"When there’s pressure on Matt, it makes everyone uncomfortable, for sure," wide receiver Golden Tate said. "It makes everyone feel like they have to do something extra, which is when you really get in trouble. We’ve seen it all in the past. When Matt is comfortable back there and he has time he can go through all his reads correctly, he throws a great ball and we march down the field." - Golden Tate
There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal, and as the Lions limp into the Superdome nursing the injuries sustained last week versus the Panthers - I can’t help but wonder if this match-up could be considered a “trap game” for the Saints.
You see, not only are the Lions a weakened opponent, but this Saints team has had an extra week to eat the cheese.
I’m sure they’ve seen the press clipping.
Defense flying high, Alvin Kamara a star, first shutout pitched since 2012, a chance to get over .500 for the first time since 2013, Willie Snead and Terron Armstead both potentially returning. They’ve also had the distinct distraction of trading Adrian Peterson, an event that happened at the beginning of the work week (which I believe was a bonus practice).
It will be up to the coaching staff to guard against this happening with such a young team while simultaneously crafting a game plan that allows them to go out and execute. Here are a few things I feel have to be focal points if the Saints are to get a win against Stafford and the Lions on Sunday.
After a tough stretch to start the 1st Quarter of their season with 3 out of 4 games played on the road, the Saints are now home for 3 out of 4 games in the 2nd Quarter. They need to go at least 3-1 in this span to put themselves in good position to make a playoff run. In order to do that, New Orleans will need to re-establish Dome Field Advantage, as it just isn’t quite what it used to be around these parts! How can the Saints facilitate said change you ask? Easy - explosive plays on offense and turnovers on defense. While we’ve seen both on display the last few weeks, we haven’t seen them do it in front of a ruckus New Orleans crowd and feed off that energy. By attacking the Lions on offense and defense, they can get the Dome rocking again and give one of the best fanbases in the league something to cheer for Sunday afternoon.
Fix the 3rd Down woes on Defense
The Saints defense is worst in the league at getting off the field on 3rd down, allowing opposing teams to convert on them 48% of the time. Meanwhile, the Lions are ranked 22nd offensively, converting only 37% of their 3rd downs successfully. With Stafford lacking mobility due to injury and us playing at home, I think you play man coverage and bring the blitz if you are Dennis Allen. Forcing the Lions’ skill positions to step up. That means if you are the Lions, you are expecting this and will look to counter by relying on your RBs and getting the ball out of Stafford’s hands quickly via shotgun throws, screens, and dump-offs to the flats. If this ends up being the style of game played, the tackling of the defense will be what determines their success or failure. Explosive plays due to missed tackles will allow Stafford and the Lions offense to eat the Saints alive all day, as he’s still accurate even if he’s not mobile.
Impose our Will Smith on Offense
The Lions defense hasn't played an offense like the Saints yet. By that I mean a methodical offense that can put points on the board as well as protect the ball. The closest they came to doing that was against the Falcons, and they were healthier than they are now, especially on the defensive front. Atlanta saw two tipped passes turn into INTs along with a fumble by Julio Jones. If not for these plays, the game likely wouldn’t have been as close, as the Lions offense has really struggled to move the ball. As long as the Saints keep playing their brand of offense, it should bode well for an ability to put up points. I think the Lions D has gotten some prestige off of capitalizing on giveaways versus being a D that’s adept at forcing takeaways. Granted, these guys are making the plays, but they aren't the 2009 Saints. I should also add they have trouble with versatile RBs that both run and catch, as evidenced by their game against Atlanta - and KamIngram (yep i tried it) is on par with (okay, better than) Atlanta’s RB duo.
Player to Watch: Marshon Lattimore, CB
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Dennis Allen has tweaked the defense a little bit to allow Lattimore to follow Golden Tate all around the field this week. The rookie has already established himself as a top flight DB in the league, and the next step will be seeing if he can shadow an opposing team’s No. 1 WR. The last few seasons when facing the Saints as a Lion, Tate has delivered some back-breaking performances, and keeping him in check will be paramount. One of Tate’s greatest strengths is getting yards after contact, and Lattimore will be challenged to stick with the shifty receiver and get him on the ground quickly should he give up a reception. Lattimore has taken steps week to week in proving that he can be one of the premiere corners in this league, and Sunday’s matchup against Tate will allow him to take another in that direction.
Random Thought I: Smart signing to pick up Gerald Hodges. Talented young LB that was still available, but you have to wonder why? Even if he’s a headcase, this might be the right locker room to support him after seeing what they got out of Nick Fairley last year.
Random Thought II: Per PFF, the Saints offensive line is ranked 23rd in the League. Yet Drew Brees has hardly been sacked and both RBs are averaging 4.0 and 7.3 yards per carry. Arizona’s line is worse and Adrian Peterson averaged 3.0 YPC while here. I don’t think his fortune will be better in AZ.
I’m going to put my homer glasses on and suggest that we wipe the floor with the Lions on Sunday. I think Detroit’s offense is not playing up to par and their defense has overachieved. Stafford hits the bench before the 4th Q is up and we score 35-40 points on them. If you are looking for a signature win this season, then this could be it, and may prove to be a coming out party for the team that Sean Payton and Jeff Ireland have been assembling since 2015. Drop some comments below - Who Dat!