| Detroit Free Press
Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down the Detroit Lions’ 35-29 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Ford Field, and looks at three players who helped their stock and three who hurt their stock:
RB D’Andre Swift: A week after he played six of a possible 67 offensive snaps in a win over the Arizona Cardinals, Swift was much more involved Sunday. The rookie proved to be a mismatch in the passing game for the Saints’ linebacking corps, catching four passes for 30 yards and scoring on a 7-yard touchdown. He’s far from a finished product, but given the state of the franchise, he deserves more opportunities going forward.
TE Jesse James: James may go down as one of general manager Bob Quinn’s worst free agent signings, given the limited production he has had through 20 games in Detroit (a meager 20 catches) and the size of his contract (four years, $25 million). But in the past two weeks, James has shown a glimpse of why Quinn targeted him in free agency. He’s the Lions’ best blocking tight end and made a nice play on his only catch Sunday, outjumping Malcolm Jenkins for a pass 31 yards downfield. He won’t escape T.J. Hockenson’s shadow in Detroit, but he might do enough in the next 12 weeks to get a lifeline from some other team.
QB Drew Brees: OK, so maybe this is cheating, but it’s not like the Lions had many good performances to pick from. Brees showed he’s still one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns, and did so with two of his favorite targets sidelined by injuries. Last in the NFL in intended air yards per target entering the game, Brees showed critics he still has the arm to make plays downfield, completing 2 of 3 throws 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage with one touchdown. If he plays like he did Sunday, the Saints can win the NFC.
QB Matthew Stafford: Stafford played his worst game of the season. He took three sacks, threw his third interception of the year and misfired on several passes to open receivers; he was 1 of 4 on throws of 20-plus yards. Though he insisted otherwise after the game, Stafford continues to look like he’s pressing. The Lions are awful on defense and don’t have much of a running game. The last thing they need is for Stafford to add to their woes by committing mistakes.
The Lions run defense: Their stock wasn’t too high coming into the game, but if it’s possible to sink lower, the Lions run defense did. The Saints had 12 rushes of 5 yards or more in the first half, consistently putting the Lions behind the chains as they erased a 14-point deficit. Don’t be fooled by New Orleans’ final 3.9-yard per carry average, they ran the ball at will most of the day. The Lions’ struggles are part scheme and part personnel, and there’s little hope they’ll be fixed soon.
DL Nick Williams: Williams reaggravated a shoulder injury and that could be problematic for the thin defensive line. Da’Shawn Hand is the Lions’ best interior backup, but hasn’t made an impact play since his rookie season in 2018. Williams had one tackle Sunday and was part of the struggles up front. If he misses significant time, the feeble pass rush and leaky run defense get even worse.
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