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O'HARA'S WEEK 13 CHECKLIST: Lions vs. Rams

Mike Ford didn't spend a moment on Thanksgiving Day to bask in the atmosphere at Ford Field and reflect on how a promotion had made him a bigger contributor to the Detroit Lions' secondary.

Ford just played football. He went to work and did his job, and he did it well enough in the 23-16 loss to the Chicago Bears to likely get more playing time at cornerback in the final five games.

The entire Lions defense is certain to get a much tougher test Sunday from the Rams' high-octane offense than it did from the Bears with 32-year-old career backup Chase Daniel making his third start at quarterback.

Regardless of circumstances, Ford is one of many players who can enhance their positions for the future this time of year.

Ford, who was signed as an undrafted free agent from Southeast Missouri State, was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster for the last two games.

Ford played 29 of 58 snaps in the win over the Panthers and 51 of 58 against the Bears. Against Chicago he had six tackles, one of the Lions' three tackles for loss and the only pass breakup.

Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni noted his progression from one game to the next.

"He grew, improved, and did a better job," Pasqualoni said this week. "It's going to be a work in progress every week. He's only been in two games. He's still a rookie. It takes a long time to develop your skill set and to learn how to play your position.

"It takes a heck of a lot longer than two games. Some guys work at it for 10 years."

Series history: The Rams lead the all-time series 43-40, with one tie. The Lions won the last meeting, 31-28, in 2016.

2016 game rewind: The Lions rallied in the fourth quarter to win. Golden Tate caught a touchdown pass and Matt Prater kicked a 34-yard field goal with 1:29 left to win the game. Matthew Stafford threw four TD passes and had a passer rating of 139.8. Case Keenum threw three TD passes for the Rams.

Turnovers, slim picks: The Lions are lagging in turnover differential at minus six, and the lack of interceptions is a major reason. They have only four. Only the Bucs (3) and 49ers (2) have fewer.

The Rams are third at plus 11. They have 20 takeaways – 10 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries.

Donald, art of the sack: Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was at his dominating best in the Rams' last game. He had two sacks and forced two fumbles in the Rams' 54-51 win over the Chiefs.

Donald enjoyed how he had played a starring role on Monday Night TV – and enjoyed just as much the upcoming bye.

"Much needed," Donald told reporters. "Kick your feet back. Relax a little bit. And come back fresher "

"Guys are going to be fresh. We're going to be a stronger team."

The Lions have the misfortune of being the opponent for Donald and the Rams as they return from the bye. The Rams can clinch first place in the NFC West with a win or a tie Friday, and Donald is on a pace to set the NFL's single-season record for sacks.

He already has his personal high of 14.5, and he has 10 sacks in his last five games. If he continues to average two per game, he'll shatter the record of 22.5, set by Michael Strahan of the Giants in 2001.

"I think he's definitely playing his best football," Rams head coach Sean McVay said this week. "And the best part about Aaron is, the first thing he'll say is that he can always improve."

It's not like Donald needed much improvement. He was voted the league's defensive MVP last year.

Prediction: No need to overthink this one. The Rams are rolling, and their offense is in high gear. The Lions are skidding, and their offense is in neutral. The Lions might score, but not enough to win.

Rams 33, Lions 23.

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