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John DeShazier: Saints defense knows it needs to 'get after' Detroit's quarterback

Matthew Stafford, while talented, has taken a lot of sacks

So far this season, the New Orleans Saints defense hasn't yet been reminiscent of the one that bulled, slashed and sped its way to 49 sacks last year during the regular season.

Through five games, the Saints (2-3) have totaled six sacks. After five games last season, they'd totaled 15.

But there may be a remedy in Detroit on Sunday, when New Orleans plays the Lions (4-2) at Ford Field. Because while the Saints are tied for 27th in the league in sacks, the Detroit leads the league with 21 sacks allowed.

That fact offers no guarantee for the Saints. But it has to offer hope for a group of defenders who, on several occasions, have been close to bagging opposing quarterbacks, but haven't been able to complete the play.

"Every week, you go into the game, we've got to stop the run or we won't get opportunities to rush the passer," said outside linebacker Junior Galette, who leads the Saints with three sacks. "I think we'll do that this week and after we do that, we've got to get after this quarterback.

"We've got to win on defense and get them off the field on third down. And take the ball away – we've had that issue since last year. Overall, if we outplay their defense, we'll be fine."

Detroit's defense has been the NFL's best so far, leading the league in scoring (13.7 points allowed per game), sacks (20), yards allowed (270.7) and passing yards allowed (197.2), and logging in as the second-best run defense (73.5) in the league.

But the equalizer for the Saints could be in their ability to sack, and harass, Detroit quarterback Matthew Staffford.

"It hasn't been a conscious decision to try and take sacks," Stafford said, when asked if he has held on to the ball longer in order to avoid committing a turnover. "I think, for one reason or another, we've had more (sacks allowed) than we've had in the past. That's something that we're going to continue to work on and try and be as good as we possibly can."

One of the ways to work on it will be for the Lions to construct a running game that's more successful than it has been. Detroit has run for 518 yards this season, though it averages just 3.2 yards per carry.

"Offensively, I think they, like us, have had their share of injuries and yet, you can see they're playing a complimentary game," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "They're doing a good job with balance, third downs, some of those things. But that topic of (quarterback) pressures, hurries is very important, especially when it pertains to a road game like this."

And despite the numbers, Stafford may be a more elusive target than his takedowns suggest.

"He doesn't get a lot of credit for his mobility," Galette said. "He can get out of the pocket and make plays. He's not going to escape like (Dallas quarterback Tony) Romo and run 20 yards, but he's very similar to Romo as far as creating his own pocket and throwing it down the field. We have to take care of that up front."

It's one of several areas the Saints hope to take care of defensively.

"I think we just have to come out and execute," linebacker David Hawthorne said. "That's been our deal.

"We have all the right people, we have all the tools that we need. We've just got to come out and execute the scheme and take advantage."

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