Saturday was a big day for the Detroit Lions. It marked their return to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1999. However, getting any further in the postseason wouldn’t be easy. They had to visit New Orleans to take on the Saints. Earlier this season, the Lions lost to the Saints, but that week they were shorthanded on defense. This time, they had all their defensive starters. Could they stop Drew Brees and the high powered New Orleans offense?
The Lions got the ball first, and managed to march down the field to make it 7-0 after Matthew Stafford hit Will Heller for a 10-yard score. When the Saints got the ball, they drove down the field as well, but then the Lions caused a fumble they recovered. However, they could not capitalize on it. After the first quarter, the Lions were leading.
Early in the second quarter, Darren Sproles ran for a touchdown to tie the game. Then, Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Lions the lead again. Later in the quarter, Detroit caused Brees to fumble on a hit, but a whistle was blown. As such, while the Lions got the ball, they could not return it, and they would have almost certainly returned it for a touchdown. Once again, Detroit couldn’t capitalize on the turnover. At the end of the quarter, the Saints kicked a field goal to make it 14-10. Still, the Lions had the lead at the half on the road.
In the third quarter, New Orleans finally took the lead after Brees threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson. Then Brees connected with Jimmy Graham for a 3-yard score to make it a 24-14 game. Detroit did manage to score before the third ended, as Stafford ran a bootleg and ended up barely getting a piece of the pilon before going down.
Unfortunately, the fourth quarter was all New Orleans. First, Darren Sproles ran for a 17-yard touchdown. Then, Brees hit Robert Meachem for a 56-yard score. Detroit did manage to make it a 10 point game again as Stafford and Johnson connected for a 12-yard score. However, the Lions couldn’t recover the onside kick, and then Pierre Thomas ran for a 1-yard touchdown to make it 45-28. That would be the final score, and the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs.
While the final score was clearly in New Orleans’ favor, the game was closer than that. After all, Detroit was only down by three heading into the fourth. In said quarter, Stafford threw two interceptions. Meanwhile, the Lions had two chances for interceptions that were dropped. On those drives, the Saints scored 10 points. So, while the whistle on the fumble was an issue, Detroit had opportunities they did not take care of.
However, Detroit main issue was there complete lack of ability to tackle. The defense really failed the Lions this week. Repeatedly, Saints players, particularly their running backs, were able to break tackles for first down. Both teams were good on third down, Detroit was 7-10 and New Orleans was 7-11, but the Saints were also 3-4 on fourth downs. The Lions had a lot of chances to end drives, but they couldn’t do it.
Detroit had 412 yards of offense, mostly passing the ball, but the Saints had 626. Stafford went 28-43 for 380 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Meanwhile, Brees went 33-for-43 for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson was outstanding for the Lions, and perhaps the best player in the game. He had 12 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns. At the very least, Stafford to Johnson is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
So, Detroit’s season is over. They lost to a better team on the road. However, they did it in a playoff game, which is a big step for this team. The Lions were in the postseason, after all. Plus, it doesn’t feel like a fluke. Stafford and Johnson will be back. Ndamukong Suh is another year more experienced, and hopefully guys like Nick Fairley will be able to stay healthy next season. Hopefully Jahvid Best will be back and healthy, and Mikel Leshoure will finally be able to play. Throw in free agency and the NFL Draft, and the Lions could be a team to pay attention to next season. The Lions have made big strides. This year, they made the playoffs. Next season, with some better tackling and a running game, and they could be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.