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FOUR DOWNS: Defense comes up short in loss to Saints


It's four games into the season, and the Lions sit at 1-3 heading to their bye week after dropping Sunday's contest to the New Orleans Saints, 35-29.

It was another game for Detroit where they jumped out to a double-digit lead (14-0), and then watched it evaporate to the tune of 35 unanswered points for the Saints. Those weren't cheap points for the Saints, either. After Detroit jumped up 14-0, New Orleans scored a touchdown on five straight drives, as follows:

  • 13 plays covering 75 yards in 7:15 (Latavius Murray 3-yard run)
  • 10 plays covering 80 yards in 5:54 (Alvin Kamara 1-yard run)
  • 9 plays covering 80 yards in 5:26 (Tre'Quan Smith 2-yard pass)
  • 4 plays covering 49 yards in :59 (Smith 20-yard pass)
  • 10 plays covering 75 yards in 6:08 (Murray 6-yard run)

"I think we can play better and coach better," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said after the game, when asked about Detroit's defense. "We know we have a lot of work to do and that's what we have to do. We have a long season in front of us, but we have to get going and we have to get some of this stuff fixed that looks good at some points and not good at other points."

It wasn't good for a large portion of the game Sunday. New Orleans completed 76 percent of their passes for nearly 250 yards and two touchdowns. They gained 164 yards on the ground with three touchdowns. New Orleans converted 10-of-14 third downs Sunday.

Detroit's defense had no answers for a large stretch of this game, which we've seen at other points this season.


Coaches typically split the season up into four quarters, and Sunday's loss concluded the first quarter for the Lions at 1-3. Detroit now heads to their bye week looking for answers and a way to turn things around heading into quarter two.

"After four games our team can really take a look at itself and say, 'hey, how do we need to play the game? What do we have to do?'" Patricia said. "We got some work to do during the bye week, which I think will be good for us to take a look at."

The Lions need to take a long look at themselves during the bye and figure out what kind of team they want to be moving forward. This is a team without an identity through the first quarter of the season. What can they hang their hat on? There's too much inconsistency on offense and defense right now.

"I just think we have a lot of work to do," quarterback Matthew Stafford said after Sunday's loss. "A lot of things to look at and see how we can be better as a team."

Detroit plays Jacksonville (1-3), Atlanta (0-3), Indianapolis (2-1) and Minnesota (1-3) in the second quarter of their season following the bye. Three of those games are on the road.


A lot of the big plays down the field in the passing game we saw from Stafford last season in his first year in Darrell Bevell's scheme haven't been there through the first month of the this season. Teams are playing more coverage to keep those big plays in front of them, but when they've had an opportunity to strike for some big gains, they've missed more than they've hit.

Part of that was missing Pro Bowl wide receiver Kenny Golladay the first couple weeks of the season, but even with Golladay the last couple weeks, the big play hasn't really been there for the Lions' offense.

Stafford was on pace for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns midseason last year before injuring his back and missing the last eight games. Through four games this season, Stafford has 1,017 yards, eight touchdowns, three interceptions and a 93.8 passer rating. That projects out to about 4,000 yards, 32 touchdowns and 12 picks. Those aren't terrible numbers, but not near the type of production Stafford was having early last year.

He's thrown an interception in each of Detroit's three losses, and Detroit's offense went more than 36 minutes without scoring Sunday in an era where scoring is higher than it's even been.

"I think for me, personally, it's going to start just looking in the mirror," Stafford said. "How can I help us be more successful? How can I help us win more? I'll take the week obviously very seriously and try to figure out how I can help us win."


The first thing Patricia and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin need to look at on defense over the bye week is how to fix their run defense

The play that signified that better than anything was the 3rd and goal from the 6-yard line the Saints had Sunday in the third quarter. They ran Murray right up the middle, and he powered his way into the end zone. No play fakes or boots or gimmicks, just hard running right up the middle. You only make that play call if you know you're dominating the game upfront.

The Saints ran the ball 42 times for 164 yards playing without their best wide receiver (Michael Thomas). The longest Saints run was 12 yards. They were methodical with the run. It was somewhat fitting New Orleans iced the game with a 5-yard run on 3rd and 3 that resulted in three Drew Brees kneel downs and Detroit's third loss of the season.

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