Offensive tackle Riley Reiff had a tough time keeping Clay Matthews away from Matthew Stafford last weekend. Matthews had two sacks. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — The Lions offensive linemen are a prideful bunch. They might not always win their matchups but rarely do they come out of a game feeling like they got out-muscled, that they lost the physical battle to the opposing defensive front.
They left Green Bay feeling like they got punked.
“We feel like we are a physical team,” center Dominic Raiola said. “That wasn’t a reflection of who we are, so, it’s going to be a brawl. We’re going to get back to that. That style of play, that’s what we did the first four weeks. (The Green Bay game) was a blip on the radar. Let’s kill it and move on to the next one.”
Coming off one of their best collective efforts against the Bears, the Lions struggled inside against the Packers’ large, five-player defensive tackle rotation. And they struggled on the edges trying to contain Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked five times. Running back Reggie Bush was held to 44 yards and he had five carries of zero or negative yardage.
And now they face the Browns, who deploy the same 3-4 defensive scheme with players just as big and perhaps more nasty than the Packers.
“Physical,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “They’re a team that likes to hit. They get after it upfront. In the secondary they have some guys that roam around and make some big plays and hits.
“That’s what you see and what kind of jumps off the tape at you when you watch these guys. They’re doing everything they can to play as physical as possible and trying to get people off their games by doing that.”
The Browns are fourth in total defense (301.8 yards). They allow 94 yards rushing (3.3 yards per carry) and have 18 sacks through five games.
“That’s a battle we need to win,” coach Jim Schwartz said when asked about the offensive line responding to another physical challenge. “When we’ve won it on offense, that’s gone a long way to leading to success for our team. ... We have to be up to the challenge.”
Second-year left tackle Riley Reiff will have another tough task. He allowed two sacks and four quarterback hurries to Matthews. This week, he will knock heads with defensive end Desmond Bryant, who leads the Browns with 3.5 sacks.
The Browns also will feature some fly-around linebackers in Jabaal Sheard, D’Qwell Jackson, Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger. Raiola and guards Rob Sims and Larry Warford will have their hands full trying to move tackles Phil Taylor (6-foot-3, 335) and Ahtyba Rubin (6-2, 330).
“It’s really more about matchups and personnel than it is scheme,” Schwartz said. “It comes down to players executing on the field.”
Schwartz also knows it comes down to matching the other team’s force. The Lions didn’t come close to matching the Packers’ force last weekend, on either side of the ball. As a result, Schwartz had the Lions in full pads Wednesday for the entire practice, something he rarely does during the season.
“Teams that are going to come out and try to play the tough-guy game, we’ve got to show we are who people say we are — hard-nosed football players, the Detroit Lions,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “I talked to Willie (Young, defensive end) and he said coach left the pads on all practice. I just let him talk and he said, ‘Maybe that is what we needed, to keep that mindset of going into each game willing to bang a little bit harder.’ ”
“This is a physical sport. If a team feels like it has a (physical) advantage in the first quarter, they are going to be confident for the three quarters after that.”
The Browns already are going to be confident. They manhandled the Lions in Week 2 of the exhibition season.
“We need to answer the bell,” Raiola said. “We’ve got some stuff to prove. We’re going to get back on that (winning) train.”
Burleson said there’s only one way to handle a bully on the football field.
“Swing first,” he said. “I like to compare football to a heavyweight fight. You can’t go out there and feel it out and see how they are going to swing. You’ve got to attack. Put that front foot forward and throw your biggest blow and see how they react.”
Might want to fly in Michael Buffer for this one.