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November 30, 2012

Lions present many challenges for Colts

INDIANAPOLIS —  Finding a way to stop, or at least slow down, the Detroit Lions’ fast-paced offense is the primary goal of Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

While the Lions’ 4-7 record may lead some to believe the Colts’ opponent on Sunday is a struggling football team, Manusky and the rest of the coaching staff would strongly disagree.

Detroit has the firepower to be dangerous team, both offensively and defensively. And the Lions can move the football through the air with quarterback Matthew Stafford throwing and a good corps of receivers catching.

“[Stafford] does a great job of standing up in the pocket. His eyes are up all the time, he feels the pressure and slides left or right,” Manusky said Thursday. “It’s going to be a tough situation trying to get after him. But we’re going to try everything we can.”

Stafford’s ability to throw the ball from a variety of angles puts added pressure on the defense to try and contain the Lions offense.

“He’s pretty accurate across the board. He can make all the throws from a seven route to a seam route, underneath, intermediate route,” Manusky added. “So when he feels that pressure, he’s kind of like [former Minnesota and Oakland quarterback] Rich Gannon back in the day. I remember when Rich was slinging it from his left and right. He’s very similar to that.”

Stafford likes to spread the ball around to all of his receivers, including Pro Bowler Calvin Johnson. He also wants to go up-tempo more often than not.

“[Johnson] is a good player. [Stafford is] doing a good job of getting him the ball and we’ve got to defend him. Put two guys over him and even then sometimes he goes up and gets some balls,” the Colts defensive assistant said.

“I’ve seen a good performance from him over the last couple of weeks and over the entire season. We’ve got to defend him. He’s a formidable guy that’s out there and we’ve got to defend him. When you have those wide receivers and the tight ends and a quarterback that can throw the ball, we’ve got to eliminate those vertical threats which they have.”

I I I

n Arians likes Suh — Detroit defensive tackle Nadumkong Suh usually draws a lot of attention for his ability to be a rugged presence as a run stopper and athletic enough to be a quality pass rusher. Suh also has gained notoriety for some of his post-play maneuvers, often drawing fines and penalties from the National Football League office.

Colts interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, however, is a big fan of Suh’s playing style.

“No I don’t think he’s a dirty player. I’d love to have him on my team,” Arians said earlier this week. “I like the way he plays. He plays aggressive, hard and fast and physical. I don’t think there’s anything wrong. I think that’s why they call it football.”

He’s also impressed by several of Suh’s teammates on the Lions’ defensive front.

“Big, strong, active and deep. They’re not just two guys, it’s six guys. The three interior guys are as good as they get. High draft picks, big and active, disruptive in the middle and their edge rushers. [Defensive end Kyle] Vanden Bosch, I’ve respected for years with his motor. And [former Purdue defensive end] Cliff Avril is a very slippery outside pass rusher,” Arians previewed.

“They’ve got a great defensive line. I think when you look back at [Detroit coach] Jim [Schwartz], coming from Tennessee, they always had a fantastic defensive line down there and that’s just their history. They’ve built their franchise around a really, really good one.”

n Injury list — Sitting out Thursday’s practice were safety Tom Zbikowski (shin contusion/knee) and outside linebacker Robert Mathis (rest). Nose tackle Martin Tevasue (head/shoulder) was limited after sitting out on Wednesday.

Running back Donald Brown (knee), cornerback Vontae Davis (knee), tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder), outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest), offensive tackle Tony Hills (chest), safety Joe Lefeged (toe) and quarterback Andrew Luck (knee) all fully practiced.

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