Lions vs. Rams preview: Don't let foe's offense find footing

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) has struggled after a superlative rookie season.

James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday's Lions-Rams game at Ford Field (1 p.m. FOX/WJR).

Rams to watch

Aaron Donald, DT: Remember when the Lions passed on him in the 2014 draft for TE Eric Ebron? All Donald has done is establish himself as one of the league’s most dominant interior lineman and earn first-team All-Pro honors. He may be undersized (6-foot-1, 285 pounds), but he can single-handedly disrupt an offensive game plan. He has 16 tackles, two sacks, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.

Todd Gurley, RB: After a phenomenal rookie campaign, Gurley is off to an underwhelming start with 288 yards rushing and three TDs. He’s coming off a rough performance against the Bills where he fumbled twice, but it could be a matter of time before he returns to form. He gashed the Lions for 140 yards and two scores on 16 carries last year.

Kenny Britt, WR: He’s on pace for the first 1,000-yard season in his eight-year career. Britt has over a quarter of the team’s total receptions (23) and has caught 72 percent of the passes thrown his way. With six catches of 20-plus yards and a 15.5 yards-per-reception average, he is the only true vertical threat on offense.

Intangibles

Jekyll and Hyde: The Rams have been one of the league’s most unpredictable teams. Los Angeles dropped a dud in a shutout loss to the 49ers in its opener, then responded with impressive wins over divisional rivals Seattle and Arizona.

Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Rams


Woeful offense: Through five games, the Rams are last in total yards (284.2) and tied for last in scoring (16.4 points). QB Case Keenum could be on a short leash with a woeful passer rating (75.4) and more INTs (five) than TDs (four).

Who’s on ‘D’? The Rams will be without starting CB Trumaine Johnson, who leads the team with nine passes defensed. They also could be without several starters on their defensive line — Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and William Hayes. The Lions likely will be without LB DeAndre Levy and possibly DE Ziggy Ansah and DT Haloti Ngata.

Close calls: Every Lions game has been decided by seven points or less, with three having the lead exchanged in the final two minutes. QB Matthew Stafford has led two winning drives and has a league-leading 10 since the beginning of 2014. All three Rams wins have been by six points or less.

Pin them back: Lions P Sam Martin leads the league in net punting average (46.6 yards) and is third in gross average (50.1). His 46.6 net average is the highest through the first five games with at least 10 punts since 1976, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Rams P Johnny Hekker leads the league with 16 punts downed inside the 20.

Facts and figures

■ Despite a decline in targets and receptions the past four games, WR Marvin Jones leads the league with 519 receiving yards. He joined Herman Moore and Calvin Johnson as the only Lions in franchise history with at least 500 yards through the first five games.

■ DT A’Shawn Robinson is one of two rookies with at least one sack, two tackles-for-loss and two passes defensed. The other is Chargers LB Jatavis Brown.

■ QB Matthew Stafford has no INTs in two wins, but at least one in each of the three losses.

■ Since Week 10 of the 2015 season, coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s offense is tied for first in the NFL with nine giveaways.

■ The Rams are 3-0 as betting underdogs. The Lions are favored by 3 points.