The Detroit Lions look like they found something pretty special in rookie defensive back Brian Branch.
The second-round pick out of Alabama was the best defensive player on the field for the Lions Sunday and his NFL career is just three games old. Branch notched 11 tackles, three tackles for loss and two passes defended in Detroit's 20-6 win over Atlanta Sunday. He was all over the field delivering big hits and impact plays.
"It's a big part of my game, a big emphasis," Branch said of making plays in Atlanta's backfield Sunday. "I missed a tackle today that I still think about, but just got to keep on – it's the will to tackle. I feel like as long as I have that mindset."
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after the game he thought Branch set the tone for Detroit's terrific defensive performance Sunday, a performance that held Atlanta to just two field goals, 183 total yards of offense and 44 yards on the ground.
"He really stepped up," Campbell said after the game of Branch. "You could feel his energy. He gets better every practice. Every day he gets a little bit better. He's making big plays in critical moments as opposed to the other way. The more he plays the better he gets and the more he understands what we're trying to do. He's a playmaker."
The Lions were already dealing with injuries to left tackle Taylor Decker (ankle) and right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) that prevented them from playing Sunday. By halftime they lost two more tackles as Matt Nelson (ankle) and Dan Skipper (hamstring) left the game and did not return. That left rookie guard Colby Sorsdal to come in to play tackle the entire second half.
"We talk all the time it's next man up," Campbell said. "That's a credit to Brad (Holmes) and the depth that we have on this team in areas and it's paying dividends. That o-line was making sure we were taking care of Sorsdal and he battled out there. He really did."
Sorsdal played tackle in college but the Lions shifted him to guard after drafting him in the fifth round in this year's draft.
The Lions have a quick turnaround this week as they hit the road to play division rival Green Bay on the road on Thursday Night Football. It's something Detroit's certainly used to as they play on Thanksgiving every year, but it's still always a tough week on the coaches and players.
"This is the no sleep and do whatever you have to do to stay awake and put together a great game plan for the players," Campbell said.
For the players, Campbell said this week is all about recovery and getting their bodies ready to go at it again in just four days.
"That can be their sole focus," he said. "They have to do everything it takes to get their bodies back by Thursday. It's not easy on anybody but that's what we're charged with."
Thursday's game will be for first place in the NFC North with both Detroit and Green Bay having identical 2-1 records to start the year.
- Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had nine receptions for 102 yards. It's his eighth 100-yard receiving game in his career, tied for the third most through a Lions player's first three seasons.
- It didn't end up hurting them too much Sunday, but the Lions certainly need to clean up the penalties before Thursday. They were flagged 10 times for 119 yards against the Falcons.
- Lions punter Jack Fox quietly had a nice game. He averaged 45.7 yards on six punts with a net average of 43.8. He placed three punts inside the 20-yard line and had a long of 62 yards.