Lions’ Stafford, Tate have history of scorching Saints
Allen Park — Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t need a refresher.
The past two years the Lions traveled to New Orleans, quarterback Matthew Stafford has left a path of destruction in his wake.
In last season’s encounter, Stafford completed 30 of 42 passes for 341 yards, two touchdowns and a 111.3 passer rating in a game that featured five Matt Prater field goals in a 28-13 victory.
Then in 2015, Stafford posted arguably one of the best games of his nine-year career. He completed 88 percent of his passes (22-for-25) for 254 yards, three touchdowns and a career-best 148.6 passer rating in a 35-27 victory.
“Man, you don’t have to remind me,” Payton said on a conference call with reporters earlier this week.
The Lions will look to string together their third straight win at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which has become Stafford’s personal playground.
“It’s a difficult place to play, it really is,” said Stafford, who heads into Sunday’s matchup dinged up with an ankle injury. “That’s as loud a stadium as you play in the NFL. A hostile environment, but a whole lot of fun to go out there and play. I think we’ve just played well as a team.
“Last year our defense played extremely well, got three turnovers I think, and on offense, played good enough. We didn’t put the ball in the end zone enough times, but we moved the ball up and down the field well, so it’s a challenge.”
Payton praised Stafford for his “quick stroke,” decision-making and accuracy he displayed in the previous meetings between the teams, and gave credit to Detroit’s playmakers on the outside.
And no one has been more destructive to New Orleans’ generous secondary than receiver Golden Tate. In Detroit’s three series wins the past three seasons, Tate has averaged eight catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, and has posted two of his four highest single-game receiving totals in 111 career games against the Saints.
In 2014, Tate finished with 10 receptions for 154 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. It’s one of four games in his career he recorded double-digit receptions, while the 154 yards receiving trails only his 165-yard showcase against the Los Angeles Rams last season.
In 2015, Tate hauled in all six targets for 45 yards and two first-half touchdowns, marking just his fifth two-score performance.
Then last season, he had eight receptions for 145 yards — his fourth-highest mark — and broke free for a 66-yard fourth-quarter touchdown.
Like Stafford, Tate isn’t quite sure what it is about the Saints that seems to bring out the best in him.
“It’s something that I don’t think about all that much, but over the past year I’ve definitely enjoyed playing them,” Tate said. “I think every year I’ve been here and played we beat them. Hopefully we keep that streak going.
“There’s a few teams on our schedule that I’ve enjoyed playing in the past. I just feel like I’ve had their number and just excel (against them).”
In order for Stafford and Tate to continue their tormenting trend, the Lions’ offense will need to be in sync against a New Orleans defense that has surrendered 13 total points its past two games — and has had an extra week to prepare for the duo’s menacing ways.
“I thought we played better up there (at Ford Field) in ’14 in a real close game, but the last two games have been challenging for us,” Payton said. “We obviously are going to have to play better to avoid those results.”