ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Ndamukong Suh was helpless the last time Detroit played New Orleans.
A stomp-induced, two-game suspension relegated him to spectator status last month when the Lions lost 31-17 to the Saints — and Suh said he did that from his parents' home in Portland, Ore.
"It was obviously difficult," Suh said softly.
This time, Suh will be on the field to help a franchise with only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title pull off an upset win at New Orleans.
The Lions and Saints have offenses so potent that oddsmakers have set the over-under betting line at a playoff-record 59 points for Saturday night's game. The previous high was 57 when the Saints played Arizona two years ago and won 45-14.
"I don't plan on anybody shooting our defense out," Suh said. "You can't discredit the type of offensive team that we're going to face in the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees is obviously a great quarterback.
"I look at it as a great challenge," he said.
The 2010 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has not met the daunting challenge of matching his statistical production from last season.
After 10 sacks and 66 tackles as a rookie, Suh has just four sacks and 36 tackles in his second pro season.
How would Suh grade himself?
"Null and void," he said. "It doesn't matter in this particular game. You have to go out and win this game, that's most important. It doesn't matter what you did in the regular season."
In three games since returning from his NFL-issued suspension for stomping on a Green Bay lineman, he's had a total of five tackles along with a victory-sealing blocked field goal at Oakland. He ended his six-game sack drought in Sunday's 45-41 loss to the Packers.
"I'd agree he hasn't shown up on the stat sheet as much, but I thought he did some really good things in the Green Bay game and I think he's played well," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's impacted the game since he's been back. I think one thing is you can't change what you do to try and show up on the stat sheet."
Suh certainly doesn't have plans to alter how he plays on the field or acts off it.
He has vowed to continue playing with relentless passion, despite getting fined four times plus losing two paychecks during his suspension. And, he doesn't seem interested in giving many more people access to his inner circle.
"It's not a media thing, he just doesn't let many people in period because he's just quiet and reserved," said teammate Kyle Vanden Bosch, who is also a former Nebraska Cornhuskers star. "Knowing him on a person level, I just know that he takes everything very seriously and you're not going to see him be loud or outspoken or in a lot of long conversations with just anybody."
Lawrence Jackson is an exception.
The reserve defensive end, who said he is Suh's closest friend on the team, has gotten past Suh's standoffish ways to discover they're both "rationally logical" people.
"He's a really cool guy, very down to earth, very thoughtful and he's definitely a guy who thinks first and responds accordingly," Jackson said Wednesday. "We have an understanding. If I see he's having a bad day, I don't bother him."
Jackson said Suh turned his suspension into a positive, returning with a fresh mindset.
Suh won't be the only player on Detroit's defense who is expected to play this week after missing last month's game at New Orleans.
Starting defensive backs Louis Delmas and Chris Houston plan to be back in the lineup, along with Jackson and defensive back Brandon McDonald, a pair of key reserves. Backup defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who was limited in the last game against the Saints, is expected to be available to play as well.Comment on this story
"We were definitely beat up the last time we were down there in multiple ways and for multiple reasons," Suh said.
Saints coach Sean Payton said his team has to be ready to account for Suh.
"He's physical. He's fast. He's quick," Payton said. "You just recognize that he's a handful."
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