Saints target takeaways, welcome Detroit, Dan Campbell ‘home’

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Pride runs deep with Dan Campbell, who has the Detroit Lions in first place in the NFC North.

He’ll head “home” to square off with Dennis Allen, who has the New Orleans Saints tied for first place in the NFC South and has been connected to Campbell since serving as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in the late 1990s.

“It’s special,” Campbell said of returning to the Caesars Superdome. “It’s a little like going home. That’s why I’m fired up to go back there because I know winning in that building.”

The Lions (8-3) are three games ahead of Minnesota and Green Bay in the loss column as Detroit tries to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Saints (5-6) lost their last two games but remain in the thick of the all-sub-.500 South division.

Campbell and Allen were assistants on Sean Payton’s staff for five seasons before the Lions hired Campbell in 2021. When Payton resigned after the 2021 season, a year before returning as head coach in Denver, Allen succeeded him.

“I know what they’re made of,” Campbell said of the Saints. “I know they’re prideful guys. It was a winning organization and still is. They have an opportunistic defense and they’re going to try and make you mess it up.”

Detroit has messed up a little more than usual the past two games. Quarterback Jared Goff spent part of Wednesday running through ball security drills, and he wasn’t alone.

The Lions lost three fumbles with one takeaway in a 29-22 home loss to the Packers on Thanksgiving Day, four days after struggling to a 31-26 victory over Chicago, when Goff was picked off three times.

“We’re turning the ball over too much offensively and we had one on special teams,” Campbell said. “That’s the major issue right now. It’s doom and gloom outside our building.”

The Saints are tied for fourth in the NFL with 20 takeaways. But New Orleans doesn’t always know what to do with them, and is trying to move past a 24-15 loss at Atlanta last week.

New Orleans was stifled by the Falcons, reaching the red zone five times without scoring a touchdown. While the Saints netted five field goals, two of the possessions inside the 20 ended in turnovers, including a game-changing pick-6 thrown by Derek Carr.

“That’s been an issue for us,” Allen said. “We haven’t been able to get that corrected.”

The Saints rank 29th in the NFL in percentage of trips into the red zone producing touchdowns (42.5). Allen said the team is spending extra time on red-zone offense.

“There are a lot of factors involved in it,” Allen said. “It’s protection, routes, concepts, execution. It’s certainly an area where we’re not as good as we need to be.”

For New Orleans, which finished 7-10 in Allen’s first season as head coach last year, it could be worse. The Saints play in the only division in which every team has a losing record.

Though tied for first, New Orleans currently loses tiebreakers to Atlanta and Tampa Bay with five weeks to go in the regular season.

“We understand the sense of urgency,” Allen said.

Four Saints starters missed practice Wednesday: defensive end Cameron Jordan (ankle), linebacker Pete Werner (shoulder/oblique), safety Marcus Maye (shoulder) and wide receiver Rashid Shaheed (thigh). Wide receiver Chris Olave (concussion protocol), center Erik McCoy (shoulder) and kicker Blake Grupe (groin) were limited.

Former Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone, Detroit’s leading tackler, missed practice because of a hand injury.

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