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Falcons looking to slow down Detroit
Lions off to 5-1 start this season
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DETROIT - The Detroit Lions lost some of their luster last week.

Matthew Stafford looked rattled, getting sacked five times in the team's first loss to San Francisco and throwing 22 incomplete passes using three-quarter and sidearm angles just to get rid of the ball.

Detroit's D didn't slow down the 49ers on the ground - Frank Gore ran for 141 yards - or through the air - Michael Crabtree had nine receptions to almost double his season total - in the 14-point setback at home.

Making the day even more miserable, Lions coach Jim Schwartz had to be restrained and pushed off the field during an emotionally charged confrontation with San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh after a physical handshake, slap on the back and some not-fit-to-print words.

The Lions (5-1) vow they're highly motivated to get back to their winning ways - coming off their first loss since Dec. 5, 2010, - against the Atlanta Falcons (3-3) on Sunday at home.

"It's amazing that we can have this kind of sense of urgency with a 5-1 record," Detroit center Dominic Raiola said. "It's a great feeling to have 53 guys that want to fix this now."

It won't be easy.

Like San Francisco, the Falcons have a powerful running back in Michael Turner, but their surrounding cast is more talented with quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver Roddy White and tight Tony Gonzalez.

"They definitely have some firepower," Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.

Atlanta's defense might not be as good as the 49ers', but they're pretty good on that side of the ball as well.

"They don't have a linebacker like Patrick Willis - not too many teams do - but John Abraham is a four-time Pro Bowl player and I've seen Ray Edwards play like a Pro Bowler," Raiola said. "And, they have physical corners who make plays."

The defending NFC South champion Falcons, though, haven't been consistent enough to win consecutive games this season.

Atlanta opened with a loss to Chicago, then have won every other game - over Philadelphia, at Seattle and against Carolina last week - to trail division leaders New Orleans and Tampa Bay by one game.

Falcons coach Mike Smith called it a roller coaster of a season so far.

And, White is hoping to smooth out the ride in the Motor City.

"This is a crucial point in our season right here, and we've got to go on the road and get us a big road victory," White said. "If we can get this one, it will really propel us into the bye week, and we can go on kind of a roll after that. We're looking at this game as one of the most important of the season even though it's still kind of early."

If Turner can do what he did to Carolina, the Falcons' chances to win consecutive games will improve.

The 5-foot-10, 247-pound running back had 139 yards - almost matching his total from the previous three games - and two touchdowns against the Panthers. Turner and the Falcons had to like what they saw Gore accomplish without the passing game they have with Ryan and Co.

Atlanta also was probably encouraged to see somebody finally keep Calvin Johnson out of the end zone.

Johnson set an NFL record by catching nine TD passes over the first five games of the season, then was held scoreless and left frustrated by his teammates' inability to make plays against single coverage by the 49ers.

"They did a heck of a job bracketing me with somebody inside and out and over the top," Johnson said. "It was kind of tough to get the ball to me, so that's when other guys need to take advantage of their opportunities. Teams aren't going to keep letting the same guy beat them."

Schwartz insisted he won't let his emotions get the best of him following his part in a regrettable scene following the San Francisco game.

Harbaugh grabbed Schwartz hand, slapped him on the back and said something to send Schwartz into a rage.

"I was for 49 for 49 on shaking a hand before that," Schwartz said in perhaps his only moment of levity about the situation. "I think I'll get back to that this week."


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