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Sunday's Game a Walk Down Memory Lane for Several Lions Players, Coaches

Posted Sep 21, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kyle Vanden Bosch spent five seasons walking to the home locker room with the Titans. Now with the Detroit Lions, he gets to check out the visitors’ much less plush digs in his first game against the team with which he turned into a Pro Bowl pass rusher.

“It will be different,” Vanden Bosch said. “There will be a lot of familiar faces there. But it will be important for me to make it a business trip. “But it will be good. Nashville, it’ll still feel like home to me.”

Vanden Bosch’s not alone in this working trip down memory lane.

Detroit coach Jim Schwartz is enjoying a bit of a reunion tour to start this season. He opened against his former boss, Jeff Fisher. Now he makes his first visit to Tennessee, where he spent eight of his 10 seasons as the Titans’ defensive coordinator coaching. And he goes against Mike Munchak, the other man who stayed at work as late as he did.

Schwartz insists Sunday’s game in the state where his three children were born is simply business.

“It’s going to be about the Lions and the Titans,” Schwartz said. “It’s not going to be about the fact that I used to coach there or friends with Munchak or anything else.”

Schwartz left for Detroit after helping the Titans go 13-3 in 2008, when the Lions went a record 0-16, a season that also was the last time these two franchises played each other. Schwartz was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator during a 47-10 win on Thanksgiving.

He now has four assistant coaches who spent time with him in Tennessee, including defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. Schwartz also personally lobbied Vanden Bosch to join him in Detroit when he parked outside the defensive end’s Tennessee home in the opening hours of free agency in 2010.

“It’s good to see those guys having success,” Munchak said of his former co-workers. “I just hope it’s not on Sunday.”

The Lions also signed middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch to a one-year deal in 2011, and he quickly earned a five-year contract and now is a defensive captain, along with Vanden Bosch. Titans running back Chris Johnson, who has only 21 yards on 19 carries, is friends with Tulloch.

“I know he’s very excited to come back here and play against us,” Johnson said. “It’s his old team, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a good game.”

This is the second of a two-game road swing for the Lions (1-1), who lost 27-19 last week in a night game at San Francisco. The Lions get back running back Mikel Leshoure from a two-game suspension, hoping he can boost a rushing game that has averaged only 82.5 yards. Better running would ease the pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford and All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson.

Lions receiver Nate Burleson said they just have to play better on offense, even if passing is their strength.

“But in this league you’ve got to be versatile,” Burleson said. “We can’t force the pass all the way down the field if teams are playing zone defense on us. A lot of teams aren’t going to give us a chance to exploit one-on-one coverage.”

The Titans (0-2) knew the first month of this season would be challenging, but they’ve struggled to run the ball and defend. They’ve been outscored 72-23 and were routed 38-10 last week in San Diego, where they held the ball for a little more than 16 minutes.

Fans want to see Munchak get angry. The man who was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman says his job is to stay calm in the face of a challenge he hoped his young Titans wouldn’t have until later this season. His message to his Titans has been not to try to make up for the first two games and simply do their job.

Munchak still believes his Titans are good.

“Unfortunately, I can’t sit here and brag on it until we do that on the field,” Munchak said. “We’re working on things that we’ve been working on. If I explain it, it’s like I’m making up excuses for what we haven’t accomplished yet. We haven’t accomplished things yet, so I guess time will tell what we’re good at. I think you’ll start seeing that on Sunday.”

The Titans will have their receiving corps healthy for the first time in a year. Kenny Britt, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament on Sept. 25, isn’t on the injury report after three knee surgeries in the past year. Nate Washington was limited last week by a bruised leg. They team with rookie Kendall Wright for a group that could be one of Tennessee’s best yet.

Tennessee has allowed only two sacks of Jake Locker, and the offensive line will be tested by Ndamukong Suh, Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams.

If Locker finds enough time to throw, he might be able to attack a secondary that lost Drayton Florence to a broken arm. Lions safety Louis Delmas missed the 49ers game with a knee injury, with Bill Bentley dealing with a concussion and Chris Houston an ankle problem.

Johnson still feels the Titans must run, something they have yet to do well this season.

“We’ve got some things that will help us out with those guys down in those situations,” Johnson said.

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