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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 3

The Detroit Lions have an old friend and ally on their side who likes what they are trying to do on offense.

They also have fans following them on television in big numbers, according to the ratings for Sunday's Lions-Falcons game that was televised in Metro Detroit by WJBK-Fox2.

Those are two of the things we learned about the Lions from Sunday's 30-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

We also learned that the secondary is the strength of the defense. Sacks and interceptions are supposed to go hand in hand. The Lions sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan twice – and the secondary had three interceptions.

We also learned that rookie middle linebacker Jarrad Davis' value can be measured from his absence from Sunday's game.

Here's what we learned from Week 3:

On the run: Jeff Saturday, who played center for the Indianapolis Colts for 13 of his 14 NFL seasons and had Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as an assistant coach or head coach for 10 of them, likes how the Lions are being persistent with the run game.

View the best stylized images from the Detroit Lions' Week 3 game vs. Atlanta Falcons by team photographer Gavin Smith.

When Saturday spoke on ESPN's Mike & Mike show Monday morning, he looked at the run game as a plan, not an experiment. 

By the numbers, the running game needs work, but there is no sign that it is going to be abandoned. Through three games, the Lions have 291 yards rushing, an overall average of 3.7 yards per attempt but with Ameer Abdullah's average of 3.5 leading the tailbacks, and no rushing touchdowns.

"They are establishing the running game, even though it's not proficient or efficient yet," Saturday said. "I love that Jim Bob Cooter is calling the runs to keep the defense honest, where they (defenses) can't always play Matthew Stafford.

"That's going to pay benefits as the season moves on."

Overall, Saturday likes what he has seen in the Lions.

"Their defense is playing lights out," Saturday said. "They're taking advantage of plays when they need to. Their corners, their defensive back play, has been really, really good. Detroit is legit on defense.

"Detroit is a formidable opponent, and has a defense that has definitely improved. They're moving on."

Tube time: Sunday's game had a 26.3 overall household rating, according to the Nielsen Rating Service. It had a peak of 31 at the end of the game, when the Lions drove to the controversial finish.

"Those are very good numbers," said Fox2 research director Kelly Collins.

By comparison, Game 3 at Green Bay on Sept. 25 last year – also televised by the Fox network – had a 17.4 rating.

According to Nielsen, a ratings point represents 17,794 households in Metro Detroit, with an average of 2.5 residents per household. Based on those numbers, an average of 1.17 million people in Metro Detroit watched the game for the full rating period, with a peak viewing audience of 1.646 million.

Add to that the Ford Field attendance of 63,240 and that's a little more than 1.7 million who had their eyes on the Lions.

Secondary is primary: The Lions use a heavy rotation in their secondary for a good reason. Because they have talent and depth that allows them to match up based on situations.

Two players who aren't rotated are free safety Glover Quin and cornerback Darius Slay. 

Quin has made one Pro Bowl (in 2014) since coming to the Lions as a free agent in 2013. With two picks, and a TD return against the Falcons, he could be headed for No. 2. And Slay, with two picks off Matt Ryan Sunday, could make it for the first time. He's been an alternate.

Talk is cheap, and the defensive backs have talked about how they worked in the offseason to get their hands on more balls.

They've put their performance where their words are.

The rookie: Jarrad Davis was a special player at middle linebacker in the first two games, until he went out in the second half of Game 2 against the Giants with a concussion. He did not play Sunday, and his absence can be measured in the numbers.

In the first two games, the Lions allowed 107 yards on 32 carries – an average of 53.5 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry.

Atlanta's three longest runs Sunday gained 48 yards – just 5.5 yards short of what the two previous opponents averaged for a full game. And they ran for 151 overall – 44 more than the Lions gave up in two games combined.

Davis' absence didn't make all the difference, but it certainly had something to do with the Falcons ability to scorch the Lions' defense.

Maybe enough to win the game.

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