The Detroit Lions have had their fair share of struggles so far on defense. The one undisputed strength, though, has to be their run defense.
Through two weeks, the Lions have held very respectable rushing attacks in the Chiefs and Seahawks to 90 yards and 82 yards total, respectively. It’s even more impressive when you look at how the Lions handled the starting running backs for those teams. Isiah Pacheco rushed eight times for 23 yards, and Kenneth Walker III rushed 17 times for 43 yards. That’s no easy feat.
It has only been two weeks, so take that sample size with caution, but the Lions run defense looks impressive early. Sunday will serve as a litmus test for them with the Atlanta Falcons coming to town.
The Falcons are one of the best running teams in the league; they’ve already rushed for 341 yards this year, good for fourth-most in the NFL. They’re also eighth in the league with 4.8 yards per carry, so it’s not just junk volume. The Falcons’ production on the ground comes primarily from rookie running back Bijan Robinson, who’s already looking like one of the best running backs in the league.
Bold prediction of the week: Lions, Isaiah Buggs hold Falcons to <110 rushing yards
You’re getting a double whammy bold prediction here. For starters, the Lions have a chance to neutralize one of the league’s most prolific rushing attacks. Doing so will be highly contingent on the Lions offense striking early and often. That won’t be easy, as the Falcons also have a quietly formidable defense of their own this year.
If the Lions can start hot though, they’ll force their opponent to play from behind. That means taking the ball away from the Falcons’ best player in Bijan Robinson and putting it in the hands of unproven quarterback Desmond Ridder.
Beyond that strategy, I think the Lions will need some extra assistance to pull this off. The Falcons run very heavy packages on offense, and the Lions will need some serious beef to match that. That means calling on defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs to play his first active game this year.
If the Lions can concoct the right mix of personnel, strategy, and execution, they may slow down Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and the Falcons rushing attack before they can get started. If not, Ben Johnson better be in his bag and brace for a long afternoon.