Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch bull rushes Panthers tight end Ben… (Mike Carter / US Presswire )
It was a bit surprising last spring when the Detroit Lions ignored some other areas of need and used their first draft pick on their area of greatest strength.
They took Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, even though they already had one of the NFL's more impressive defensive linemen, Ndamukong Suh, last season's defensive rookie of the year.
But using the 13th pick on Fairley looks pretty smart now, in the wake of Suh's two-game suspension for kicking a Green Bay offensive lineman last week. Fairley will have to pick up the slack against New Orleans and next week at home against Minnesota.
"I'm a competitor," Fairley told reporters this week. "I'm up for any challenge."
Fairley, who like Suh won the Lombardi Award as college football's best lineman, sustained an injury to his left foot before this season began, underwent surgery in August, and didn't make his first appearance in a game until Oct. 10. He has yet to collect a sack, but the Lions see a big role for him.
"He's able to play more snaps now," Coach Jim Schwartz said. "When he's been in the game, he affects the game. He's not a guy that just goes in there and just makes 11 [players on the defense.] He's been good, but particularly with where we are this week, we need him to step up and make some plays for us."
After opening the season 5-0, the Lions have lost four of six. They'll have their hands full with the Saints, who are first in the NFL in total offense (449.6 yards per game) and second in scoring (32.9 points per game).
-- Sam Farmer
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Al Michaels serves as the play-by-play announcer and Cris Collinsworth provides the color commentary.
Michaels says ...
The Saints' offense looks unstoppable. Their defense is leaky.
In that regard,
the Saints look a lot like the Packers. How they lost to the Rams a month ago is the mystery of the season.
Collinsworth says ...
When you start looking around at some of the really good young players on the Lions, you wonder if it's possible that we're seeing the initial phase of one of the next really good runs of a team.