If the Lions can intercept Drew Brees three times in the Superdome, and keep him without a touchdown pass in his home digs for the first time in seven years, what does that mean for Matt Barkley in his third NFL start, and first on the road?

Teryl Austin's unit held its sixth straight opponent to 20 points or less without its leading tackler, middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (knee). The reason Whitehead's stepped up is due to the absence of stud linebacker DeAndre Levy, who's practicing, but has yet to play since the opener, due to leg injuries. This on the heels of playing just 17 snaps a year ago. 

It's remarkable what Austin's been able to do with a taped-together defense (sound familiar?) that was rocked by the loss of Ndamukong Suh a year ago (much less Levy's health issues).

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Who's stepped up? Undrafted fire hydrant lineman Kerry Hyder (seven sacks). Devin Taylor (heard of him?) has 4.5 sacks. How about Armonty Bryant (3.0 sacks)? This as Ezekiel Ansah, who came into the season with 30 sacks in 46 NFL games (14.5 last season) has ZERO so far this season. He missed the first meeting with the Bears, which helped in a 17-14 win. 

Haloti Ngata is the linchpin along the line, the 32-year-old rebounding from an injury-plagued 2015. Second-round rookie A'Shawn Robinson and Tyrunn Walker also rotate in effectively.

 

With their linebacker health woes, they've loaded up on three-safety setups, and will throw in a fourth to serve as undersized help on the second level. Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson are the listed "starters" but Rafael Bush and 6-foot-2 rookie "hitter" Miles Killebrew roll into their packages.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Since last meeting, Lions roar restored]

Opponents tend to stay away from shutdown corner Darius Slay, who approached that status (and four-year, $48 million July payday) last season, and whose late Thanksgiving pick vs. Minnesota set up a game-winning field goal. Nevin Lawson may be "just" 5-foot-9, plays physical and fast on the opposite side, but the Lions may face a dilemma at what to do in their nickel package after Quandre Diggs reportedly suffered a season-ending pectoral injury Sunday in NOLA.

Special teams

Matt Prater kicked the longest field goal in NFL history for John Fox in Denver back in 2013 (64 yards in Mile High altitude), but still consistently connects from distance. He's 5-of-5 from 50-plus this season in going 26-for-29 overall (while missing two extra points).

Andre Roberts handles both kickoff and punt return duties. His 14.6-yard average on the latter leads the league, courtesy of two touchdown returns. The Lions also rank seventh in punt coverage and 10th in kickoff coverage.

Their "Teams" overall? Special.