NEW ORLEANS – Lions-Saints Final Thoughts: Injured ankle vs. passing hand for Matthew Stafford; support for Eric Ebron; Lions and Saints to watch; life without AP.
Injury effect: In Stafford's case, the ankle injury he sustained in last week's loss to Carolina should be far less restricting and debilitating than the finger injuries he sustained in 2011 and again last year.
For one thing, Stafford participated in full practice all week in preparation for today's game. He's listed as questionable for today's matchup. In the portions of practice that are open to the media and in full view – as is standard – it appeared to this observer that he was on his toes when he threw as opposed to standing flat-footed.
That means he had a solid base and his regular throwing motion. Whether he is limited on full rollouts and scrambles and has stamina for the full 65 plays or so remains to be seen.
It was a different story altogether on two occasions when Stafford played with injured fingers on his passing hand. The results can be documented, as follows:
Stafford played a 2011 road game against the Chicago Bears with a broken finger. In windy conditions, he had four interceptions against one touchdown. The next week against Carolina he had recovered enough to throw five TD passes against two picks.
And last year, he played the last three games and the playoff loss to Seattle wearing a glove to protect a severe finger injury. He had two TD passes against three interceptions in the four games combined, and the Lions went 0-4.
Head coach Jim Caldwell does not discuss injuries in any detail, but he did acknowledge that in general an ankle injury is less limiting for a quarterback than a hand injury.
"I certainly wouldn't want to minimize anything that our guys go through," Caldwell said. "It's all difficult. But I'm certain that particular appendage would give you a few more problems."
Former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman, the color analyst for the Fox network telecast of today's game, put it this way: "I'd take 100 ankle injuries over one hand injury."
Ebron embrace:If support from teammates produces results, tight end Eric Ebron is due for a breakout performance. He got welcome advice when he reached out to Stafford after a poor performance against Carolina, and the locker room is solidly behind him.
"I just want to remind him, you're a heck of a player," said Golden Tate. "You're here for a reason. We need you in order to go where we want to go."
It would be a different story for a player who doesn't work hard. That has not been an issue with Ebron.
"You don't see that in him," Tate said. "He just wants it so bad."
Lion to watch:Someone has to step up with the loss of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for the season, and second-year tackle A'Shawn Robinson is a candidate to step up his game. He has only one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit.
Ngata was still a powerful interior force in his 12thyear. He had two sacks and could dominate at times.
"That's a loss that you want to look at," said defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. "We have guys that are very capable in there, but you also have a guy (Ngata) that's been a proven, proven run stopper for a lot of years in this league."
Saints to watch: The trade of Peterson allows the Saints to settle in with the tailback rotation of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. They've both been productive in yards per carry, and their receiving skills are an extension of the run game.
Lions' road-field advantage? That could be the case, based on the Saints' recent record at home and how the Lions have played on the road under head coach Jim Caldwell. Here's the breakdown of recent stats:
Saints at home: 0-1 this year and 11-13 the last three seasons with home records of 4-4, 4-4 and 3-5. Combined record: 11-14.
Lions on road:2-0 this year and 10-14 last three years with road records of 3-5, 3-5 and 4-4.
Combined road record: 12-14.
Lions' advantage:2-0 on the road vs. the Saints the last two years.
The Peterson Principle: The Lions are seeing first hand for the second time in three weeks how teams move on from some of the biggest stars when they lose their value.
Today it's the Saints, who traded Adrian Peterson earlier in the week to give rookie Alvin Kamara more playing time. Two weeks ago it was the Vikings, who released Peterson in February and drafted Dalvin Cook.
Both head coaches – the Saints' Sean Payton and Vikings' Mike Zimmer – said nice things about Peterson but stressed the versatility of the rookies.