Lions Expect Shootout with New Orleans

The Lions could find themselves in a shootout Sunday against the Saints as they try to avoid the NFL's first 0-15 start. Neither team has a strong pass defense.

The Lions could find themselves in a shootout Sunday against the Saints as they try to avoid the NFL's first 0-15 start. Neither team has a strong pass defense.

The problem for the Lions, though, is that the Saints have the NFL's top-ranked passing attack. To keep pace, the Lions might have to let it all hang out and take some chances.

"We don't have anything to lose," rookie running back Kevin Smith said. "These last two games, I would come out with everything you ever knew in football."

Not that Smith would say anything to offensive coordinator Jim Colletto -- directly, anyway.

"I might whisper it to my position coach, so no one knows it came from me," Smith said. "But it's not my job to go to Colletto. Maybe some of the older vets, if they're feeling like going to tell the offensive coordinator how to do his job, that's their business."

Colletto was as creative as he has been this season in Sunday's 31-21 loss at Indianapolis.

Early in the fourth quarter, facing third-and-1 at the Colts' 16, Colletto called an option play that seemed more suited to backup quarterback Drew Stanton than starter Dan Orlovsky.

Orlovsky looked like he would keep the ball, then flipped it to Smith with a defender in Smith's face. Smith eluded the defender and gained 12 yards, setting up his 1-yard touchdown run that tied the game, 21-21.

"I was surprised we called an option with Dan out there," Smith said, smiling. "I thought Drew was going to come in there or something. But I think Coach Colletto came out and I think he threw what he had in his package out at them."

Asked about Orlovsky's pitch, Smith said: "He put me on an island, man. If he would have tackled me right there, it would have been my fault. ...

"It was a good call. We executed. We gave ourselves a chance to score."

Coach Rod Marinelli already started going for it in certain fourth-down situations Nov. 16 at Carolina -- if the Lions crossed the 50 and faced fourth-and-short.

He wanted time of possession and points, and with his defense failing to force turnovers, he felt fourth-down conversions were the next-best thing. He did it again Dec. 7 against Minnesota, and he likely will do it again Sunday.

The Saints better keep an eye on Calvin Johnson.

"Right now one of the best playmakers in the league is Calvin," Marinelli said, "so on fourth down you may have to go for him."

Player Notes:

  • QB Daunte Culpepper has done some throwing this week, but he still has not practiced and coach Rod Marinelli is calling him doubtful for Sunday's game against New Orleans. Culpepper has declined to comment.
  • CB Leigh Bodden did not practice Thursday to rest a tender groin, but Rod Marinelli said Bodden was expected to play.
  • DE Dewayne White did not practice Thursday. White returned from a calf strain Sunday at Indianapolis, and he is thought to be resting it so he can play against the Saints.
  • DT Chuck Darby did not practice Thursday. He has been nursing a calf injury all season and is expected to play.

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