Saints vs. Lions: 3 Things to Watch in Week 4
The New Orleans Saints (1-2) travel to Ford Field to battle the Detroit Lions (1-2) in an NFC North vs. NFC South battle in Week 4. Detroit is coming off of its first victory of the season following a 26-23 defeat of the Arizona Cardinals. New Orleans, however, is looking to rekindle their mojo after back to back losses to Las Vegas and Green Bay. Here are three things to watch in the first Saints' noon kickoff game of 2020.
Will the Saints Exploit Lions Weak Run Defense?
Sunday night against Green Bay, the Saints rushed for 122 yards averaging over 6 YPC. While Kamara continued his hot start to the season, it was the 2016 Pro-Bowl selection, Latavius Murray, who maintained drives with his hard-nosed running between the tackles. The Saints' passing game's struggles early in the season, the two-headed monster backfield could restore balance to a suspect offense in Week 4.
The Lions enter their fourth game of the season ranked 30th in the NFL in rush defense, surrendering 170+ yards per game. New Orleans should take note that Detroit has struggled against shifty scat backs like Alvin Kamara. In their first three games, the Lions have faced Tarik Cohen, Aaron Jones, and Kenyan Drake, surrendering 282 yards to the trio (94 YPG).
With the Lion’s inability to stop the run early in the season, the Saints should look towards the RBs to carry the load and take the pressure off of Drew Brees. Yes, there are problems with the passing game, especially without Michael Thomas, but there is one thing that cures all. Winning. In order for the Saints to pull out a W on the road pounding the rock should be a priority.
Is this the Game Drew Brees "Turns it Loose?"
Through the Saints' first three games of the 2020 season, quarterback Drew Brees is 21st in the NFL in yards per attempt (7.3). Though the numbers increased after Week 3, due in large part to the YAC ability of Alvin Kamara, it still concerns fans to see Brees hesitant to throw the ball downfield.
The film shows a mixture of reasons that Brees was so reliant on the check down Sunday night. First, the Packers played a lot of blanket coverage, forcing Brees to play the ball short and trust a wide receiver or running back to make a play in the open field. Second, when the Saints dialed up a shot play, the Packers covered extremely well downfield (i.e., Kamara’s 52-yard TD in the 3rd Quarter). Finally, the pass rush and lack of trust in himself or receivers to make a play forced Brees to double-clutch and check it down or take a sack.
Brees said before the season, “I’m on borrowed time, I got nothing to lose. So I’m turning it loose.” Saints fans have yet to see the 20-year NFL vet turn it loose downfield, and while Brees’ job is “to move the football, get first downs, possess the ball, score points,” many fans want to see the arm strength that was raved about in training camp. In an early season must-win game, now seems like a good time for Brees to “turn it loose.”
Can the Saints Prove to be a Discipline Football Team?
Penalties have been the early season story in the bayou. New Orleans leads the league in penalty yards at 331 yards through three games. The Saints' critical mental lapses have occurred in the team's secondary. Most of the untimely pass interference calls have extended opposition's drives, which ended in scores.
The referees have whistled the Saints for 9 defensive pass interference (most in the NFL) and 2 unnecessary roughness in 3 games. All of which are 15-yard penalties or spot fouls. Saints News Network’s beat writer John Hendrix wrote this week, “Saints Have to Stop Beating Themselves, Right the Ship Quickly,” and the easiest way to stop beating themselves? Cut down on the penalties. Thankfully for Saints fan, penalties, particularly pass interference, can be corrected down the stretch of a season.
Sean Payton’s team heads into October with very winnable games against the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, and Carolina Panthers. However, for the Saints to continue to be in the conversation for best teams in the NFC, they will have not just to win these contests but prove to be a smart, disciplined team.
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