Five things to watch as Detroit Lions visit New Orleans Saints

Lions have won 3 straight against the Saints

For some reason Matthew Stafford and the Lions seem to find success against the New Orleans Saints, at least recently.

“Man, you don’t have to remind. No. 1, I’d say his decision making, his accuracy, the ball comes out. He’s tough to get to, he’s got a quick stroke, he’s got playmakers outside and versatility at the running back position,’’ Saints coach Sean Payton said this week on a conference call.

“So obviously, especially here, I thought we played better up there in ’14 in a real close game, but the last two games have been challenging for us, and we obviously are going to have to play better to avoid those results,’’ Payton added.

In 2016 at New Orleans, the Lions won 28-13. And then in 2015 — again in New Orleans — Detroit won 35-27. It was closer in 2014 when the Lions won 24-23 at Ford Field.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The two NFC teams meet again on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

Here are five things to watch:

— Matthew Stafford must stay upright after being sacked a dozen times in the past two games. He injured his ankle last Sunday in the loss to the Panthers but practiced at full-tilt this week. This had to be a priority this week among the Lions coaches. They have to protect their quarterback better. It’s not all on the offensive line, each person (tight end, back, wide receiver) must take his blocking responsibilities seriously.

— The offense, as a whole, must be more consistent throughout the game. We know they excel in the two-minute offense. They need that same intensity each time they are on the field. They’re coming off their worst game this season in the 27-24 loss to the Panthers.

— Eric Ebron needs to catch the ball and hold on. He can do it, we’ve all seen him. He knows it’s a problem, so does everyone else. In Week 2, he had five targets and five catches. That seems like a long time ago. Last Sunday he dropped a pass in the end zone.

— The defense fell apart a bit against Cam Newton on Sunday. They did hold the Panthers to 28 rushing yards which is huge, but Newton threw for 355 yards. When the LIons get behind, the defense can’t change. Each guy has to do his job. Sounds simple. When things are looking horrific, guys want to step up and help out a teammate. That’s when they get into more trouble. It seems so simple — do your job. But several of them have named that as one of their problems.

— The secondary, which had played well in the first four games, fell apart Sunday. It’s not all on cornerback Darius Slay but he had his worst game of the season. Drew Brees is having a good season with eight touchdowns, 1,135 passing yards and zero interceptions. He’s got a few big targets in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. And while the Lions are minding their own responsibilities, they also need to get back to creating turnovers. The Saints have not turned the ball over once in their first four games. Glover Quin said he likes the law of averages on that. The defense has to make it happen.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Saints 24. Detroit bounces back from the loss to the Panthers and keeps their win streak against the Saints alive.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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