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Drive-By-Drive Breakdown of Saints' 45-27 Win Over Lions

Here is a drive-by-drive look at how the Saints beat the Lions by a score of 45-27.

1st Quarter

  • The Saints got the ball first and basically picked up where they left off when they played the Lions last year.  After Robert Meachem got the game started with a 42-yard return, Drew Brees started his career day with a 14-yard pass to Devery HendersonReggie Bush followed that up with a catch that went for 26 yards, moving the Saints deep into Lions territory.  A couple players later it was 3rd and 5, and Brees found Marques Colston for a 9-yard touchdown.
  • The Lions quickly went three and out, and the Saints hit the end zone just as fast.  Already having good field position, the Saints moved into Lions territory with a couple of plays that went for 7 yards, and on the next play Brees found a wide open Meachem for a 39-yard touchdown.  Just like that, the Saints led 14-0.
  • Matthew Stafford got the ball moving for the Lions by starting their next drive with a 21-yard pass to Calvin JohnsonJerome Felton moved the chains again by plowing forward for a gain of 4 on 3rd and 1.  Kevin Smith picked up 12 on the next play, and then Aaron Brown came in and ran for 9 yards on a pitch to the outside.  That followed an incompletion, setting up another 3rd and 1.  This time Scott Linehan called for a toss to Smith, who was tackled for a loss of 4 yards.  Jason Hanson nailed a 47-yard field goal right down the middle of the uprights to give the Lions' their first points of the game.
  • The Lions defense caught a break on the Saints' next drive and finally forced a punt.  After a false start gave the Saints a 3rd and long, Brees found Henderson for what appeared to be close to a first down.  Henderson ran backwards, though, and ended up losing the first down and forcing a punt.
  • Just like their first drive of the game, the Lions went three and out.  Nick Harris boomed a punt 55 yards, and Reggie Bush was unable to get anything on the return.  This would be important, as it pinned the Saints back at their 12-yard line.
  • For the second drive in a row the Lions' defense forced a punt, though this time they made a play to keep the Saints from moving the chains.  Eric King, who filled in for an injured Phillip Buchanon, got a hand on a Brees pass just as it was being hauled in by Colston.  The break-up happened on 3rd and 3, and the ensuing punt turned out to be a huge play for the Lions.  Dennis Northcutt caught the punt at the Lions' 39, and it looked like the Saints expected him to call for a fair catch.  He didn't, and that seemed to catch the Saints off guard a bit.  As a result, he darted up the field past a few Saints players and suddenly had nothing but open field in front of him.  By the time he was pushed out of bounds, Northcutt had returned the punt all the way down to the Saints' 13.
  • 2nd Quarter

    • The Lions faced 3rd and 8 as the second quarter began, and Stafford found Smith on a dump off for a gain of 7.  Jim Schwartz called a timeout to talk things over and ultimately decided to go for it.  With Felton in the backfield, the Saints were definitely keying in on the big man in this situation.  With that in mind, Stafford faked a handoff to him and pitched it outside to Smith, who was able to walk into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.  This was a great play call and cut the Saints' lead down to 4 points.
    • The Saints started to get the ball moving on the proceeding drive, this time by handing the ball off to Mike Bell.  The drive came to an abrupt end, however, when Bell was handed the ball and then tossed it back to Brees for a flea flicker.  Brees heaved the ball downfield to Henderson, who had a few Lions around him.  Anthony Henry ended up catching the ball for the interception and returned it to the Detroit 24.
    • As good as the play calling was on the Lions' last drive, it was very suspect on their next one.  With a 3rd and 4, Stafford handed the ball off to Smith, who was stopped for no gain.  While 3rd and 4 isn't always a passing situation, I don't understand the call considering Detroit was struggling to run so much.  It seemed like Scott LInehan was keeping Stafford from trying to make a play.
    • The Saints slowly (for them, anyway) moved the ball down the field and converted three third downs along the way.  The first two kept the drive alive and the last one was a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey.
    • After picking up a first down, the Lions' next drive came to a halt when Stafford was sacked for a loss of 7 yards. 
    • The Saints wasted little time in scoring another touchdown, this time taking 4 plays and only 1:11 to revisit the end zone.  All it took was a 20-yard pass to Lance Moore, a 6-yarder to Bush, another pass to Moore (this time for 18 yards), and finally a 15-yarder to Shockey in the end zone.  Shockey juggled the ball but gained possession of it just in time to get two feet down inbounds. 
    • With 1:10 left in the half, it looked like the Lions were going to have time to put together a scoring drive.  Well, that would have been true if they were able to move the chains at all, but they weren't able to and had to punt after going three and out.  Reggie Bush bailed the Lions out by fumbling the punt, though, and Darnell Bing quickly fell on the ball to give the Lions possession at the NO 15.
    • With a great chance to cut the lead down before halftime, the Lions quickly squandered this opportunity.  Following a false start by Jeff Backus, Stafford threw a terrible pass into coverage and was picked off.  The interception was returned all the way to the Lions' 30-yard line, giving the Saints a shot at adding to their lead.
    • The Saints really weren't able to move the ball save a roughing the passer penalty on Landon Cohen, but they still had a shot at kicking a 34-yard field goal.  Dewayne White broke through the line on the kick and blocked it, however, basically bailing out Stafford and keeping this a 28-10 score at the half.

    3rd Quarter

    • The Lions got the ball to start the second half and quickly faced 3rd and 6.  Stafford found Calvin Johnson in the middle of the field for what looked like it was going to be a decent gain that moved the chains.  As we all know, Johnson can turn any catch into a big gain, and that's exactly what he did on this play.  Johnson broke a couple tackles and sprinted down the sideline for what appeared to be a 67-yard touchdown.  A referee ruled that Johnson stepped out of bounds at the 3, however, basically keeping the points off the board.  Replays clearly showed that Johnson stayed inbounds, but the play wasn't reviewable because it was blown dead at the 3.  That made no sense considering Johnson scored immediately after he supposedly stepped out, and what's more is that no one was near him at that point anyway.  Regardless, the Lions now had to punch the ball into the end zone, which proved to be a difficult task.

      Smith and Felton got the ball on first and second down and were unable to score.  Needing 2 yards to get into the end zone, Stafford threw a fade to Calvin, who was covered by two defenders.  The pass was incomplete, but it looked like Johnson was interfered with.  The refs didn't see it that way, but they did flag Darren Sharper for a personal foul instead.  It seemed like an extremely weak call, but they did owe the Lions for the awful call earlier in the drive.  With a new set of downs, Smith again was stuffed at the line.  He had the ball stolen from him by a Saints defender, but the play was already blown dead.  This time Charles Grant was called for a personal foul after the play, giving the Lions another new set of downs.  Stafford took it himself on a QB sneak this time around, finally getting the Lions into the end zone for a touchdown.
    • Only trailing by 11 points, the Lions needed to come up with a stop.  They did just that by holding the Saints to a 20-yard field goal, which actually was a victory for the Lions' defense after New Orleans marched right down the field.
    • Aaron Brown showed just how dangerous he can be on the proceeding kickoff by taking it back 87 yards to the Saints' 12.  Brown seemed to run out of gas at the end of the return, which is why he was caught from behind.  Even so, the Lions had a golden opportunity to cut the lead down to a touchdown, which is what looked like would happen after Stafford hit Casey FitzSimmons for an 11-yard gain.  Just like before, though, the Lions struggled to get the ball into the end zone when near the goal line.  Smith was stuffed on first down, and Daniel Loper was called for a false start prior to second down.  That proved to be a crushing blow, as the Lions were forced to kick a field goal two incompletions later.  Hanson nailed it from 24 yards out, but not getting a touchdown on this drive was a huge disappointment.
    • That disappointment only worsened when Brees hit Henderson in stride for a 58-yard touchdown on the first and only play of the next drive.  This put the Saints on top 38-20 and gave them all of the momentum.
    • It seemed like the Lions were as good as dead when Stafford was picked off on 3rd and 10, giving the Saints the ball at Detroit's 30.  That outlook quickly changed, however, as Cohen punched the ball loose from Mike Bell on the very next play.  Louis Delmas picked it up and ran it back 65 yards for a touchdown, making this an 11-point game yet again.

    4th Quarter

    • The Saints put this game out of reach by taking 8 minutes off the clock and scoring on a 13-yard pass to Heath Evans.  Evans is a fullback and scored off a screen, which put the Lions' defense completely out of position.  New Orleans led by a score of 45-27 at this point and had it all but wrapped up after Stafford was picked off again on the Lions' next drive.  Detroit was moving the ball down the field again, but Stafford threw another bad pass and was intercepted for the third time in this game.
    • The Saints ran the final 5 minutes off the clock to seal their 45-27 win.  They could have hit the 50-points mark, but a holding penalty took a Reggie Bush touchdown off the board.  That made the final score a little less embarrassing, though it is still tough to look at.

    When it boils down to it, the Lions did put up a fight today and looked worlds better than they did last year against the Saints.  Drew Brees still was able to sit back in the pocket, take his time, and shred the Lions' defense, and yes, the Lions' offense struggled quite a bit as well outside of a drive or two.  What really made this a close game at one point was the punt return by Dennis Northcutt, the kick return by Aaron Brown, and the Delmas fumble return for a TD.  Outside of those plays that led to points, the Lions' offense only generated two extended scoring drives.  The aforementioned big non-offensive plays helped the Lions cut the lead down to 11 points multiple times.

    As we look ahead to next week, the key for the Lions is obviously going to be stopping the dangerous Adrian Peterson.  He had an outstanding game today against Cleveland, and if the Lions want to have any shot at winning they have to stop Peterson before worrying about anything else.  After that it will be important to prevent Brett Favre from making any big plays.  Offensively the Lions have to get their running game going and Matthew Stafford has to play better.  The offensive line needs to give the rookie more time to throw, but more than anything Stafford can't make bad throws that give the defense easy interceptions.  Hopefully the special teams will make a couple big plays as well, as that unit was about the only pleasant surprise today.

    Kickoff for the Lions' home opener against Minnesota is set for 1 p.m. on FOX.

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