Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints gave the Detroit Lions a strong fight today, although the Lions ultimately won 24-23 in the closing moments. The game was defined early on by a string of three and outs for both sides while the Lions struggled offensively and the Saints could only rely on Detroit penalties to gain traction. The Lions entered the game just 2 for its last 25 on third downs, and without WR Calvin Johnson the offense looked pedestrian at best. With multiple penalties and slow offensive production early on, the Saints (who were 0-3 on the road entering today) capitalized on a QB Matthew Stafford interception and poor Lions execution for a 10-3 halftime lead.
The Lions stepped up in the second half and made gradual offensive improvement as Stafford finished going 27 of 40 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. RB Joique Bell was hardly flashy, but did give Detroit a huge 1 yard touchdown midway through the third quarter. And while lacking substantial yardage early on, WR Golden Tate once again anchored the receiving corps with grit, and snagged 10 balls for 154 yards. After the Bell touchdown and early in the fourth, Detroit hung on down just 20-10 with another stout defensive performance. For the first time this season, Detroit’s secondary was exploited as Brees finished with 342 yards and two touchdowns, but in all the Lions kept New Orleans to under 70 rushing yards. Though LB DeAndre Levy played well once again with 11 tackles, S James Ihedigbo looked superb with 8 tackles, two for loss, and a sack of his own.
Detroit was out paced on offense, but down the stretch the Lions tapped into strong defense and started to convert on third downs. Stafford and the offense were far from perfect, but for the first time in weeks, the Lions re-found some balance that gave them momentum for a while in the fourth. A 73 yard Tate touchdown and a late pick by S Glover Quin put the game literally in Detroit’s lap, and in the final minutes the Lions took the lead via a 5 yard touchdown pass from Stafford to WR Corey Fuller.
Stay tuned for more tomorrow.