Lions try for balance on defense

San Francisco 49ers tight end Garrett Celek (88) catches a touchdown pass against Detroit Lions defensive back Glover Quin (27) during the third quarter at Levi's Stadium.Photo: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

With a game against Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys looming, the Lions' run defense will get its sternest test yet.

The Detroit Lions have the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL three weeks into the season, but safety Glover Quin isn't reading too much into that ranking yet.

"It's kind of one of those things where we can be proud of it, but on the flip side of it, we got the last-ranked run defense," Quin said. "So if teams don't have to throw the ball then you're probably not going to give up a lot of yards. So we need to continue to have a good pass defense and get that run defense in the top 10, then we can say we're doing something."

After allowing 100-yard rushing games to running backs Isaiah Crowell (10 carries, 102 yards) and Matt Breida (11-138) in season-opening losses to the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers, the Lions finally put together a respectable showing against the run in last week's 26-10 victory over the New England Patriots.

The Lions held the Patriots to 89 yards rushing on 19 carries, with much of that production coming with the game out of hand and the Lions in a prevent defense in the fourth quarter.

This week, with a game against Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys looming, the Lions' run defense will get its sternest test yet.

Elliott is the NFL's co-leader in rushing yards, and the Cowboys are one of the league's best teams at the stretch zone run, a concept that's given the Lions fits all year.

"Ezekiel Elliott, he's phenomenal," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. "This guy's big, he's strong, he's got great balance, he's athletic, he can run powerful. He'll attack the tacklers as they're coming to get him. He's going to take it to them whether it's a stiff arm or just lowering the shoulder. Great vision. He can take the ball, start it front side, come back out the other way, and just is such a dynamic player in that accord. It's very hard to defend."

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has not reached 200 yards passing in a game since mid-December, and with a lack of weapons on the outside, the Lions may be able to commit extra resources to stopping Elliott on Sunday.

"We've got to get the run stopped and make it one-dimensional and then we can hone in on the pass game and try to make it difficult on them," Quinn said.

SERIES HISTORY: 25th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 13-11, but the Lions have won two of three playoff encounters. The most memorable meeting came in the 1991 playoffs, when Erik Kramer threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-6 Lions victory. That was the last time the Lions won a postseason game.

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