X-factor for Sunday vs. Lions: Can Falcons win on the road?

FLOWERY BRANCH — Under coach Arthur Smith, the Falcons were 5-3 on the road in 2021. Last season, they were 1-7.

After two home wins over Carolina and Green Bay, the Falcons are set to hit the road for the first time in 2023 and will face the Lions (1-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit.

“We know they’ll be ready to go,” Smith said. “We know we have to have our mind right and need to play really well. We’re going into an extremely loud environment, and it’ll be a fun challenge for us.”

The Falcons’ only win on the road last season was a 27-23 win over Seattle on Sept. 25. Seattle has one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.

Smith compared Ford Field with Lumen Field in Seattle. The Lions lost to the Seahawks 37-31 in overtime at home Sunday.

“Seattle probably felt for the first time what it was like when people go out there,” Smith said. “Seattle did a nice job of handling it, but (the Lions) will be (fired) up and ready to go.”

Detroit has a vibrant sports scene and fans have been waiting decades for the Lions to return to their winning ways of the 1950s.

“I’m sure they’ll have all of the Detroit stars from the past,” Smith said. “Maybe we’ll get the Bad Boys (of the Pistons) out there. Get some old Red Wings players. See what they’re up to. Not to make you too nostalgic. Maybe Dick LeBeau will make a showing. They might bring Dick back to go up there and relive him and “Night Train” Lane. The ghost of (former Tigers manager) Sparky Anderson. We’ll see.”

Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder plans to be ready for the noise.

“This is one of the games where you have to know the game plan even more inside and out because you know you go throughout a week and you learn the game plan and that rare instance where that headset does cut out,” Ridder said. “You can’t hear it and you only get the first part of the play. You have to finish the back half.”

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