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FOUR DOWNS: Tipped balls hurt Lions in loss


Matthew Stafford had 12 passes batted down or deflected at the line of scrimmage in Sunday's 52-38 loss in New Orleans.

After the game, Stafford couldn't remember being part of a game where so many passes met the hands of pass rushers instead of their intended targets.  

"I think their guys were just being players," Stafford said. "I don't know if it was a concerted effort coming into the game, I have no idea, I'm not in their meeting rooms, but I just have to find a way to get it through. Obviously, led to some big plays. Some tips led to some interceptions that we'd love to have back."

It had to be frustrating for both Stafford and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell to see that many passes flutter so dangerously in the air. Both pick-sixes recorded by the Saints Sunday were on tipped balls at the line of scrimmage.

Stafford finished the game completing less than 50 percent of his passes (25 for 52), mainly because of all the tipped balls.

"Guys were getting their hands up in the lane and tipping the ball in the air," Caldwell said. "Obviously, more than we've ever seen. So, we'll look at all of the details. Some of them were obvious you could see, there were others that weren't so clear. So, we'll take a look at it and see where we are."


Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin preaches stopping the run as the No. 1 objective every week for his team. He and his defense had some issues in that department in a Week 3 loss to Atlanta (151 yards allowed), but have been rather good all year except for that one hiccup.

Detroit entered Sunday third in the NFL in run defense, allowing under 75 yards on average per game. 

Don't expect them to remain in that slot after allowing 193 yards (5.2 per carry) on the ground and two scores to the Saints on Sunday. New Orleans was just the 21st ranked rushing offense in the NFL coming in, averaging 94.0 yards per game.

"Anytime that we allow a team to run consistently on us and run well, we're not happy about that," Caldwell said.

The Lions got better against the run in the second half. They tackled a little better, and limited New Orleans to just 65 yards vs. 128 in the first half. But the lapses in the first half allowed the Saints to jump out to such a huge lead.

"It was just a tough outing," Lions MIKE linebacker Jarrad Davis said after the game. "Got to get better. Got to attack next week and come out and improve as a team and as a unit."

Saints running back Mark Ingram rushed for 114 yards on 25 carries (2.6 average). Fellow back Alvin Kamara racked up 75 yards on just 10 carries (7.5 average). New Orleans' ability to control the game on the ground early on was a big factor in their win.

Davis led Detroit's defense with eight tackles. The Lions had just two tackles for loss as a team.


The entire landscape of the NFC North shifted on one play Sunday.

On second-and-9 from his own 39-yard line, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw an incompletion toward tight end Martellus Bennett in a game at Minnesota. He was thrown to the turf by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr after delivering the ball. Rodgers fell awkwardly on his right throwing shoulder with Barr's weight on top of him driving him into the turf. Rodgers was carted to the Packers locker room shortly after, and the Packers confirmed that he suffered a broken collarbone that could end his season.

In one play, the NFC North just became wide open. The Vikings would go on to defeat the Packers, 23-10, putting both teams at 4-2 atop the division. The Lions are a game back at 3-3, but have already beaten the Vikings once.

With an MVP-caliber player like Rodgers, the Packers were the favorites to win the NFC and make the playoffs for a ninth-straight season. Without him, they were forced to play third-year quarterback Brett Hundley the rest of the game in Minnesota. Hundley had thrown just 11 passes coming into Sunday's game. He was 18-of-33 passing for 157 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions filling in for Rodgers vs. the Vikings.


The bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Lions.

Not only are they reeling a bit after losing three of their last four contests, but they've got some key players dealing with injures, and could use a week to rest up, re-focus and get healthy. 

View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 6 game against the New Orleans Saints.

"I think in terms of our health it does, yeah," Caldwell said after the game, when asked about the timing of the bye week. "Because we're going to need a little time, it's a good thing we're not playing a Thursday night game or something of that nature. We'd be in a little bit of (trouble) or even next Sunday probably with some guys.

"So, with the amount of time that we have, it comes in a good time in terms of where we are right now. You'd love to have it halfway, but six games in, we'll take it in this situation."

Stafford said after the game that the bye week was coming at a perfect time for him.

"As far as my body goes, it's coming at a good time, there's no question about that," he said. "I will just learn as much as I possibly can about our team about our guys and myself and go from there."

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