CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

After Further Review: Saints will repeat Packers' tactics against Lions

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In addition to Detroit's secondary issues, Ndamukong Suh was neutralized Sunday. (Getty Images)  
In addition to Detroit's secondary issues, Ndamukong Suh was neutralized Sunday. (Getty Images)  

The Detroit Lions gave up 480 yards passing last week and Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn threw six touchdown passes against them in that game.

Now all they get for an encore is Drew Brees, the league's top passer this season, when the Lions travel to New Orleans to play Brees and the Saints in a playoff game.

In studying the tape from the Lions-Packers game, there were a lot of things the Packers did in that game that the Saints will surely do this week.

The Packers have a tight end they can move around in Jermichael Finley, and the Saints have Jimmy Graham. The Packers love to scheme up ways to get their receivers open, and did a lot of it against the Lions, while the Saints do a lot of the same things. They don't just ask their receivers to win. They use bunch formations, picks and things like that.

These are not teams that just have receivers win all the time. The schemes they use to get open are as good as any in the league and can create confusion in the secondary.

To get an idea of what the Packers did, and what the Saints might do, I wanted to break down all six touchdown passes thrown by Flynn against the Lions. How did he have so much success? What defense did the Lions play on each of them, and what can they do better?

The Lions did play with backup safety Chris Harris, and he was picked on several times. This week, the team expects to have Louis Delmas back from injury, which will help.

Even so, the Lions have problems on the back end. Like Flynn, Brees gets the ball out quick, which can negate the pass rush.

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The book on defending the Saints is to play man. But the Lions don't have the corners to do that. They played a lot of it against the Packers, and they were carved to shreds.

Here's a look at each of the touchdown passes thrown by Flynn. You can bet Brees has watched them all at least five times.

First-and-goal at the Detroit 7: With the Lions in man coverage, the Lions put corner Alphonso Smith on Jordy Nelson, who is lined up wide right. Flynn takes a quick snap, stands up and throws to Nelson, who shakes off Smith's tackle with a stiff-arm and races into the end zone. The safety has no chance to get over and make a play. Easy throw. Easy touchdown.

First-and-10 from the Green Bay 20: The Packers line up with two receivers to the left and one to the right. The Lions are in off-man coverage. At the snap, the Lions blitz linebackers Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy, who is brush blocked by Ryan Grant. But as Grant lets him by, he slips out of the backfield for a perfectly called screen pass. He takes the pass from Flynn, gets blocks from Nelson and Donald Driver and a bad angle by safety Harris and turns it into an 80-yard touchdown catch. This was a great play call at the right time. The Saints, by the way, are a great screen team.

First-and-10 from the Detroit 36: The Lions are in off-man coverage again. Nelson lines up to the left with Smith lined up across from him about 5 yards off. There are two receivers to the right. Nelson runs a go route, gets on top of Smith, and Flynn throws a perfect pass for a touchdown down the left sideline. Nelson makes a great catch. This is just a great play and throw. The coverage was solid. But this is the type of shot Brees likes to take down the field with his outside receivers.

Second-and-7 from the Green Bay 42: The Packers line up with one back behind Flynn, Nelson to the right, Driver to the left. The Lions show cover two, but at the snap Harris blitzes from Flynn's right. That puts Nelson against Chris Houston in man coverage. He fakes an out, runs a post and is wide open. Flynn drops the ball perfectly into his hands as Amari Spievey can't get over from his safety spot. It is a 58-yard touchdown pass. Great route, great read, great throw.

Third-and-8 from the Detroit 34: The Packers line up with one receiver to the right and another to the left. Driver motions from the left side of the formation and settles in at the right slot, just outside Finley. The Lions are in man coverage. But when Driver motions to the slot, it means he has a safety (Harris) on him. Finley has Spievey on him. Finely runs a curl, and kind off picks off Harris, leaving Driver to come underneath on a slant that turns into a 34-yard touchdown. These are the types of things the Saints do in their passing game. The Lions have to be careful of the rubs and picks.

Second-and-goal from the Detroit 4: This is the easiest of the touchdown passes. Finley lines up in-line on the left side of the formation, inside two receivers. Spievey has him in man coverage. The Packers motion Finley wide to the right side. Spievey goes with him. At the snap, Finley looks as if he is going to run a slant, but tries to run a fade. Flynn throws inside and Finely makes a nice play to grab it for a touchdown in front of Spievey. I would imagine the Saints trying something like this with Graham, who is taller than Finley, if the Lions play the same type of defense.

After watching this tape, there's no doubt Brees is excited to face that Lions secondary this week. He should be.

Film Study

1. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has not played as well in 2011 as he did last season. Last week was no exception. Packers right guard Josh Sitton handled him most of the day, much of the time single-blocking him. On one run in the first quarter, he turned Suh out of the play and moved him 5 yards. It was a clinic in guard play by Sitton. When Suh got the sack that led to his Aaron Rodgers taunt -- wiped out by penalty -- he did so by beating left guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, the man he stomped on earlier this season. The Saints have a top-level guard in Jahri Evans on one side and Carl Nicks, maybe the best guard in the NFL, on the other. Suh will get a lot of chances being single-blocked against those two. He has to win some of those battles. If he plays like he did against Sitton, the Saints should have no problem running inside. Sitton destroyed him.

2. When John Elway talks about Tim Tebow needing to pull the trigger, he's right. Tebow had several chances to make throws down the field against the Chiefs, but didn't even throw it. In the first quarter, the Broncos ran a flea-flicker where Tebow handed off to Willis McGahee, who pitched it back to Tebow. The Broncos had Eric Decker against man coverage with Chiefs corner Brandon Carr. He faked like he was blocking, then ran a post-corner route and Carr trailed by several yards while the safety didn't get over in time. But Tebow didn't make the throw. He held it, pulled it down, and then ran right out of the pocket before he threw the ball out of bounds. There was no pressure on him, and there was only Decker in the route. It was a throw he has to make. He looked scared to make it. Later in the game, he play-faked, turned his back to the defense, turned around and Decker beat Carr on a slant inside. But Tebow refused to throw the football and ended up scrambling and throwing it out of bounds again. Unless a receiver is wide open, Tebow won't throw it. That's not good enough in the NFL, where windows rarely come wide open. You have to throw to spots in this league. And he doesn't do it.

3. The Chiefs used a single-high safety on all second- and third-and-long situations. They manned up against the Broncos' receivers and dropped a safety down. They used Kendrick Lewis as the single-high and played man across, daring the Broncos to beat them. That helped limit option runs on long downs that Tebow has used so much because there was an extra defensive back down facing Tebow, many times safety Sabby Piscitelli. I would imagine the Steelers, even without Ryan Clark this week, will play single-high on passing downs with Troy Polamalu in the box. He will play big in this game, because the Broncos have an offense that plays to his strength, which is in the box. Polamalu is coming off an impressive game against Cleveland last week. He picked off a pass and broke up two others.

4. Keep an eye on the Giants-Falcons game for the Giants to go to an unbalanced line in the shotgun and run it to the loaded side. They did it last week against the Cowboys. They moved left tackle David Diehl to the right side next to right tackle Kareem McKenzie and then ran D.J. Ware that way out of the shotgun. He got outside for a nice gain. The Giants look as if they can pass out of that formation as well, which could set up a big play down the field if they go to that against the Falcons and play-fake off of it.

5. Michael Turner ran for 172 yards last week. Expect the Falcons to try and pound it inside against the Giants this week. But I thought the Giants' inside players came up big last week against the Cowboys. Linval Joseph, Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty all made some nice plays. But linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka made the best plays in the run game, slicing through for two tackles for loss. Those players on the inside have to do a good job this week against the Falcons' run game to give their outside pass rushers a chance to win on long down-and-distance situations.

Three and outs

Three young players to watch this weekend

1. Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson: With A.J. Green likely getting doubled, he has to come up big. Simpson is playing for a new contract so this could be a big postseason for him.

2. Broncos tackle Orlando Franklin: He started all 16 games as a rookie and has improved each week. But he has a tough battle against LaMarr Woodley.

3. Saints center Brian De La Puente: He is a first-time starter this year, so this will be his first playoffs in that role. He has to have a good game inside against the Lions' tackles.

Three vets who need to step it up this weekend

1. Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards: His 3½ sacks were a big disappointment for the Falcons. He needs to help pressure Eli Manning.

2. Bengals corner Adam Jones: He has played decently since taking over as the starter, but he gave up the game-winning touchdown in the last meeting.

3. Lions corners Chris Houston and Eric Wright: The Lions' secondary has been torched. They have to play well.

Three assistants with tough jobs this weekend

1. Lions secondary coach Tim Walton: He has to get his beleaguered unit ready to face Brees. Good luck.

2. Falcons offensive line coach Paul Boudreau: His unit has to be ready for that fierce Giants pass rush, led by Jason Pierre-Paul.

3. Texans quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp: He has to get rookie T.J. Yates ready to start a playoff game with just five starts on his résumé. That's tough.

Tweets at me

1. @dropduble: @PriscoCBS SPOT-ON! This guy as a "journalist" is a JOKE!

2. @MaDubbs: @PriscoCBS u say stuff to start something? how can people take u serious?

3. @davetheard: @PriscoCBS where did the chip on your shoulder come from? Did people always tell you you were too small to be a sportswriter? #etoughguy


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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