Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: 5 Halftime Adjustments Saints Must Make
There was the fact that the Lions were making their first trip to the playoffs since the Earth cooled (that's an estimate). On the other hand, as you may recall, the Saints hoisted the Lombardi Trophy as recently as the 2009-10 season. So there was that little matter.
Of course, you could've pointed to the fact that the Saints enjoy a significant boost in Who Dat? territory.
New Orleans finished the regular season at 13-3 and guess where all three of those losses occurred? Yep, on the road.
Nobody wants to do math on Saturday so I'll do the honors—that means the club was a perfect 8-0 in the Big Easy. Detroit was 5-3 on the road, which is damn good...and well short of perfection.
Nevertheless, the Saints' biggest edge was where it's been since Week 1: at the quarterback position.
On Saturday, the Cajun Kids employed the services of the only QB with playoff experience (thanks NFL network). If that wasn't enough, their signal-caller happens to be Drew Brees—four-time All-Pro and Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees.
Matthew Stafford is a promising young stud who should only get better, but he ain't Mr. Brees.
Put it all together and the Vegas line of Saints -11 didn't look so crazy.
Unfortunately for the Brees Brunch, it's looking a tad absurd after a competitive first half. There are still 30 minutes of football left, though, and with these five halftime adjustments, the Saints can still coast to victory:
1. Protect the Football
Marques Colston had a costly fumble inside the red zone, which (no surprise) was a key play in the first half as did a second-quarter fumble by Brees. The more mistakes the Saints make, the longer the underdog Lions will hang around and that's generally a bad development for the favorite.
If New Orleans keeps robbing itself of points like that and/or keeps giving its opponent extra possessions, it could be watching the divisional round from home for a second consecutive year.
2. Get Some Pressure on Stafford
The young Detroit QB spent most of the first half picking the Saints' secondary to pieces. The notable exceptions were when Stafford was forced out of the pocket or the real estate around him got crowded. New Orleans was rarely (if ever) able to plant him in the turf, and that must change in the third and fourth quarters if the Saints are to advance.
3. Roll with Sproles
I know the Saints thrive on variety, especially in the running game. BUT...
Running back/all-purpose dynamo Darren Sproles seems like he's inches from breaking one every time he touches the ball. Considering that he led the NFL in all-purpose yardage (by over 400 yards), that perception is well justified.
He scored New Orleans' first touchdown and I'm guessing he'll score at least one more if he can see enough of the rock in the second half.
4. Cool It with the Blitzes
New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is notorious for his blitz packages and the consensus was that a conservative scheme cost the Saints last year in Seattle. That said, the Lions aren't having too much trouble picking up the extra pass-rushers and exploited the aggressive schemes on numerous occasions in the first half.
Now that the Saints offense has settled into a comfortable rhythm, I'd limit their Detroit counterpart's opportunities for big gains and quick scores by dropping more men into coverage.
5. Get Control of Calvin Johnson
Speaking of coverage...
Nobody is suggesting that Megatron can be stopped, but as the old saying goes, you can hope to contain him. Calvin ran wild in the first half and that will only get worse in the final 30 minutes unless New Orleans can figure out a way to slow him down.
Double-cover him on every play, triple-cover him, whatever it takes because a repeat of his first half could be the Lions' winning ticket.
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