Battered and bruised secondary comes through big in Detroit's 38-10 win over San Diego

Posted Dec 24, 2011

The Lions secondary has been a battered and bruised bunch all season.

It has battled through the adversity, however, and Sunday it came up with several important plays in the playoff-clinching 38-10 victory against San Diego at Ford Field.

"Coach (Jim) Schwartz has always made it known that everything we need is in this locker room," said cornerback Alphonso Smith, who batted down Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' fourth-down pass at the goal line early in the fourth quarter when the game's outcome was still in doubt.

Smith played hardly at all during the first half of the season because of a foot injury and the strong play of the other cornerbacks -- Chris Houston, Eric Wright and Aaron Berry.

Lately, with injuries sidelining Houston and Berry, Smith has had more chances to play. He intercepted two passes in Detroit's victory against Minnesota two weeks ago.

"We're blessed to have a great position coach (Tim Walton) who coaches everybody the same," Smith said. "Brandon McDonald just got back here on Thursday and he knew every call. He probably played 15 snaps today and he was prepared for every call that we made. We're a unit that trusts each other."

That trust goes beyond the secondary.

Outside linebacker Justin Durant doesn't give a second thought about who might be playing behind him.

"We have so much talent back there, so the next man just has to step up," Durant said. "We have to play our game no matter who's behind us. I have full confidence in everybody on this team. We have so many playmakers back there, it really doesn't change our game."

When free safety Louis Delmas went out with a knee injury in the Thanksgiving Day game, Chris Harris, claimed off waivers from the Chicago Bears in late October, stepped in and has played well.

In last week's come-from-behind victory in Oakland, Houston took himself out of the game because the knee he injured on Thanksgiving wasn't allowing him to play at top speed. He was replaced by Smith.

"I knew what was at stake with this franchise wanting to get into the playoffs," Houston said. "It's December. Everybody's hurt. I had to go for my team. I tried to go last week but I wasn't all the way there so I took myself out. Everybody's got confidence in (Alphonso).

"I was able to make my cuts and breaks in practice this week so I knew I was ready for this game. I was feeling 100-percent; no thoughts of pulling myself out."

Houston played at the high level at which he has performed all season when he's been healthy. He knocked down four of Rivers' passes and intercepted one at the Lions' one-yard line in the fourth quarter and returned it 43 yards.

Houston also sang the praises of Walton.

"It all starts with him getting us prepared," Houston said. "We've had injuries but guys have stepped in. That shows how the coaches get the other guys prepared."

Rivers is one of the premier passers in the NFL and he has a solid corps of receivers that includes Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Patrick Crayton. Rivers threw 53 times, but completed only 28 for 299 yards and was intercepted twice.

"We knew we had to be resilient," Smith said. "We knew that they were going to make plays, but we knew that we were going to make our plays, too. We were blessed to make ours at the right time.

"We knew it was going to be a battle. Our offense got out in front and that made it a little easier on us because we knew pass was coming. We just went to gut-check time and executed man-on-man."

The Lions used a lot of man coverage against the Chargers.

"If we hadn't had a lot of injuries down the stretch, we would have played a lot more cover-1," Houston said. "We played a lot of cover-2 and zone last week. Coach showed a lot of confidence in us this week.

"We saw (San Diego's) splits. They know we're a man team and they were going to pick us coming across. We did a great job communicating (the picks). Our defensive backs coach got us prepared for all of that."