O'HARA'S FRIDAY FOCUS: Lions in a 'make-do' situation

The Detroit Lions are in a "make-do" situation for Sunday's road game against the New Orleans Saints as they try to hit the bye week on a positive note.

They have to make do with quarterback Matthew Stafford likely being affected to some degree by the battering he has taken in recent games, and by what is officially reported as an ankle injury that has not limited his practice time.

One man's opinion: Stafford will make do with the injury.

They have to make do with an offense that was generally ineffective for long stretches in the last two games and is still searching for the formula to produce a more consistent running game and better protection for Stafford.

They have to make do with a defense that is without its top run defender, tackle Haloti Ngata, who is out for the season with a biceps injury sustained in last week's loss to the Panthers.

The nature of the NFL's 16-game schedule makes losses seem cataclysmic, and that's how it felt for the Lions after Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers dropped their won-loss record to 3-2.

In the tight NFC North, where perennial division champion Green Bay is on top with a 4-1 record with the Lions and Vikings tied for second at 3-2, every game is important. 

The importance of a game in Week 6 is a matter of perspective, and safety Glover Quin's perspective is to focus on his job and not get caught up in outside distractions.

"We're not focusing on anybody else, or really worrying about ourselves," Quin said. "For us, there's a big difference between 4-2 and 3-3. We want to go on the road and win a game." 

Quin was asked if Week 6 is too early for a crisis.

"Yeah," he said, smiling.

It hasn't always been that way.

"I know," he said.

"Things change."

Breakdown: Timing means a lot, and the timing favors the Saints. They have won two straight and should be energized coming off a bye. Trading running back Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals earlier in the week means they no longer have to find carries for an unproductive player.

It's a stretch to call this a crossroads game for the Lions, but there is never a good time to start stacking losses. A loss would do just that, making it three of the last four.

There's no question about the resolve or toughness of this team. That question has been answered. Given their current makeup, the timing is bad to play the Saints.

Prediction: Saints 26, Lions 23.

Series history: The Lions have a 12-11 lead, with one tie, and have beaten the Saints three straight years under head coach Jim Caldwell – 24-23 at Ford Field in 2014 and 35-27 and 28-13 the last two years at the Mercedes-Benz Super dome.

QB battle, last three: Stafford has the upper hand over Drew Brees by a significant margin in the winning streak. Their cumulative stats:

Brees: 141 attempts, 93 completions, 1,009 yards, 5 TD, 4 Int., 86.8 passer rating.

Stafford: 107 attempts, 79 completions, 894 yards, 7 TD, 2 Int., 112.4 passer rating.

If Brees needs any extra motivation, it's from the three losses.

"I can remember each one of them," Brees told reporters covering the Saints this week. "That's not the type of team we are, and that's a bad taste in our mouth right now. We always have a lot to prove. We certainly have a lot to prove right now."

Lions focus -- Theo Riddick: Riddick creates matchup problems as a receiver, either out of the backfield, lined up in the slot of split wide. 

His presence forces defenses to choose how to cover him, and it opens room for teammates, much like a speed receiver does by adding a downfield threat. He's one of the most sure-handed backs in the league, and he's elusive in the open field.

Riddick had four catches for 45 yards last week, with a long gain of 21 yards. He was an asset in the Lions' fourth quarter rally. Two of his catches were for gains of eight and 21 yards on the first touchdown drive. 

If Stafford has to get the ball out quickly because of pressure – which was frequently the case last week – Riddick is a reliable target.

"He had a really nice game," Stafford said. "Each team kind of has their own way to prepare for Theo, it seems like, and find a way how they want to cover him -- whether it be with one guy, two guys, a DB, a linebacker.

"We kind of go into the game and try and figure that out and go from there."

Saints focus – Drew Brees: He hasn't won as much as Tom Brady has in New England – one championship in his only Super Bowl appearance compared to Brady winning five out of seven – but a case can be made that Brees is every bit as important to the Saints as Brady is to the Patriots.

Brees is the face of the Saints. In his 12th season as their starter, he's the drive train for wherever they are headed. Everything they do revolves around him. At the age of 38, his commitment to preparation is as strong as his passion to compete.

Cornerback Nevin Lawson sees no sign that the wear and tear of playing quarterback for 17 seasons has taken any toll on Brees. 

"I haven't seen anything different from Drew Brees," Lawson said this week. "Same offense. Same coaches. What might be a little different is, they have better pieces around him than last year. He's getting the ball to his playmakers' hands."

The Saints are on an upswing and feeling good about themselves with a two-game winning streak and an improved defense that has allowed only 13 points in those two games.

"I think we've turned the corner this year," Brees said this week. "We've won the last two. I feel like we're an ascending team that will continue to play better."

The Saints have added depth at running back with the emergence of Alvin Kamara to go with veteran starter Mark Ingram. Ingram has rushed for 170 yards and a 4.0-yard average. Kamara has 83 yards and a 5.5 average. Both backs catch the ball well. Kamara ranks second on the team with 20 catches. Ingram is third with 15.

"They're two very complete backs who can be in in any given situation," Brees said. "Whether that's running between the tackles, outside the tackles or catching balls out of the backfield, splitting them out, picking up protections – those guys can do it all."

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