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Allen Park — After being benched for most of the second half in last week's loss to the Packers, Lions safety James Ihedigbo is ready to get back to work.

Although he was ineffective and missed some assignments before he was pulled for backup Isa Abdul-Quddus, Ihedigbo returned to practice this week, ready to move past one shaky game and prepare for Sunday's wild-card game against the Cowboys.

"We've moved on. It's all about this game and just winning this game," Ihedigbo said Wednesday. "We're preparing to play our best ball when it's needed most, which is now."

Coach Jim Caldwell confirmed Ihedigbo will start be the starter. He said there aren't any concerns about whether he'll be able to bounce back.

"I think he will respond like he's always responded. He's a champion," Caldwell said. "He knows what hard work and discipline is all about."

Ihedigbo, who is fourth on the team with 71 tackles and second with four interceptions, has had good production as a free-agent acquisition this season. The benching hasn't affected him this week, as he put it in the bigger context of the entire year.

"I've had a hell of a year; there's no soul-searching about that. I've been out here kicking butt every game," Ihedigbo said. "You have to go back and do what you do well and prepare the way you prepared all season.

With his ability to help in the run defense, Ihedigbo will be a critical piece in trying to stop the Cowboys' run game, featuring DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing this season. Along with their many weapons on offense, it'll be a tough task to stop the Cowboys offense.

Without Ihedigbo, the Lions defense struggled against the run, allowing the Packers' Eddie Lacy to become the first running back to gain 100 yards.

Safety Glover Quin noticed the difference in the defensive backfield without Ihedigbo.

"It's a lot different. Me and Digg have a great relationship and a certain way we can play and communicate. Not having him out there was big," Quinn said. "He makes a lot of plays for us on this team in the run game and in the pass game — he had a forced fumble earlier in the game. Not having out there was big but it's out of my control."

Looking ahead to this week, Quin is confident that Ihedigbo won't can turn the page from last week and be effective again against one of the toughest offenses they've faced this year.

"He's going to come out and have a great game. I told him in the meeting today that I need five (tackles for loss) and forced fumbles; I need you to have a big game," Quin said. "They have a big running back and like to run the ball — I need you to have the game of your life."

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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