Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow and Kenny Wiggins – the three players that make up the interior of Detroit's offensive line – will face arguably their toughest task of the season Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams come to town.
The Rams are bringing with them the best defensive tackle duo in the NFL in All-Pro players Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. It's tough enough facing one really good interior defender, which the Lions have done often this season with the likes of Akiem Hicks, Kenny Clark, Sheldon Richardson and others, but to have two players the caliber of Donald and Suh next to each other presents a whole new set of problems
"It just kind of comes down to you can't scheme everything up (playing these two)," Glasgow said Friday. "You can't always scheme up double teams and sometimes it'll just come down to one-on-one blocks and making sure we come out on the better end of them."
Through Week 12, LA has generated the second most quarterback hurries (153) in the league per Pro Football Focus. They haven't always produced sacks – the Rams have only 29 of those on the year – but they're affecting the quarterback at a terrific clip. Donald has been credited with 41 hurries on the year, the most among all interior defensive linemen. He's sacked Stafford four times in the two times they've played.
"You just have to bring it," Ragnow said Friday of squaring up against Donald and Suh. "You have to bring it 100 percent of the time 24/7. You have to bring your best because these are two of the best.
"Aaron Donald is like the best football player I've ever watched on film. Oh my gosh. He's good. I'm excited to go against him and battle."
Suh tends to spend a lot of his time in opposing backfields as well. His 106 tackles for loss since 2010 are the fifth most in the NFL.
"That's what you wake up for," Wiggins said about playing the best. "You just have to know where they are on the field and be aware of that and then attack them when you can."
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After struggling through the first 10 games of the season, veteran running back LeGarrette Blount broke through last week for 88 yards and two touchdowns filling in for the injured Kerryon Johnson (knee).
So what was the difference for Blount on Thanksgiving against Chicago?
"I got the ball 18 times, 19 times, however many times it was," Blount said. "I think every running back in this league, whatever running back plays on all 32 teams, is going to want the rock over the course of the game.
"You want to get lathered up. You want to be able to see how (the opponent) is playing and how they're fitting the runs and how they're playing against certain runs. Whenever you get a chance and an opportunity to get a few (carries) in a row and see how it's going, it helps a lot."
The 19 carries were a season-high for Blount. Through the first 10 weeks, Blount had just 183 yards on 78 carries for a little over a two-yard average per rush.
The Rams are allowing 119.9 yards per game on the ground to opponents, and with Johnson expected to miss his second consecutive game with a knee injury, Blount should get the rock plenty come Sunday. The Lions will certainly be hoping he has the same kind of success he had against the Bears in a lead role.
STAYING THE COURSE
The season Detroit's had so far has put head coach Matt Patricia in unfamiliar territory. Since joining the NFL in 2004 as an assistant with the Patriots, Patricia has never lost seven games in any regular season. The Lions are currently 4-7 heading into Sunday's matchup with the Los Angeles Rams.
As a first-year head coach, Patricia has talked about this being a process of changing the culture and implementing new systems and ways of doing things in Detroit. Patricia has tried to stay consistent in his preparation win or lose, with winning being the ultimate goal, obviously.
"My biggest disappointment with all of it would just be I always feel that after we're done with games I look at it and say, 'What could I have done more to help? What should I have done more as a coach to put these guys in better position or play smarter or just whatever the case may be?'" Patricia said Friday.
Patricia admitted the loses grind on him, but also drive him to do more to get this team in the right spot. His plan is to continue to put his head down and grind, and he tells his players to do the same thing.
"I always tell the players, 'hey, we're rolling, there's no light at the end of the tunnel,'" Patricia said. "We're just heads down and grind. That's what we do. Just try to stay consistent. That's all it is. No worries."