Sunday, January 1, 2012
Quick Take: Lions at Saints
By Kevin Seifert
Three things to know about next weekend's Detroit Lions-New Orleans Saints wild-card game:
1. Dome-field advantage: The Saints have been unstoppable at the Superdome this season, setting an NFL record by scoring 339 points (42.4 per game) in their eight home games, all of which they won. The Lions held the Saints well below that average per game in the teams' Week 13 matchup but still absorbed a 31-17 loss. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is the hottest quarterback in the NFL, and overall the Saints are the most difficult first-round opponent the Lions could have drawn. Anything can happen, but the Lions will enter this game as deep underdogs.
2. Slowing Brees: Every game stands on its own merits, but it's worth noting the Lions' defense -- which was missing only one starter -- gave up a record-breaking passing day Sunday to Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) was sidelined but appears on track to return for the playoffs. How much difference can Delmas make? If the Lions gave up 480 yards and six touchdown passes to Flynn, how much might Brees light them up for? That will be the central talking point this week. Brees finished this record-breaking season with 5,476 yards and 46 touchdown passes. That's an average of 342 yards and nearly three touchdowns per game.
3. Managing the blitz: Entering Sunday's game, no NFL quarterback had been blitzed on a lower percentage of his dropbacks (23.7) than the Lions' Matthew Stafford. That makes sense, considering the number of skilled Lions pass-catchers who are left in favorable coverage against a blitz. But the Saints love to blitz under defensive coordinator Greg Williams, making for an interesting fulcrum point in this matchup. It's worth noting that Sunday, the Packers blitzed Stafford 34.4 percent of the time and dramatically limited his production on those plays. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stafford completed nine of his 21 passes against the blitz for 154 yards and an interception Sunday. Against the Packers' standard pass rush, Stafford completed 27 of 38 passes for 366 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.