
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis probably said it best.
"You're talking about a person who should probably be running track, but he chose football," Lewis said. "He's a mismatch problem for a lot of people."
Receivers don't typically lead teams to titles. Jerry Rice did. Randy Moss did. The Lions are banking on Johnson being in that category.
82nd regular-season meeting. Rams lead series 42-38-1, which spans three different venues. The Lions were 8-7 against the Cleveland Rams, 27-32-1 against the Los Angeles Rams and 2-3 vs. the St. Louis Rams. The last time the Rams came to Ford Field, they were trounced, 44-6 in 2010.
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