The Detroit Lions defense came out of the gates red-hot against Philadelphia last week.
Well, red-hot might not be the most appropriate term to use in a game that featured around six inches of snow, but the Lions had the Eagles on their heels early in that game.
The Eagles went three-and-out on their first three possessions and threw an interception on their fourth. They then punted again, turned it over on downs and punted twice more in their next four possessions.
It wasn't until right around the time rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah left the game with a shoulder injury that the Eagles got things together on offense and rolled off five-straight touchdown drives.
"He’s been a huge factor every game he’s played," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said of the team's first-round pick. "The games he hasn’t played we’ve obviously missed him."
Ansah leaving the game certainly wasn’t the only factor in the Lions giving up 34 straight points. Their inability to tackle played a part, too, but there’s no question the Lions are a better defense when Ansah is on the field.
He leads the Lions and all rookies with seven sacks, but his ability and willingness to play the run has made him a terrific addition to the edge of that front.
Ansah has great speed for a player his size (6-5, 276) and has terrific instincts in the run game. He has strong hands and doesn’t miss a lot of tackles. When he gets his hands on quarterbacks or ball carries the next stop is generally the turf.
It’s unclear if that shoulder injury will keep him from playing Monday night vs. Baltimore. The Lions will practice the next three days and still have five days until kickoff.
Ansah missed two games in early November because of a high ankle sprain and the Lions missed him, especially in a loss at Pittsburgh. He returned on Thanksgiving and collected four sacks in his next two games. He had three tackles (one for a loss) before leaving last week’s game.
Cunningham said the Ravens are a tough running football team that likes to take their shots down the field in the passing game. They’ve given up 41 sacks on the year, however, the fourth-most in the NFL.
The Lions missed Ansah in the second half last week. They could certainly use their best rusher against an offense like Baltimore's.