MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: A return of Detroit's big-play defense would go a long way vs. Packers

Posted Nov 18, 2012

Interception returns for touchdowns and sacks that caused fumbles helped the Lions get off to a 7-3 start in 2011.

The big-play defense that made such an impact on the Lions' fast start a year ago has been missing this season.

Interception returns for touchdowns and sacks that caused fumbles helped the Lions get off to a 7-3 start.

Recapturing that form would go a long way to helping the Lions upsetting the Packers in Sunday's game at Ford Field.

Last year, two interception returns for touchdowns triggered a second-half comeback in a 34-30 win at Dallas.

The Lions forced only 10 turnovers - five fumble recoveries and five interceptions - through the first nine games. Getting turnovers from the Packers is a difficult chore. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had only five interceptions and one lost fumble going into the game.

"We had an awful lot of those last year," Coach Jim Schwartz said.

Causing a fumble on a sack often does more to change field position and change momentum than an interception does. Obviously, that isn't the case

"Honestly, most of the time a sack stripped is a more valuable play than an interception, because most of the time, interceptions are deeper down the field."

Obviously, an interception in the end zone that stops a scoring drive is a valuable play, but forcing a fumble causes a big loss in yards or gives the defense a recovery.

Eye test: Erik Coleman and Ricardo Silva are the starting safeties, giving the Lions the same pair of starters in the deep secondary as last week.

Coleman was poked in the eye in the Minnesota game and missed some practice time. There was some question of whether Coleman or Don Carey would start at safety.

Pitch and catch: Calvin Johnson has taken some punishment this season, and last week's game was no exception. He took two hard shots to the head.

That has not affected his desire to prepare, though. Two hours before the game, Johnson was out with the other receivers running routes and catching passes from the quarterbacks.

Johnson's the best receiver in the league, but he doesn't rely simply on his natural ability. He works at his game.

High standard: Matthew Stafford and Johnson will have a hard time matching their individual performances in the last game against the Packers - a 45-41 loss at Green Bay in the season-ending game of 2011.

Stafford threw for 520 yards and five touchdowns. Johnson caught 11 passes for 244 yards and a TD.

The Packers' quarterback had a big game, but it wasn't Rodgers. With a playoff berth and the No. 1 seed in the NFC locked up, Rodgers sat out and was replaced by Matt Flynn.

Flynn threw for 480 yards and six TDs.

He signed a big free-agent contract with Seattle but was beaten out by rookie Russell Wilson. Flynn has not played in a game.