The New Orleans Saints (1-2) have lost two straight entering Sunday's game against Detroit (1-2) at Ford Field, but the Saints believe they're this close to making enough plays to be the consistent winners they've been the previous three seasons, when they had an NFL-leading 37 regular-season victories.
If it begins in Detroit, here are a few ways in which it could happen:
- Admittedly, New Orleans has been sloppy and a bit undisciplined defensively. Simply, that can't continue. Penalties almost totally have overshadowed the positives the unit has had, so we can begin there. The Saints have to minimize in that area; the pass interferences, personal fouls, offsides, etc., are things that have been devastating and are significant reasons why the defense hasn't been able to get off the field consistently. The Saints lead the league in penalty yardage (331) and defensive pass interference penalties (nine). Logically, Detroit will test the secondary. Starting cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Jackrabbit Jenkins were dinged up and might not play. The next men up, P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson, need to be at their best. Tight end T.J. Hockenson has been a favored target, so safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson could factor there.
- This would be a good time for the defensive front to help the secondary. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been sacked nine times this season, so New Orleans – which has one sack in the last seven quarters – figures to have opportunities. Even if the result isn't a sack, quarterback hits and hurries can be just as effective. Maybe this is the game where defensive end Cameron Jordan picks up his first sack of the season. The Saints didn't affect Aaron Rodgers enough in the loss to Green Bay, and didn't defend the bootleg well. They know they'll see a steady diet of it until they prove they can be effective against it.
- Offensively, New Orleans seemed to find a bit of footing against the Packers, with 30 points and 397 yards. But running back Alvin Kamara was a one-man attack, with 197 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns on 19 touches. But with star receiver Michael Thomas missing his third consecutive game look for the Saints to stay committed to the run. The Lions allow 172 rushing yards per game, on 5.7 yards per carry. Green Bay's Aaron Jones gashed Detroit for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, and even that gaudy total didn't skew the numbers. The Lions simply have been bad against the run. Kamara and Latavius Murray might not combine for that kind of production, but a sturdy ground game always is a right step in controlling the clock and tempo.
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