Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 11/30/11
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- If the stumbling Lions are looking for a role model on how to end their 12-year playoff drought, they cant find a better example than the New Orleans Saints and quarterback Drew Brees. Brees has been there, done that -- and won it all. Brees led the Saints to a 31-17 victory over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV two seasons ago and was voted the games MVP. Brees will have his own business to take care of when the Saints host the Lions Sunday night. The Saints have a one-game lead over the Falcons in the NFC South. Unlike the Lions, who last made the playoffs as a wild card with an 8-8 record in 1999, Brees and the Saints are playoff hardened. Theyve made the playoffs three times since Brees signed with them as a free agent in 2006. Brees believed the old adage about the importance of winning in November and December. It isnt an empty slogan. Thats when you want to be playing your best football -- in November and December, Brees said Wednesday in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media. I think thats when a lot of the teams start to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Obviously, we have high aspirations, high goals, for ourselves this year. We were able to win a Super Bowl in the 09 season so we know what that feeling is like. We know the journey, the amount of work it takes to go into that. We also understand that physically, the teams that are performing their best in November and December are usually the ones that are making pretty significant playoff runs. The Lions need to stop a significant reversal in the way theyve played to remain in playoff contention. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is well aware that the Lions are running out of time and chances to stop the recent skid that has put their playoff hopes in jeopardy. After a 5-0 start, the Lions have lost four of their last six games to make their record 7-4. Under the tiebreaker formula, they are behind the Falcons and Bears, both 7-4, in the NFC wild-card race. Obviously, if you play well at the end of the season you have a chance to go play in the postseason, and then people are talking about you, Stafford said. Its not our goal for people to be talking about us. Our goal is to go out there week by week, take it game by game. You cant look ahead to the schedule. We have seven wins now with five games to go. Its on us to go out and win football games. Based on recent form, the Saints and Lions are heading in opposite directions. The Saints have a three-game winning streak and were at their best in front of a national television audience with a 49-24 win over the Giants at home on Monday night. A national TV audience saw the Lions put their worst foot forward in their last game -- a 27-15 loss to the Packers on Thanksgiving Day on national TV. Actually, it was defensive tackle Ndamukong Suhs right foot that did the damage. Suh stomped on Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith midway through the third quarter. Suh was ejected from the game and added embarrassment to the situation by declaring emphatically in a postgame press conference that he had done nothing wrong. On Tuesday, the NFL suspended Suh for two games. Suh appealed, and a decision is expected before the end of the week. I think it looked pretty obvious to me and everybody else, Brees said when asked about the stomping incident. It is what it is. You do something like that, then theres punishment that comes along with it. While Suhs teammates generally have expressed support for him, theyre trying to focus on the Saints. Were just playing ball, said middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Were not even worried about all that. When he comes back, well be ready for him. Suhs suspension takes away a dominating player on the interior of the defensive line. Rookie Nick Fairley, the Lions first-round draft pick, is the likely choice to start next to Corey Williams with Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen in the tackle rotation. Ijuries at running back and defensive back are other issues facing the Lions that have been overshadowed by Suh seemingly deciding to use Thanksgiving Day to audition for a spot in an MMA card. The fast start made the Lions one of the NFLs emerging young teams, led Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Suh in the middle of an aggressive defensive line. But losing four of the last six and Suhs incident have taken away the glow, and Stafford has had nine interceptions in his last three games. Stafford wore gloves in the three games because of a broken index finger on his right (passing) hand sustained in a win over Denver in Game 8. Stafford also wore a splint to protect the finger, which could explain a decline in his accuracy of late. Stafford has shed the gloves and said Wednesday that his finger feels close to 100 percent. Itll be more normal, Stafford said after practicing without gloves. A year ago, the Lions ended the season with a four-game winning streak for a 6-10 record. It gave them a base of confidence and some momentum that they carried into this season. Schwartz is looking at the opportunity the Lions have this year, and the reality that making the playoffs is still in their own hands. Its a position that we would kill to be in last year, Schwartz said. Were 7-4. The Saints team is 8-3. Were one game behind them. Its an NFC team. With a win, were ahead of them. Were not tied, because thered be tiebreakers involved. Those things become realistic this time of year. Its part of where we are.
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