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NOTEBOOK: Lions more aggressive against the pass

As the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams last year, Case Keenum had arguably the best game of his season against Detroit.

Keenum completed 19 straight passes at one point, and finished 27 of 32 throwing the ball for 321 yards. He threw three touchdowns, rushed for another, and his only blemish was a late interception that sealed Detroit's 31-28 victory.

Keenum, like so many other quarterbacks last year, had a lot of success against Detroit's defense.

Opposing signal callers completed better than 72 percent of their passes with a passer rating over 100.0 when playing the Lions a year ago.

The Lions will face Keenum once again this week as they travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Keenum signed with the Vikings this offseason to be Sam Bradford's backup, and has been forced into starting duty with Bradford nursing a knee injury.

But this time around, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin feels a lot better about his defense, and thinks they are much better equipped to challenge receivers and be more aggressive in the pass game.  

"How we were built last year we were trying to make sure we didn't keep letting anything behind us, which we're doing every year, but we didn't challenge as much last year, and (Keenum) was able to deal that ball to the right guy, time, after time, after time," Austin said this week.

"Our guys did a good job of just holding up and then at the very end, getting an interception off of him."

Through the first three games this year, Detroit's been much more aggressive, and that's led to some opportunistic situations in the secondary. The early numbers speak to Detroit's improvement defending the pass.

This year, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan have combined to complete 63.5 percent of their passes with just four touchdowns and seven interceptions for a rating of just 70.2. Only Baltimore (58.5), Jacksonville (59.6), Kansas City (64.1) and Buffalo (64.9) have held opposing quarterbacks to a lower passing rating through the first three weeks than the Lions.

"We've talked about our depth, we've improved our depth," Austin said. "And so, I think when you improve the depth, you improve the competitiveness of the guys in the room, so they play better and I think that's what we've done."


Ziggy Ansah spent his first three seasons in the NFL going up against then Lions left tackle Riley Reiff. There certainly won't be any mysteries about each other's games when the two square off Sunday in Minnesota.

View photos of the starters for the Minnesota Vikings

Reiff spent his first five seasons in Detroit, four at left tackle and last year at right tackle, before leaving to sign a lucrative contract with the Vikings in free agency as their left tackle.

"Well, we thought he was the best one out there," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said in a conference call this week. "We thought he played really well on the left side and I know they moved him to the right side, but we thought he played well there."

In three games, Reiff hasn't allowed a single sack or quarterback hit, and only has six quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus stats.

"Riley's played really well, and I think part of the reason why we were attracted to him was his attitude, demeanor, his toughness," Zimmer said. "He's a Midwest guy that I think we just would fit in well here."

Ansah was shut out of the stat book last week by Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews. Can he have more of an impact this week against a very familiar foe?

CAPTAINS Captains for Sunday's NFC North showdown with the Vikings in Minnesota are: Running back Theo Riddick (offense), cornerback Darius Slay (defense) and running back Zach Zenner (special teams).

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