Watch Monday Night Football Live Streaming Detroit Lions vs New Orleans Saints Live Online Week 15 match will be kick off at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, 21 December 2015 online, Time 08:30 ET and its broadcast CBS, ESPN, NFL Network Online.
As the Lions look to jump-start an offense that has been held below 20 points nine times, one option is getting receiver Calvin Johnson more involved.
Johnson caught one pass on five targets in last week’s loss to the St. Louis Rams, the seventh time in his career he has been held to one reception in a game. He needs 19 yards Monday for another 1,000-yard season, and he’ll help the Lions’ chances of winning if he can deliver a few big plays.
“Last game, at the end of the day, I didn’t get him the ball as much as I would’ve liked to, which negatively impacted our offensive performance, I think,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into that. But, yeah, we certainly want to get him the ball.”
When Saints cornerback Brandon Browner is on the field, look for a penalty flag nearby.
Browner tied Chester Pitts’ NFL record for most penalties in a season (dating to 1999) when he drew his 22nd last week. He has been called for 15 defensive holding/pass interference/illegal contact penalties, and he’ll likely spend part of Monday’s game on Johnson.
“If he gets his hands on guys, it’s over,” Matthew Stafford said. “They don’t even get off the line sometimes. Guys have been able to, if you can get off the jam, that’s where your most success comes from him just because he is a longer guy, likes to get his hands on you.”
House of horrors
Monday’s game will mark the Lions’ first trip to the Superdome since a 45-28 wild-card loss to the Saints in January 2012. The Lions led, 14-10, at halftime of that game. But Drew Brees stepped up in the second half, and Stafford threw two fourth-quarter interceptions.
Only five players on the Lions’ current 53-man roster played in that game, but Stafford said he still thinks about that loss from time to time.
“We had a lot of big games that we played (there),” Stafford said. “Also a Sunday-nighter, I believe. My first game of my career was there. Drew Brees threw six touchdowns, and they won the Super Bowl. That was a tough one, but a lot of memories go back to playing in that place. I played a college bowl game there. I’ve played there quite a few times.”
New Orleans Saints (5-8)
Coach: Sean Payton (85-56 overall, 85-56 with Saints).
Key players: QB Drew Brees, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Ben Watson, DE Cam Jordan, CB Delvin Breaux.
Last game: Win, 24-17, over the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Last meeting: 2014: Lions 24, Saints 23.
The buzz: The Saints snapped a four-game losing streak with last week’s win over the Bucs, but they could be eliminated from playoff contention by the time today’s games are done. Brees is closing in on his 10th straight 4,000-yard passing season and remains one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. He has a different cast of weapons than in years past, but Cooks and Watson have had productive seasons, and fill-in running back Tim Hightower had 85 yards rushing and a touchdown last week in his first start since 2011. Defensively, the Saints changed coordinators last month, firing Rob Ryan and promoting Dennis Allen. They’ve been more sound on defense the past few weeks but still lack playmakers on that side of the ball. Jordan has a team-high eight sacks, and Breaux, whom the Lions considered signing out of the CFL last year, has allowed just 1 yard receiving over the past three weeks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Lions’ run offense vs. Saints’ run defense
The Lions have the NFL’s worst rushing offense. The Saints have the league’s worst rushing defense. Something has to give Monday.
The Lions have run effectively the past month with four straight 100-yard games. They don’t generate many big plays on the ground, but their by-committee approach at least forces defenses to respect the run. Ameer Abdullah had a quiet day last week, but he should be more involved Monday against a less destructive defensive line.
Rookie middle linebacker Stephone Anthony has been a bright spot for the Saints, but he doesn’t get enough help from the rest of New Orleans’ pedestrian front seven. Teams have topped 110 yards rushing in 11 of 13 games against the Saints.
Lions’ pass offense vs. Saints’ pass defense
After trying to dink and dunk their way downfield against a good St. Louis Rams pass rush last week, the Lions should have more opportunities to go deep Monday.
The Saints rank 30th in the NFL in pass defense and don’t have much of an edge presence beyond Cam Jordan. Delvin Breaux is the best cornerback you’ve never heard of; the Lions tried to sign him out of the CFL last year but wouldn’t pass him on his physical. But Brandon Browner is a walking penalty who tries to outmuscle receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Matthew Stafford has played his best football of the season since the bye week, though he did throw his 13th pick of the year last week. Golden Tate has been the Lions’ best receiver the past month, and Theo Riddick gives defenses fits in space. But the Lions need to get Calvin Johnson going for the offense to play at its peak level.
Saints’ run offense vs. Lions’ run defense
The Saints lost do-it-all running back Mark Ingram to a season-ending shoulder injury, but Tim Hightower ran for 85 yards and a touchdown as a fill-in last week.
Hightower essentially had been out of football since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2011. He’s one of the best feel-good stories of the year, but he needed 28 carries to get last week’s yards, and the Saints rank just 24th in the NFL in rushing overall (93.8 yards per game).
The Lions gave up two big gains on the ground to Todd Gurley last week but have otherwise played well against the run since their Week 8 debacle in London. Veterans Haloti Ngata and Stephen Tulloch remain solid run defenders, and Isa Abdul-Quddus should be back in the starting lineup at strong safety for a defense that allows 115.9 yards rushing per game.
Saints’ pass offense vs. Lions’ pass defense
Drew Brees, right, is 36 but still one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s a pinpoint passer on short and intermediate routes who generally takes good care of the ball and has plenty of dangerous weapons at his disposal.
Five Saints have caught more than 40 passes, including the injured Ingram. Second-year receiver Brandin Cooks (64 catches, 869 yards) has evolved into a reliable deep threat, and tight end Ben Watson (61-712) is having a career year at 35.
Darius Slay, like Breaux, doesn’t get enough credit for being a shutdown cornerback, but he has been reliable against tough matchups all year. The Lions need more pass rush out of players not named Ziggy Ansah, or Brees will be in for a big day.
Matt Prater didn’t get a chance to try a field goal last week, but he’s still 17-for-17 this year. Sam Martin gives the Lions two reliable specialists, and the coverage units have been solid. The Lions’ biggest problems on special teams have been too many penalties and too often not having 11 men on the field.
The Saints placed rookie return man Marcus Murphy on injured reserve this week, but if C.J. Spiller takes over, there won’t be much of a drop-off. The Saints have had field goal problems this year, though Kai Forbath did drill a 57-yarder in Houston last month. Thomas Morstead regularly ranks among the league leaders in net punting.
The Lions turned in an uninspired effort last week coming off that tough Hail Mary loss to the Packers, and even though they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention, there seems to be a better energy level about the team this week.
There’s nothing easy about facing the Saints on the road, though. Brees is capable of exploding for a 400-yard game at any time, and the Lions’ shorthanded secondary will be tested by a deep receiving corps.
New Orleans doesn’t offer much resistance on defense, so this could be a high-scoring affair. But that hasn’t been the Lions’ forte this year. They’ll need to force a few turnovers to win, like they did last year at Ford Field. Absent that, they’ll enter next week’s home finale on a three-game losing streak.
Pick: Saints 31, Lions 24