Lions Brace for Brees, New Orleans Offense

There is a theory in Detroit that the Lions might win because they'll be playing hard, trying to avoid a winless season, while the Saints will be flat, having been just eliminated from the playoffs. Will it bode true? Notes, quotes and analysis inside.

The Lions have only four interceptions this season - only one by a defensive back - and their secondary has been ravaged by injuries. Now they're trying to avoid becoming the first NFL team to start 0-15 by going against ...

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and the NFL's top-ranked passing attack.

No wonder 9,000 tickets remained for the Lions' home finale as of late Wednesday afternoon, with the fifth blackout in six home games looming.

"Been playing against Drew Brees since I've been in college," said Travis Fisher, one of the Lions' remaining defensive backs. "He's been the same guy, the same guy. Poised in the pocket, throws the ball here, here, here, here, here."

Fisher darted his right hand all over an imaginary field.

"When he was at Purdue, he had about five wides on the field," Fisher continued. "That's all he did was throw to the open guy. He's doing the same thing now, the same exact thing. He's been that guy since he's been in college. He's still that guy in the league. He still has the weapons around him."

Fisher has played nickel back. But with safety Dwight Smith (ankle) and cornerback Keith Smith (groin) now on injured reserve, he will stay at corner in nickel situations.

Kalvin Pearson will move from safety to nickel back. Stuart Schweigert, who joined the Lions on Nov. 19, will replace him at safety.

"Kalvin will go in and play nickel for us," coach Rod Marinelli said. Who knows the system the best right now? Because there's runs, there's draws, there's screens, there's blitzes, there's all that stuff. ...

"Stuart can come in. He's done a nice job. He learns quick. ... If Fish goes inside, then we're going with another younger corner."

Fisher continued to rave about Brees, talking about his intelligence and touch. But he sees some vulnerability.

"He's got 16 interceptions, though, this year," Fisher said. "So it's not like you can't make plays on him. But he's a great quarterback. We're just going to have to play some sound defense."

What would constitute sound?

"We're going to have to hit him," Fisher said. "We can't just let him sit in the pocket and do that."

There is a theory in Detroit that the Lions might win because they'll be playing hard, trying to avoid a winless season, while the Saints will be flat, having been just eliminated from the playoffs.

But Brees (4,332) is within striking distance of Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a season (5,084).

"If I know Drew Brees, he's going to want to light it up," Fisher said. "He's not a guy that's going to fold. ... He's going to try to put 400 yards on you if he can. He loves to throw the ball. He loves to compete. I wouldn't expect nothing different."

SERIES HISTORY: 19th regular-season meeting. Lions lead series, 9-8-1. Lions won last meeting, 13-12, scrambling onto the field to kick winning field goal. Game was played Dec. 14, 2005, in San Antonio because of Hurricane Katrina damage. Lions won teams' only meeting at Ford Field, 26-21, in 2002.

Notebook:

  • Thanks to a number of injuries and roster moves, the Lions have 17 players on the active roster who weren't on it when they made their final cuts Aug. 30. "I just go out and introduce myself and shake hands and welcome them here," Marinelli said, smiling. "Glad to have them here, and we get to work." Asked if he ever forgot someone's name, Marinelli cracked: "I've always kind of done that, especially if he doesn't tackle."
  • Though he doesn't use it as an excuse, Marinelli admits the Lions can't run everything they worked on during the off-season and training camp because all the players don't know it all. "You have to cut back," Marinelli said. "It limits you. ... You can't do maybe quite as much as you'd like."
  • Marinelli said he spoke to quarterback Jon Kitna a couple of weeks ago. The Lions placed Kitna on injured reserve with a back injury Oct. 14, and Kitna disagreed publicly. Could Kitna play now if he were eligible? "Oh, I would think so," Marinelli said. Kitna has not been at team headquarters like some other injured players. Asked why not, Marinelli said: "That's on them, if they want to be here or not. If I want somebody here, I'll have them here. Maybe it's a younger player I'd like to have here."
  • Should wide receiver Calvin Johnson have made the Pro Bowl? "I think Calvin's one of the premier athletes, premier receivers in this entire league," Marinelli said. "The yards per catch that he gets is exceptional. The catches he's made, when he catches it in the open field, he's got 10 touchdowns, I believe. ... He's got the attention of coaches throughout the league. I know that."
  • Are the Saints a physical team or a finesse team? "Well, I wouldn't say they're a finesse team," Marinelli said. "That runner is physical, a downhill runner. That offensive line, those guards are really tough. And Brown, the left tackle, very tough. But they can run the ball downhill on you. They've got a variety of ways to hit you downhill, and Deuce McAllister, he's a load, too, if he's playing. There's a nice blend of a power running game with the ability to spread you out with screens. The screen game is really exceptional."
  • The Lions could still have a player go to the Pro Bowl. Jason Hanson is a first alternate, and he has a holiday gift in mind for the NFC kicker, the New York Giants' John Carney. "I'll have to send him a care package of a special ointment to use," Hanson said, smiling. "Yeah. Rash-creating ointment."
  • Do the Lions lack victories because they lack Pro Bowlers, or do they lack Pro Bowlers because they lack victories? It's an interesting, chicken-or-the-egg question. But the answer is both. "The people that win and that are on TV always have Pro Bowlers," Hanson said. "Other than Thanksgiving, we're forgotten. ...There's a pool of guys that probably could go, and then out of that pool, it's real difficult if you're not on a well-known team or doing something special to get that vote into the Pro Bowl."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Pro Bowlers for Lions in coach Rod Marinelli's three seasons, fewest in the NFL. And that Pro Bowler, wide receiver Roy Williams, went to Honolulu as an alternate.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know. It's locked down there real deep, but I've got the key someplace. I don't open it up." -- Coach Rod Marinelli, when asked what makes him tick.

Player Notes:

  • S Dwight Smith was put on injured reserve with a broken ankle.
  • CB Keith Smith was put on injured reserve with a groin injury.
  • WR Shaun McDonald was put on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
  • S LaMarcus Hicks was signed from the practice squad.
  • CB Chris Roberson was signed from the practice squad.
  • WR Travis Taylor was signed.

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