When: 7:10 p.m. ET, Monday, Sept. 8
This is a rematch of last year's Week 16 game, also played in Detroit. New York won that game 23-20 in overtime after safety Will Hill helped force the extra period by picking off Matthew Stafford and returning the interception for a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Because this is the season opener, it's hard to have a real strong tactical grasp of these teams. However, there are three ways in which the Lions figure to attack the Giants.
Come Out Firing
Ford Field figures to be rocking Monday night. The Lions haven't opened at home on Monday Night Football since 1971, and the fans are energized by the prospects of watching a talented squad led by a new coaching staff.
The Lions need to seize upon the energy provided by their raucous partisans and come out with guns blazing. Fortunately they've shown that ability in the preseason.
Detroit dominated the early going against both the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason, when both the Lions and the two opponents were playing starters. While these Giants are probably better than both those teams, the Lions can pounce quickly once again.
Detroit's offensive weaponry showed in the preseason that it can attack from anywhere. Witness Reggie Bush turn a well-blocked run into 86-yard paydirt against Jacksonville...
The Lions defense can also play to the crowd to build momentum. Or it could utilize, as it did against Oakland, some newfound gimmickry—wrinkles that former defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham eschewed but his replacement Teryl Austin embraces.
Linebacker Stephen Tulloch (No. 55) showed in the preseason he's quite good at blitzing, as he does on this play to force the quarterback into a terrible throw. Tahir Whitehead, a surprise starter at outside linebacker, also demonstrated proficiency as a blitzer with his three-sack performance against the Jaguars.
If the Lions can come out and force an early turnover, or get quick-strike touchdown on offense or a long kickoff return from Jeremy Ross, the resulting cacophony could devastate a Giants team that struggled in the preseason.
Shut Down the Run
New York's offense sputtered throughout the exhibition season. Many of those woes came in the passing game, where Eli Manning struggled behind a rebuilt line and the weakest receiver corps he's had in his decade in the NFL.
This was how bad Manning was through their first four preseason games (the Giants played five):
Eli Manning 2014 preseason stats: 19/37 (51.4%), 188 yards (5.1 Y/A), 1 TD, 0 INT, 75.1 rating. PFF’s lowest graded QB: 79th out of 79.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) August 24, 2014
Yet the Giants did have some success running the ball in the preseason. Because of this, and because Manning is known to put the ball up for grabs, the Lions are actually in better shape if the Giants are throwing the ball a lot more than they run.
The last thing Detroit wants is for the young Giants offensive line to gel into a solid, confident unit. If New York can get into a rhythm running the ball, it takes away from Detroit's biggest advantage in this game—turning loose its defensive line on passing downs and going after a turnover-prone Manning. The Lions must commit to snuffing out the run, even if it costs them an early big play to Manning and one of his receivers.
We covered different ways to handle Manning and the Giants passing attack earlier this week. Bring the blitz!
Put the Game away with the Run
Lions fans last year bemoaned the team's inability to hold onto fourth-quarter leads. Detroit had a lead in the final 15 minutes of all but one loss (the Calvin Johnson-less game in Green Bay).
The Giants game last year is a perfect example. The Lions got the ball with 6:30 left to play, holding a 20-13 lead. Then the wheels came off.
Most teams like to run to bleed the clock, and the Lions did in fact run on the first two plays. The runs were painfully obvious calls, and the Giants quickly snuffed them out. Worse, both plays ended with the runner going out of bounds, stopping the clock.
This forced the Lions to throw on 3rd-and-long, and the very next play was Hill's interception.
Abandoning the very offense that got them the lead plagued Detroit. They must stay in attack mode, even when running the ball.
Here's a play from earlier in that game which represents an aggressive run call from a formation that doesn't scream "run."
Tight end Dorin Dickerson motions into the backfield to become an H-back. When the right linebacker doesn't carry past the center, it makes the blocking assignments easy. Joique Bell gets the ball and immediately has two solid paths at his disposal.
Dickerson blows up the left linebacker, while right tackle LaAdrian Waddle completely walls off the end. On the other side, another wide hole is created with strong blocking and utter indecisiveness by No. 54, Spencer Paysinger.
Bell opts to follow Dickerson and explodes through the massive hole. The safety is frozen, apparently in shock and awe at the size of the hole. Bell gashes out 12 yards and the Lions move the chains.
If the Lions once again find themselves with a fourth-quarter lead, they need to continue to apply offensive pressure. Coach Jim Caldwell can win over fans by sticking with the base offense instead of getting conservative and predictable.
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