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5 things to watch: Lions vs. Rams

The Lions are trying to make it two in a row at home as they face the Los Angeles Rams (3-2) at Ford Field Sunday.

The Rams had a three-game winning streak snapped last week by Buffalo, and are looking to get back to their winning ways.

Here are five things to watch out for Sunday:


The Lions signed running back Justin Forsett earlier this week to add a veteran presence and some depth to their backfield.

Forsett, who turned 31 this past Friday, could play a big role for the Lions with Theo Riddick (ankle) and Dwayne Washington (ankle), the two top backs on the depth chart, banged up vs. the Rams.

Riddick, who leads the Lions in rushing with 171 yards, and leads all NFL running backs with 26 catches out of the backfield, will not play because of an ankle injury.

Washington missed last week's game with an ankle injury and is questionable to play today.

That leaves Forsett and Zach Zenner as the only healthy backs on the roster.

The Ravens struggled to run the ball with any real consistency earlier this season, which lead to a mutual parting of ways between Forsett and Baltimore. He has a new lease on his career in Detroit, and said earlier this week he's looking forward to the opportunity.

"I just want to be used," he said. "That's my main purpose. The more they use me, I'm ready for it."

The Rams enter the game ranked 28th in the NFL vs. the run, allowing 122.2 yards per game on the ground.


Both teams enter the contest beat up defensively.

The Rams could be without four starters on defense, including three along their stout defensive line. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers (hip), and defensive ends William Hayes (ankle) and Robert Quinn (shoulder), didn't play last week and are questionable to play again this week vs. the Lions.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher ruled cornerback Trumaine Johnson out earlier in the week.

"What we do is we just prepare for the best, the best they have," head coach Jim Caldwell said this week. "And you just anticipate because a lot of guys, depends on the time of week, they may come back, they may not.

"We'll get prepared for them, doesn't matter, whoever shows up and who plays is going to be a really fine player. You've still got your work cut out for you, they're not going to change a bunch of scheme things. They're still going to do what they do."

Things aren't looking a whole lot better for the Lions.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker DeAndre Levy didn't practice all week and won't play, but there is some potentially good news too.

Pro Bowl defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who missed the last three games with an ankle injury, could return Sunday. Ansah practiced all week and is listed as questionable.


The Rams could be a bit shorthanded along their defensive line, but the Lions will still have to face one of the league's best defenders in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald was the league's runner up for defensive player of the year honors last season.

In last year's loss to the Rams, Donald sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times.

In just his third season, Donald has already recorded 22.0 sacks from the interior. As a team, the Rams rank second in the NFL with 195 sacks dating back to the start of the 2012 season.

Donald can wreck the game if the Lions let him. It will be up to the young trio of Laken Tomlinson, Graham Glasgow and Travis Swanson to keep Donald somewhat in check.


Rams running back Todd Gurley ran roughshod over the Lions last season to the tune of 140 yards and two touchdowns.

After rushing for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games last season, the second-year back has had a rough go of things early on. He's currently averaging just 2.7 yards per game and his 288 rushing yards ranks 19th in the NFL.

Fisher said in a conference call this week that the Rams need to give Gurley more opportunities to make plays, and that he needed to be a factor for them in the fourth quarter.

Rams quarterback Case Keenum is a game manager, not a game breaker. He's completing just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and five interceptions for a 75.4 passer rating. The game plan for the Lions this week has to force Keenum to beat them.

"Stopping the run is vital, it's vital in each and every game we play and even more so in this game," Caldwell said. "This is one of the best backs in the League, so you're going to have to do a good job up front."

The Lions' run defense has been inconsistent at best through five games. Some weeks they've been good and others they've struggled. They enter the game averaging 114.8 yards given up on the ground, which ranks 21st.

Lions safety Glover Quin said this week that Gurley is one of the hardest backs in the league to get on the ground. That's especially true for just one defender. The Lions need to be very good at flowing to the football and gang tackling this week, or Gurley will hurt them.


Detroit has been good on offense for stretches this season, but they have yet to put a full 60-minute effort together.

Last week's Eagles game was yet another example. After scoring three touchdowns on all three of their first-half possessions, Stafford and Co. fumbled, punted, punted and punted on their next four possessions before being handed a short field by a turnover and moving down for the game-winning field goal.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said this week that he has to do a better job and be a little bit quicker to adapt to the adjustments being made on the other side of the ball.

Cooter has to find the right buttons to push consistently throughout an entire contest. Stafford passed for three touchdowns last week, and has a 100-plus-passer rating in six of his past eight games at home. The Lions could use another such performance today vs. a beaten up Rams defense.

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