Down 23-10 with around five and a half minutes left in Sunday's game, the Detroit Lions looked well on their way to another home loss and a 4-3 record. The offense couldn't get anything going on a consistent basis, and the Lions were simply running out of time after an awful interception.
Everything changed for the Lions when Golden Tate turned a seemingly routine catch into a 73-yard touchdown. After this, the Lions defense forced a turnover, and Corey Fuller caught his first career touchdown to give the Lions the lead. Then it was once again on the defense's shoulders, and they came up with one final stop to give the Lions a stunning 24-23 comeback victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Unsurprisingly, the Lions opened this game with a three-and-out. They needed only 1 yard to move the chains on third down, but Reggie Bush was unable to get the job done, leading to a quick punt.
Luckily for the offense, the Lions defense forced a three-and-out on New Orleans' first drive of the game. This gave the offense another chance to open the scoring, and things looked promising after Jeremy Ross made a great catch for 26 yards on third down. The Lions actually advanced to the New Orleans 44, but that was as far as they got before the drive stalled.
The Saints answered with an 11-play drive that ran 6:35 off the clock. It looked like they were at least going to get a field goal out of the possession, but a sack combined with a holding penalty backed New Orleans up to near midfield. They did get some of that yardage back on third-and-20, but the Saints had to punt on fourth down from the Detroit 39.
The decision to punt rather than try a long field goal paid off for the Saints. Just two plays into the Lions' next drive, Matthew Stafford threw the ball into traffic and was picked off at the Detroit 29. Suddenly the Saints were in position to score, and after a couple of really bad penalties on the Lions, they did just that. Drew Brees found Austin Johnson for 13 yards to put the Saints on top by a touchdown.
After another drive ended with a punt for the Lions, they finally caught a few big breaks. First, Khiry Robinson fumbled the ball away to James Ihedigbo near midfield. C.J. Mosley forced the fumble, and the Lions quickly got inside the 10-yard line thanks to a questionable defensive pass interference penalty on a long throw on third-and-2. The Lions were unsurprisingly unable to find the end zone following the penalty, but Matt Prater thankfully made a 21-yard field goal attempt. He actually deflected it in off the left upright, but it still counted as three points.
Following a Saints three-and-out, the Lions seemed to finally have something going on offense. They were moving the ball in chunks and got all the way down to the New Orleans 31. Then the drive completely collapsed after Bush lost 4 yards by dancing around too much on a screen. With a sack on the very next play, the Lions weren't even able to attempt a kick, and the Saints responded by quickly going down the field in the final 1:32 of the second quarter to add a field goal of their own that bounced in off one of the uprights. Shayne Graham's 27-yard kick gave New Orleans a 10-3 lead at halftime.
The Saints quickly extended their lead at the beginning of the second half. They needed only four plays to find the end zone, as Brees hit Kenny Stills downfield for a 46-yard touchdown. Suddenly the Lions were down 17-3, and they were in need of a big response.
The big response from the Lions came in the form of a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ran 7:23 off the clock. The Lions got a couple of big third-down conversions from Joique Bell and Tate, and Bell eventually capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. The score put the Lions right back in the game by cutting the lead down to 17-10.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Lions had an opportunity to tie the game, and they got some great field position by starting at their own 38. Unfortunately, they were only able to gain 6 yards on the drive. They had a chance to move the chains on third-and-4, but Stafford threw it a bit behind Bush, who dropped the pass. The Lions had to punt, and Sam Martin pinned the Saints at their own 1-yard line.
Despite the awful field position, the Saints had little trouble moving down the field. In fact, they were already in Detroit territory when the third quarter ended just 3:36 later. They continued to move down the field as the fourth quarter began, but a personal foul penalty backed them up from the 25 to the 40. The penalty essentially killed the drive, but the Saints did get a 48-yard field goal out of it to increase their lead to 10 points.
In need of another response, the Lions put together a promising drive that ended with no points. This time, they got things rolling with a 19-yard pass to Tate on third-and-16, and they nearly had a huge play on a screen to Bell. The play was designed perfectly, but the pass was just off target. Despite this, the Lions were able to move all the way down to the New Orleans 13, at which point Stafford threw a pass to Jordan Thompson, who was just signed off the practice squad on Saturday. We all got a look at why he was on the practice squad in the first place, as the ball bounced right off Thompson's hands to Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro intercepted the pass and returned it 45 yards, setting up another Saints field goal.
Now trailing 23-10 with only 5:24 to go, the Lions had to score and score quickly. The prospects of that actually happening didn't look good when the Lions were faced with an early third-and-10, but Fuller made a great catch for 21 yards. Then, facing third-and-14 just a few plays later, the entire complexion of this game changed. Stafford found Tate on the right sideline, and Tate outran the entire Saints defense for a 73-yard touchdown. The Lions were now down by just six points, and they had 3:38 left in the game to complete their comeback.
After a Lions penalty gave New Orleans a free first down, the defense put the clamps down. New Orleans faced third-and-9 with the game up for grabs, and Glover Quin picked off Brees. The Lions defense simply needed a stop, and they did one better by giving the offense the ball at the New Orleans 14-yard line. The Lions were now in perfect position to score the go-ahead touchdown, and after getting bailed out on fourth-and-5 by a defensive pass interference penalty, they did just that. On third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Stafford threw a rocket into the back of the end zone. Fuller jumped up, grabbed the ball and got two feet down for the touchdown. Prater made the extra point, giving the Lions a 24-23 lead.
With the game now up to the defense, the Lions lived up to their No. 1 ranking on that side of the ball. Brees did move the chains on fourth-and-10 by scrambling for 13 yards, but he was shut down after that. Four plays later, on fourth-and-3, Darius Slay broke up a pass to Robert Meachem, giving the Lions the stop and clinching their amazing 24-23 victory.
It goes without saying, but the Lions really needed this win. Losing two straight home games would have been a major cause for concern, but the Lions made sure that didn't happen by rallying past the Saints. Now they are 5-2, and now they are off to London for a game against the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
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