Notebook: Houston, Avril suffer injury; Fairley one bright spot

Posted Nov 11, 2012

The last thing the Lions needed Sunday was more injuries to starters on defense. They entered Sunday's game in Minnesota without safeties Louis Delmas (knee) and Amari Spievey (concussion), and Corey Williams (knee).

They added to the list when starting left cornerback Chris Houston, who's arguably been the Lions most valuable player on defense this season, hurt his left ankle midway through the fourth quarter on Adrian Peterson's 61-yard touchdown run.

Houston walked off the field under his own power but did not return to the game. He said x-rays were negative in the locker room after the game.

Houston missed the first two games of the regular season after suffering a high ankle sprain in the preseason on the same leg.

Also, defensive end Cliff Avril went down early in the third quarter after taking a blow to the head. He, too, walked off the field on his own power, but never returned and was later diagnosed with a concussion.

He'll have to pass the league's concussion protocol before he can return to the field.

Second-year defensive tackle Nick Fairley was one of the bright spots in an otherwise poor defensive effort by the Lions.

Getting his third-career start in place of veteran Corey Williams (knee), Fairley recorded four tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.

Fairley has started three games this season in place of the injured Williams and in each one he's played well.

Fairley said a couple weeks ago after made consecutive starts against the Eagles and Bears that he thought his increase in production in those games was a result of playing earlier on.

He said he can better get in the flow of the game when he takes that initial blow from the opposing lineman on the first play from scrimmage and knows what to expect the rest of the way.

Baseball managers talk all the time about sticking with a player who has a hot bat. Well, Fairley has been a much better player this season when he starts.

It might be time for the Lions to go with the hot hand and change that rotation up a little bit. A veteran like Williams is still going to get his snaps, but maybe getting Fairley involved earlier in games is the recipe to continuing to get this kind of production out of him.

The Lions punter Nick Harris entered the game ranked No. 29 in the league with a 42.0 punting average this season. He could find himself a few spots farther down the list heading into next week after a 38.0 average against the Vikings on six punts.

Harris wasn't able to flip the field a couple times when it would have come in handy.

"We lost the field position battle," Lions quarterback  Matthew Stafford said.

The Lions started 11-of -13 drives at or inside the 20-yard line.

The Vikings started inside their 20 once, and started drives beyond their 40 five times.