Detroit Lions: 10 keys for a week 6 win over the New Orleans Saints

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 08: Theo Riddick
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 08: Theo Riddick /

The Detroit Lions come off an ugly loss in week five to face the New Orleans Saints on the road. Here are ten keys for the Lions to win their fourth game.

Here is a weird oddity for you. This will be the fourth consecutive year the Detroit Lions take on the New Orleans Saints, who are in the NFC South. The Lions have won the previous three matchups, with the last two victories coming in New Orleans.

The old cliche is that the third time is the charm, but the hope is Detroit can find their offense marching into the Superdome. Let’s break it down.

1. Alvin Kamara is a dangerous threat in the passing game

Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara is a “new age” running back than will split as a wideout as much as he is in the backfield. Kamara has 28 targets through four games and the Saints use him in a variety of ways. He is a problem in the screen game. He can slither away from defenders and stretch for the first down.

Saints head coach Sean Payton will look for Kamara in matchups against linebackers and safeties with Kamara in the slot. In those situations, the Lions will need to watch the quick out. Kamara loves that play with the wide receiver setting a pick on the slant. If Kamara gets the reception, you must wrap up and finish the play.

2. Attack the Saints linebackers

The Lions offense seems averse to attacking the middle of the field. This game will be the right time to employ it in the gameplan. The Saints lost starting WILL linebacker Alex Anzalone to injury, and there is little talent in the linebacker corps for New Orleans. It’s the biggest weakness on their team.

Jim Bob Cooter runs very little run/pass option plays, but this might be a good time to include a couple. The linebackers for the Saints will be antsy. They are prone to misdirection and play action. The Lions need to add creativity to a sluggish offense and create big plays between the numbers. I would look for some crossing routes off play action to bring the linebackers in, then go over the top.

3. Tackle in space

When you face Drew Brees, it is a guarantee they will get the ball out quick and put their pass catchers in one-on-one situations. It is a staple for Sean Payton’s offense and Brees thrives at it with his quick release. Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn can take a short pass and turn it 80 yards for a touchdown. Tackling usually is not an issue for the Lions, but it will very important Jim Caldwell tells his defense to ensure the tackle before trying to force a fumble.

4. The offensive line should get back on track

The Saints are solid at pressuring the quarterback (currently ninth in sack percentage) but use a variety of blitzes to rush open gaps. The Lions have been bad the last two weeks protecting Matt Stafford, but I think the Lions offensive line get back on track. The Saints defensive line does not have the most explosive pass rushers.

If the backs and tight ends can pick up the linebackers, I do not think the Saints front four can get to Stafford. Cameron Jordan is really good coming off the edge, but nobody else on the Saints defensive line scares me. We know the issues that Stafford has with his ankle hurting. It is imperative to keep him upright. If the Lions pick the blitz up, I think Detroit will be fine.

5. Blitz Brees

Last week, the Lions gave Cam Newton too much time. Teryl Austin did not blitz enough and the front four could not get a consistent rush. Drew Brees is going to get the ball out quick and won’t make mistakes. The Saints are impressive at staying on schedule with their short passes and adequate running game. In week six, Austin needs to open the playbook and send everyone. To beat the Saints offense, you must tackle in space and force Brees to be uncomfortable.

6. Zach Zenner will get more carries

Ameer Abdullah has been a positive all year and I like how hard he runs. Yet, Zach Zenner needs more carries for multiple reasons. One, he is much more reliable in short yardage situations. He’s bigger and can move a pile. Second is to keep Abdullah fresh. We know the injury Abdullah suffered last year, and I think 15 carries per game is a good number for him (which is what he is averaging now). Keeping Abdullah on a carry count and letting him stay fresh for the long haul will benefit Detroit.

Also, I know Riddick is not a good pass blocker. I understand that when he is in, you are telling defenses he is going out for a pass and they can adjust to blitz. Despite those negatives, Riddick is too good of a pass catcher to waste him. Also, call a draw or some sort of shotgun run to mix it up.

7. Play press coverage

Last week, the Lions secondary finally had a bad game. They were physically outmatched and the Panthers used their size advantage perfectly. This game, Austin should be aggressive in matching up the Saints. The Saints use short throws to their wideouts and playing tight coverage might lead to some deflections and maybe a corner jumps a route for an interception.

Michael Thomas is a deep threat, and Brandon Coleman can get free to make a big play. Therefore, you will need to keep a deep safety back most of the time. But Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson should take on the challenge this week. This will be a tough game for Quandre Diggs. The Saints put everyone in the slot, so Diggs will see different players throughout the game. He must have good fundamentals and watch for quick screens when he presses.

8. Throw in a trick play

If Jim Caldwell reads this sentence, it might send him into cardiac arrest. I am willing to take that risk. The Lions are still a good football team, but the team needs a jolt after last week. I am not suggesting anything too crazy. However, maybe throw in a double reverse or double pass this week early and catch the Saints napping.

9. Continue to make the Saints kick field goals

The biggest negative about the Saints offense is their struggles in the red zone. They only score touchdowns 46.7% of the time in the red zone, 26th in the league. The Saints are going to get yards. Drew Brees is a Hall of Fame quarterback and Sean Payton calls plays as well as anyone in football. They have weapons on the outside.

The struggles begin because of their play design. They call all these short passes but there is less space inside the 20. This shrinks the field and leaves less room to create one-on-one matchups. This is where you can blitz Brees and play press coverage as mentioned earlier. With those in mind, watch the play action. Brees loves the quick run fake and finding his tight end on a seam route over the middle.

10. Change the tone

In my preview last week versus the Panthers, I wrote about how different 3-2 and 4-1 sounds. As you might be able to tell, it went negative quickly after the Carolina Panthers dominated for three quarters and sealed the victory late. I do understand the negative chatter because the Lions were a piss poor football team Sunday.

But nothing changes the tone of a fan base quicker than a road victory. Going into the Superdome and beating Drew Brees is always a big deal. It is never an easy game either. The execution has been lacking the last two weeks offensively. The Saints defense has been much better their last two games, but the Lions should take advantage of this team. Matthew Stafford needs a big game and the Lions wide receivers have been challenged.

Next: Lions report card for loss to Panthers

If the offensive line protects and the defense prevents the big play, I like the Lions chances Sunday. Going 4-2 with three road wins going into the bye week is a good start. That puts you in a nice spot to compete for a playoff spot and keeps you in contention for the NFC North crown. It also excites the fan base with a victory going into the bye week. Is there anything worse than your team losing and having to wait two weeks for another game? There is not. This week, the Lions can go into New Orleans and get back on schedule with a week off coming up.