Saints D looks to slow Lions high-powered offense

Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson intercepts Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the end zone for a big defensive stop.
Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson intercepts Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the end zone for a big defensive stop.

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - People who like to watch quarterbacks sling it all over the field probably won't find a better combination in the playoffs than Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford. The pair combined for over 10,000 yards and 87 touchdowns on the season.

So, the chance of hearing the "Defense, Defense" chants from Saints fans on Saturday will rely on the secondary's ability to put the brakes on the up-tempo Motor City offense.

"They've thrown it more now than they were when we played them, so he's making a lot of big plays," said Saints safety Roman Harper. "I think last week you saw against Green Bay in the cold, bad weather they still scored 40 something points. So, we've definitely got to be ready defensively to try to slow down this passing game."

Stafford actually passed for 408 yards, with one touchdown and one interception in the 31-17 loss in New Orleans the first time the teams played this season. The defeat dropped the Lions to 7-5 on the season, but they went 3-1 the rest of the way to finish 10-6. In the final three games, Stafford threw for nearly 1,300 yards and 12 TDs.

"You've got to do something to disrupt them," explained Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins. "They can't go out there and have routes on air, so we've got to get our hands on receivers, as well as get a good rush to kind of disrupt the timing of their offense."

One of Stafford's favorite targets is Calvin Johnson. The 6'5" wide receiver is only four catches shy of 100 for the season. He has caught 16 touchdowns with nearly 1,700 yards.

"Calvin is one of those elite players, probably one of, if not the best, receiver in our game right now," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. "He's going to make plays and make earned catches. You try to, as best you can, avoid the big play."

The Saints are on a roll. The offense is scoring at will and the defense is holding opponents to 17.5 points per game in this eight-game winning streak.

"We're a great football team that's trying to be really special," said quarterback Drew Brees. "And, our hopes and dreams are out there for us."

The dominance the Saints have shown has many people picking New Orleans to win the Super Bowl. The players have a different view of their position.

"We can't look at what we did in the past," explained cornerback Tracy Porter. "It was a great run, but now, there are no bad teams. Everybody's in the playoffs because they worked hard, they got the wins that they needed to get to that point."

"[We're] playing confident. We're playing with a sense of swag right now and we've got to keep this thing going. We've got to continue to prepare with the edge like we have these last couple of months," Harper added.

Historically, this series has gone back and forth. Currently, the Saints are on a three-game winning streak over the Lions heading into this game. New Orleans is also undefeated in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this season.

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Superdome.

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