While watching the Detroit Lions play the Carolina Panthers this past weekend, one thing was abundantly clear. The Lions secondary, which looked so strong through their first couple games, seemed out of position and generally ineffective against the Saints’ NFC South divisional rival. In fact, the Lions secondary let both the Atlanta Falcons and Panthers receivers run absolutely wild on them.
There were times when receivers were 10-15 yards from the closest Lions defender. Carolina’s tight end Ed Dickson had a career day averaging 35 yards per catch while posting five receptions for 175 yards. On Dickson’s 64 yard catch, both Lions safeties Tavon Wilson and Miles Killebrew missed tackles. On Dickson’s 57 yard catch, there was an unspecified misalignment that cornerback Darius Slay commented on after the game.
“It’s all about alignments,” Slay said. “We didn’t do nothing (out of the) ordinary. We just didn’t line up correctly. If we lined up correctly, we get the job done. So it’s alignments.” Slay was beat by Kelvin Benjamin for a 31 yard touchdown catch and burned again by Benjamin on a 17 yard catch on third-and-9 that allowed the Panthers to seal the win in the game’s waining minutes.
The Lions secondary gave up the most (334 vs. Carolina) and second most (277 vs. Atlanta) yards through the air all season to NFC South teams. Offenses that can make changes at the line of scrimmage and tailor their passing attack to the Lions defensive alignments have put up big numbers against the NFC North upstart. This is a matchup that a cerebral player like Drew Brees can really pick apart.
With an extra week to rest and prepare, look for the Saints receivers to have a breakout day against a struggling Lions secondary. Hell, maybe this is the week Coby Fleener breaks out for some big gains in open space. If Willie Snead can return to the field somewhat healthy, look for the Saints to take advantage of his lack of 2017 tape and use him creatively in offensive alignments. Michael Thomas should continue his fabulous sophomore start and command the ball early and often.
It’s been a few weeks since the Who Dats have cheered on their Saints from the comfy confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Quite a lot has changed since the week two tilt against the New England Patriots. The Saints have posted consecutive wins on the back of their defense (shocker), and crept back into league legitimacy. This Sunday should be an exciting show and I anticipate some offensive fireworks to go off for a Saints offense still trying to establish its swagger.