LIONS INSIDER

Twentyman: Today is the most important game of the season

Posted Dec 2, 2012

A win streak has to start somewhere and the Lions could certainly use a victory after dropping three straight.

Ford Field hasn’t been the home-field advantage the Lions had hoped for so far this season as the team is just 2-3 at home heading into today’s matchup with Indianapolis.

Most likely, the Lions have to win all of their remaining five games to have a chance at the playoffs after starting 4-7, with three of those games at Ford Field.

“It’s certainly something that we aspire to do,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of reclaiming the advantage at Ford Field. “We want to win at home. We want to win on the road also, but particularly the advantage that our home crowd gives us.

“I think we saw it the last couple games. Our crowd against Green Bay was fantastic. Other than not getting the win it was a game that kept the crowd in the game; same thing with the Thanksgiving game. It means an awful lot to us and we certainly feel a responsibility to win particularly at home in front of our home fans.”

Today is the most important game of the season for the Lions because it’s the next game. A win streak has to start somewhere and the Lions could certainly use a victory after dropping three straight.

“The only thing we can worry about is the Colts,” Schwartz said. “I think we can get as hot as anybody in the NFL, but the whole idea is to do enough to win a game. That’s what I think we’ve got to be concerned with. If we play well then we can do that.”

HISTORY
The series dates back to 1950 when the Colts franchise was in Baltimore. The Colts hold a slight 20-19-2 edge in the series. Since moving to Indianapolis in 1983, the Colts hold a 4-2 advantage. The Colts won the last game, 31-21, in Indianapolis in 2008.

2012 REGULAR SEASON RANKINGS (Rank)

LionsColts
Record 4-7 7-4
Points per game 24.3 (14) 20.9 (21)
Total yards per game 412.9 (2) 386.0 (5)
Rushing yards 100.5 (24) 108.3 (17)
Passing yards 312.5 (1) 277.7 (7)
Points allowed 25.5 (23) 24.8 (22)
Total yards allowed 328.1 (10) 299.2 (4)
Rushing yards allowed 122.4 (21) 121.2 (20)
Passing yards allowed 221.5 (12) 233.8 (19)
Turnover ratio -7 (25t) -14 (30)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lions

Jeff Backus/Riley Reiff, T:

Backus returned to practice this week after having his iron-man streak of 187 consecutive starts (including playoffs) broken on Thanksgiving because of hamstring injury, but he was limited all week. Reiff, who started for Backus last week, took most of the first-team reps in the portion of practice open to the media on Friday.

“If they can go out and do their job and help us be in a position to win then they’ll be out on the field,” Schwartz said of Backus. “If they can’t, then they won’t.”

If Backus is healthy enough to play, he should get the start. His experience will come in handy vs. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and Co.

Ryan Broyles, WR:

Broyles stepped up in the absence of Titus Young last week with the first 100-yard performance of his career (126). The Lions have been looking for a steady No. 2 receiver opposite Calvin Johnson since Nate Burleson suffered a broken leg at Chicago. If Broyles has another good performance this week, the Lions might have found their No. 2.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE:

Pettigrew had a crucial fumble in overtime last week that halted a potential game-winning drive in Texans territory. It’s the second time Pettigrew has fumbled in overtime (at Tennessee) this season.

Pettigrew could use a bounce-back game today vs. Indianapolis.

“We have a lot of confidence in Brandon Pettigrew,” Schwartz said. “He’s made a lot of plays for us. Has been a rough spot for him as far as some drops and some fumbles, but he’ll get through it and prove that he’s the good player that we all know he is.”

Colts

Reggie Wayne, WR:

Reggie Wayne needs 95 receiving yards to reach 1,200 for the sixth time in his career. He leads the AFC with 1,195 yards on 84 receptions.

The Colts do a good job of mixing up their formations and moving Wayne around with motion. He’s working out of the slot and also working right and left.

“He’s basically a rookie in this offense with all the things that we’re asking him to do,” Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. “I think it’s revitalized him and he’s excited about doing all those different things.”

Robert Mathis, OLB:

Mathis has five sacks in his last four games.

His transition from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker has been very smooth. He seems well suited to play standing up and hasn’t really had any issues, according to Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Mathis leads the team with seven sacks despite missing four games. At times, Mathis will also be in his normal three-point stance in passing situations.

T.Y. Hilton, WR:

Hilton became the first Colts player ever to score a touchdown by a punt return and a reception in the same game last week, which won the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor.

He has three 100-plus receiving games, tying the club rookie record. He has 33 receptions, a 14.8 average and a team-leading five touchdown receptions, while his 12.3 punt return average is sixth in the NFL.

5 KEYS FOR LIONS

WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
The Lions have a turnover ratio of minus-seven, which is tied for 25th in the NFL.

Despite their 7-4 record, the Colts’ turnover ratio is minus-14 and includes minus-12 in three road losses to the Bears, Jets and Patriots by a 135-54 combined score.

Lions win the turnover battle and history seems to be on their side when it comes to the Colts losses this season.

PUT THE FOOT ON THE GAS
There have been 95 games decided by eight-points-or-less, which is the most through the first 12 weeks of a season in NFL history.

The Colts have been involved in seven of those contests and the Lions nine. The Colts hold a 6-1 record in such game and the Lions are 3-6.

The Lions have failed each of the last two weeks to separate themselves from both the Packers and Texans when given the opportunity in the fourth quarter. The Colts have won four games in the fourth quarter or overtime. A close game at the end favors the Colts.  

PRESSURE LUCK
Luck was sacked four times in a win over Buffalo last week, which bumps his season total to 26. At his current pace, he would finish with 38 sacks taken this season.

The Lions defensive line has accounted for 23 of its 25 sacks and could have plenty of depth to keep waves of defenders coming at Luck if Corey Williams (questionable, knee) plays.

Defensive end Cliff Avril leads the Lions with 7.5 sacks and has three sacks and a forced fumble in the past two games. Keeping Luck uncomfortable is one of the keys for the Lions.

EARLY AND OFTEN FOR JOHNSON
In the last four games, Johnson is averaging eight catches and 154 yards receiving. The Colts enter the game with the league’s No. 19 pass defense and will be without starting safety Tom Zbikowski (knee).

The Colts will have cornerback Vontae Davis back in the secondary after missing the last four games with a knee injury.

With small cornerbacks, the only way they’ll really be able to slow down Megatron is if they put a lot of pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford.

KEEP THE OFFENSE OFF THE FIELD
Detroit (271) and Indianapolis (263) are second and third in first downs produced and both rank in the top five in total offense.

The strength of both these teams is their offense – especially quarterback play -- and their ability to move the chains and score points.

Moving the chains and converting third downs keeps the other offense sidelined.