Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons match up in a battle of undefeated teams

By The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 20, 2017 at 11:19 PM
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons appeared to make major strides from the season-opener to their second game against the Green Bay Packers.

They will need another leap on the road when they face the upstart Detroit Lions, who are also off to a 2-0 start with impressive wins over the Seahawks and Giants.

The Lions, who may have finally balanced their offense, are playing well and have flashed some stingy defense.

"They've got some explosive guys at running back, wide receiver and tight end," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "On the defensive side with their pass rushers. It's going to be a heck of a matchup."

The Lions have held their first two opponents to a total of 107 yards rushing.

Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined to rushed 20 times for 53 yards against the Bears. Against the Packers, they combined to rush 25 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Freeman was perturbed that the Packers thought they could play their nickel and dime defenses and still shut down the Falcons' rushing attack. He ran with determination, speed and power against the Packers.

"I thought it was an aggressive showing," Quinn said. "Especially Freeman had some really aggressive runs and made yards after contact and made guys miss. That's vintage Freeman."

Coleman had a nice 35-yard run against the Packers and will be looking to break loose against the Lions, who could be without their fine rookie middle linebacker Jarrad Davis.

"You saw Tevin's speed when he got out to the outside," Quinn said. "I was pleased with that part of our game."

The Falcons' new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, has the offense in gear in his second game at the controls.

"It started way back to when we first got here and were making sure that it's clear what style and attitude we want to play with," Quinn said. "So, we were kind of indoctrinating Sarkisian into that. I thought he particularly did an excellent job of making this connection with Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub."

Sarkisian is getting use to deploying all of his weapons.

"We went through the whole process of looking at the things we did well and the things we'd like to try to improve upon," Quinn said. "He added some wrinkles that were fresh eyes for us. As we got into training camp and now into the season, it's all about how we best feature the guys in their roles. How do we get them plays in certain formations. That part is becoming stronger."

Defensively, the Falcons will have to chase around Stafford without All-Pro edge rusher Vic Beasley, who will miss the game because of a hamstring strain. Rookie Takkarist McKinley is set to get more action along with Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby.

The Falcons also will be without defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw.

"When the injuries took place with Upshaw and Beasley, it left us shorthanded," Quinn said. "When another guy goes down, it's your turn to pick it up and go. The will have to really battle."

The back end of the Lions defense is in good hands with free safety Glover Quin and cornerback Darius Slay.

Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is the only player in NFL with more interceptions than Quin since 2013 with 18. Quin has 17 interceptions since 2013 and led the league with seven in 2014.

"Defensively, they are very good tacklers especially in the secondary," Quinn said.

Worrilow, a former undrafted player from Delaware, played with the Falcons from 2013 to 2015.

"He could certainly tell them a lot," Quinn said. "He's a half coach anyway. Usually, players have to go play. I've never been one to get too concerned about the crossing of players. If you memorized all of our formations and plays you'd be dizzy by the time the plays started because there is quite a few."

The Falcons' special teams unit will be on alert also.

Lions rookie Jamal Agnew had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Giants.

SERIES HISTORY: 37th regular season meeting. Lions lead series, 24-12. The Falcons are 3-1 against the Lions with Matt Ryan at the controls. On Sept. 7, 2008, Ryan made his first NFL start against the Lions and guided the Falcons to a 34-31 victory.

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OL Ty Sambrailo is set to take over at right tackle if Ryan Schraeder is still in the league's concussion protocol program.

Last season the Falcons started the same offensive line for all 19 games.

"It's been a while," quarterback Matt Ryan said about having a different combination on the line. "Those guys have been so durable up front for us."

Sambrailo, who essentially replaced last season's swing tackle Tom Compton on the roster, was solid. The Falcons acquired him from Denver for a fifth round pick on Sept. 1.

"Obviously, he's only been here a couple of weeks," Ryan said. "We asked him to go in and really play the duration of the game for us. I think Schraeder was down on the last play of the first drive so he really played the game for us.

"I thought he did an excellent job. It's not an easy thing to do to come into a new system with as much as we do as far as changing plays at the line of scrimmage, and the number of calls that we have in per the game plan. I was really impressed with how he handled himself tonight."

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Backup guard/center Ben Garland played one play at defensive left tackle in the goal line defense on Sunday. Last season, Garland played 42 defensive snaps, including one play in Super Bowl LI.

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The Falcons sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times, extending their sack streak to 17 straight games and two straight games with three-plus sacks. The Falcons have seven sacks after two games, a pace that gave them 56 for the season. The Arizona Cardinals led the league with 48 sacks last season. Jacksonville is leading the league with 11 sacks through two games.

NOTES: QB Matt Ryan is averaging 9.9 yards per passing attempt, second in the NFL. ... LB De'Vondre Campbell recorded the first sack of his career. He finished the game with eight total tackles -- tied for a game high -- one pass deflection and a hit on the quarterback. ... LB/DE Vic Beasley (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday and is out for this week's game. ... RT Ryan Schraeder (concussion protocol) did not practice on Wednesday. ... DT Courtney Upshaw (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday and probably is out of this week's game. ... RB Brian Hill (ankle) who has been inactive for the first two games was limited in practice on Wednesday.

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