A Film Breakdown of the Saints, and the Lions Can Beat Them!
Stopping The Saints Number One Ranked Offense
The Saints offense has been red hot this season, especially at home in New Orleans. While quarterback Drew Brees is having one of his best career years in terms of completion percentage, a big reason this Saints team has been able to steamroll opposing defenses has been their great ground game.
Running back Mark Ingram has been able to take advantage of great run blocking in recent games this season. Teams often come out in their nickel formations and light boxes in order to stop Brees’ excellent quick passing game. These two factors combined with Ingram’s powerful running style has allowed this offense to beat teams with Brees’ arm or Ingram’s legs.
Ingram has sat out through most of the practices this week. His health status versus Detroit should have big implications on the outcome of this game. If Ingram is healthy, the Lions will have their hands full trying to contain an offense with a potent run game and an elite quarterback playing at a high level at home.
If Ingram is a no go for this game, it could be a very good sign for Detroit fans. Backup running back Tim Hightower has been far less productive. Looking at games when Ingram has been out, the Saints have looked to Hightower to carry the ball. These are the games that the Saints have lost since the main reason the Saints have had their offensive drives stall has been to the running game being shut down. The running game is far less effective with Hightower as his decisiveness and patience are far inferior to Ingram.
For Detroit to have a good shot at stopping the Saints offense, the Lions need a couple things to happen. If Ingram plays they need to force a turnover. Ingram has been benched this season for having a case of fumbleitis. If the Lions can force a fumble or if Ingram is sidelined with his toe injury, the Lions can stop Hightower on early downs and force the Saints offense into 3rd and long situations.
The Lions defense has been trending upwards as this season has gone on. Should they can continue to improve and slow the Saints running game and force them into 3rd and long situations, they have a shot at stopping the league’s number one offense. This is when the Saints offense has been the least productive and have been key factors into their losses.
Detroit’s Pass Catchers Need To Create Separation
The Saints have had very inconsistent play from its defense this season. However, they have gotten healthier lately which has mitigated the inconsistency somewhat, leaving them ranked in the middle of the pack in many defensive categories through week 12.
The Saints rely heavily on man coverage. While Marvin Jones has struggled to get separation with more physical corners, the Lions need their other offensive weapons to create separation and give Stafford an opportunity to get the ball to them. Fortunately for the Lions Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, and Theo Riddick have all thrived in single coverage versus man this season.
The Saints have had an ability to get after the quarterback this season with Cameron Jordan and rookie Sheldon Rankins becoming healthy. While Nick Fairely has been able to get after the quarterbacks himself, he has also been exposed in the run game. This has allowed teams to find some success running the ball up the middle and even directly at Fairley himself. Given the nature of how Fairely left Detroit, this matchup could be big. The Lions guards should be working hard to prevent Fairley from having a revenge game this Sunday.
The Lions offense will finally catch a break and should look more consistent facing an average Saints pass defense. This is opposed to the top five passing defenses they have faced the previous four games. If the Lions are able to find separation from their playmakers and keep Nick Fairley in check, they could definitely find themselves in another close shootout. As amazing as Brees has been this year, no one has been better at closing out games than Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Prediction: Saints Win 34-31
While the Lions have been able to come from behind several times this year, they may not be in a position where that is plausible in this game. The Lions offense needs to come alive before the final four minutes of the game if they want a shot to win this one. Unfortunately, I see Brees and Co. getting out to an early lead that is just too far ahead for late game heroics to save. The number one offense has been amazing at home this year and I do not see the average Lions defense being the ones that finally stops them.
That said, the Lions definitely have a shot in this game. If they can keep improving on defense and slow the running game, they can force a Saints team into long conversions where they are far less effective. The offense needs to get get separation in man coverage and get the Saints defense on their heels. If a combination of Ebron, Tate, and Riddick are able to create big play opportunities and win the turnover differential, the Lions could steal one on the road and come away with a huge victory for the NFC North Crown owners.