If facing All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald wasn't going to be enough of a challenge for Detroit's offensive line on Sunday, the Rams were also getting back defensive tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end William Hayes, both of whom missed last week's loss to Buffalo.
The Rams were still without Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn, but Donald, Hayes and Brockers form a potent trio upfront.
To make matter worse for Detroit, guard Larry Warford was inactive due to a hip injury, meaning rookie guard Graham Glasgow would be getting his first NFL start, joining left tackle Taylor Decker as rookie starters along Detroit's offensive line. The Lions started Glasgow at left guard and shifted second-year guard Laken Tomlinson over to the right side.
Advantage Rams, right?
Not so fast.
Detroit's makeshift line of youngsters won the battle upfront for most of the contest, and helped propel the Lions to a 31-28 victory.
"We had some new guys playing in some different spots up front and they blocked their [butts] off," quarterback Matthew Stafford said after the game.
"You know, to play that front, what did we give up? One sack? I felt comfortable really the whole day. I mean, that's big-time football for those guys to step in and play, and then we ran the ball pretty darn well too. So it was a good day for our guys up front."
Stafford was sacked just once late in the fourth quarter by Donald, and was hit a grand total of four times over the game's 60 minutes.
Detroit also gained an efficient 83 yards on the ground, forcing the Rams to respect that part of their game all afternoon.
"Against that particular front is a heck of a challenge," head coach Jim Caldwell said of the play upfront.
"Moved Laken (Tomlinson) also to the right side, he'd been playing left. So, with those adjustments our offensive line, I thought, hung in there extremely well. Obviously, only allowed one sack so that's a pretty good day's work."
Facing a 3rd and 12 at their own 38 yard line in the third quarter, the Rams gifted Stafford and Co. a free play when Donald jumped offside.
It was a chance Stafford was hoping he'd get at some point in the game after watching tape on the Rams during the course of the week.
"Awww, it's a good feeling," Stafford said of the opportunity for free plays. "I love them. It's a lot of fun.
"All week I kind of watched these guys. It's tough to hold the ball against them. They have a great rush. I kind of watched the tape and some quarterbacks looking one way and looking one way and the backside corner just kind of for whatever reason kind of sloughing off thinking the play was over. And I wanted that chance to do that in the game and got a chance there."
The Rams were playing single high on the play. Cornerback Troy Hill, who was covering Golden Tate on the back side, did exactly what Stafford had seen on tape and let Tate get behind him.
Stafford launched a deep pass to Tate right before he got hit. The resulting connection covered 61 yards down to the Rams 1-yard line and set up a touchdown two plays later.
Stafford tried to keep the Rams off balance with hard counts all game, and in this instance, it resulted in a huge play.
ZENNER TO RESCUE
The Lions entered the game with only two healthy running backs in Zach Zenner and Justin Forsett after Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington were both listed as inactive due to ankle injuries.
Zenner set the tone early for the Lions with a 15-yard run on the game's first play, and he was efficient throughout the game, carrying the Lions on the ground.
He finished with 58 yards on 14 carries (4.1 average) and also caught a couple passes for 19 yards.
Forsett, who the Lions signed on Tuesday, had five yards on five carries.
"You're looking for an opportunity," Zenner said after the game. "You're trying to make the most of it and I tried to do that today."
Zenner finished with just as many yards (58) on just as many carries (14) as Rams Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley did.
Kicker Matt Prater connected on a 34-yard field goal with 1:29 left in the game that gave the Lions their 31-28 final lead of the game.
Prater now has 11 career game-winning kicks with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter or overtime, including three this season.