After a nationally televised game against a Super-Bowl contending opponent, the Detroit Lions have to shift gears to face the 0-2 Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
The Titans are starting a second-year quarterback, play in one of the weakest divisions in football (the AFC South) and are a non-playoff team from a year ago.
To start 2012, the Titans have been outscored 72-20 by opponents. Still, there are no alarms sounding in Tennessee.
“We need to win a football game, we know that,” said Titans head coach Mike Munchak. “Once Sunday starts, you’re not worried about the record anymore or where we stand. I think 0-2 kind of goes out the window once the game starts on Sunday and it’s just about that game and about finding a way to play better and winning against a good football team… A lot of teams have come back from being down 0-2 and done some very good things, I think you have to understand that part of it, but it’s too early in the season to start questioning and start having some doubts about where you’re at or what you’re capable of.”
The Titans would love for the Lions to be lulled to sleep by this relatively non-glamorous matchup but there is no indication of that in the Lions locker room.
“We’re not going to fall for the trap,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “Coach Jefferson tells us how he feels, being a former player. He’s a very wise coach, he’s gave us great insight each week. Today me and Calvin walked into the training room and he said, ‘this is a wounded animal and what wounded animals do is attack. Don’t go out there believing you’re just going to run over the Tennessee Titans’. We’re going to prepare for them like we prepared for Frisco.”
The Titans are a team that isn’t devoid of talent.
On offense, the Titans boast skill position players such as Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Chris Johnson – with Johnson being the player of focus.
“I was there for his rookie year; saw how explosive he can be,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “It’s very rare that there’s a team that is averaging 29 yards a game rushing that you sit there and say, ‘Hey we got to stop the run,’ but guess what? We have to stop the run. It starts because it’s Chris Johnson back there. He can have eight carries for eight yards and then go 80 yards on the ninth. He’s an explosive player and we have a lot of respect for what he can do. We’re going to have to play our best in run defensive. And like penalties, we’ve been a little spotty on that in our first two games. We played well in the first week on run defense, not so well last week. We need to get back to playing well or we’re going to have a difficult time.”
San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore broke several long runs against the Lions in last Sunday’s loss, finishing with 17 carries and 89 yards, although he didn’t take any long runs to the end zone.
Things could have been different if were Johnson.
“Those ones that Frank Gore had, if that was Chris Johnson last week, he probably would have went the whole distance,” said cornerback Chris Houston. “We know we have to clean those things up.”
The Lions are aware that the Titans will not be a pushover and are preparing for battle this week.
“We have to definitely be careful because those are teams that are clawing and scratching and fighting the hardest, the ones who are 0-2 because they are looking for that win, and we’re at their house,” said Houston.
For those worried about the dreaded ‘trap game’, don’t be. Worry about the Titans’ talent instead.