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John DeShazier: Takeaways from Coach Sean Payton's Wednesday teleconference

Lions have adapted to loss of Calvin Johnson

Check out the best photos of the offense during the Saints win over the Rams on Sunday, November 27, 2016.

Quick briefs from New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton's Wednesday teleconference:

  1. The Saints (5-6) will be playing the Lions (7-4) for the third consecutive season (35-27 loss in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last season, 24-23 loss at Ford Field in Detroit in 2014). But the Lions have changed somewhat, especially offensively, due to the retirement of all-everything receiver Calvin Johnson. "Any time you're defending a great player like (Johnson), there's a challenge unto itself," Payton said. "I think more specific to this team that we're seeing, they've found that formula. They've got what appears to be the right blend of veteran players and young players, they're playing with energy. They've had some injuries on defense and they've been able to overcome them. (Golden) Tate'san experienced receiver, receiver (Anquan) Boldinhas come in and helped them situationally and done a good job. They've played from a lot of three-receiver sets and they spread you out, and we're going to have to play well in space."
  1. Every Detroit game this season has been decided by a touchdown or less, with the Lions having mounted several fourth-quarter comebacks in victory. Quarterback Matt Stafford(261 of 391 for 2,883 yards and 19 touchdowns, with five interceptions, and 17 rushes for 156 yards) has led the way. "You evaluate a quarterback often when you want to see how he does when he's behind," Payton said. "He has had an outstanding season. His numbers are fantastic. I think he's playing as well as he has in his career. He's been able to win, he's found different ways to win, everyone's involved – there are a lot of different touches, none to one specific player. I think he's playing awfully well. The other thing that is concerning is how he plays when he gets outside the pocket, because a lot of his big plays come then."
  1. Saints offensive lineman Senio Kelemetecontinues to exhibit his value to the team. He has been critical this season because he usually starts at left guard when left tackle Terron Armsteadhas been unable to play and left guard Andrus Peatkicks out to start at tackle. Kelemete has started five games this season, and he also has shown the ability to play some at left tackle (he started the season finale at left tackle against the Falcons last season). "He's played guard, he's played center. He's extremely smart and he's very reliable," Payton said. "I think that he's a fantastic teammate – he's got the respect of his peers – and I think he's athletic. So he can do some things that are unique to his skill set. His natural position would be guard or center, but he's been able to go out in a pinch and play tackle. There's a lot to be said for a player that has got that versatility."
  1. Payton addressed a report that receiver Brandin Cooksmay have been frustrated with his role in the offense after not being targeted in Sunday's 49-21 victory over the Rams. "I'm not concerned. We spend a lot of time – and Cooks is a real good football player – and we work extremely hard on these gameplans. It's a little unusual that we have a game where all of a sudden he's not targeted. The first play of the (Rams) game was supposed to be his play and we don't get the right coverage look. We'll keep working it and finding those opportunities for him to get those touches. He's a fantastic player and a good man and we have a great relationship. It's hard when you do have a game with a lot of numbers like that (555 yards of offense) and a guy like Brandin, who works his tail off, doesn't have a target or a touch. Sometimes that can happen, but I would say that's rare. He's been explosive this season, he certainly is a primary target for us with what we do. I think that's evident."
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