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Detroit Lions recap: 5 winners, 3 losers from 33-28 win against Saints

Who came back a winner and a loser for the Lions after the team's Thanksgiving hangover?

NFL: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

After getting embarrassed on national television on Thanksgiving last Thursday by their NFC North rival Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Lions got back on the field on Sunday to play the New Orleans Saints. The Saints were also coming off an embarrassing loss to the Atlanta Falcons the previous week, and they lost control of the NFC South lead. Both teams needed this win to help their playoff chances, and to help separate themselves further from the rest of the teams in their divisions.

This game had some flashes of the issues from the previous two games for Detroit, and despite being up 21-0 in the first seven minutes, the Lions would have to hold back against a late Saints comeback.

Check out our winners and losers from the 33-28 win against the New Orleans Saints.

Winners

Lions ground attack

Coming into the game this week, the major focus would be if the Saints could stop the Lions' ground attack and it didn’t appear so. It wasn’t just one player that stood out as both running backs for the Lions made some nice plays and were a problem for the Saints. Starter David Montgomery finished the game with 18 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown.

As I noted, it wasn’t just Montgomery who had a nice game. Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs continues to be a problem for opposing offenses as he had eight carries for 60 yards. The Lions knew the Saints were not a team that executed well when it came to stopping the run and they took advantage of that in the game. Wide receiver Jameson Williams joined the party with his 19-yard touchdown run. The Lions would outgain the Saints on the ground in the end, 142-113.

Brian Branch

The Lions' rookie defensive back Brian Branch continues to impress as he had another tipped pass that he snagged one-handed for an interception.

Branch would finish the game with seven tackles, an interception, and a pass deflection. That interception was a big turnover for the defense that needed to get the lead early on in this game. The Lions would go on to score with the short field and make it a quick 14-0 lead. Detroit needed the lead quickly as the Saints came back and made the game close in the end. Branch also made a nice play late in the fourth quarter to deflect a pass, but luckily for the Saints, wide receiver Chris Olave was nearby and caught it for a big first down.

Jared Goff

After porous back-to-back weeks by quarterback Jared Goff, he rebounded well against the Saints on Sunday. Goff finished the game going 16 for 25 for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Goff got sacked once but didn’t have a single turnover after having six in the previous two games. This week, Goff came in on a mission and played well with only one questionable pass that could have been intercepted.

Goff made some nice throws when they were needed and helped convert first downs. He was the player who needed a big game after two weeks of lackluster performances and he did what he needed to this week and played it safe.

Sam LaPorta

Another week where the rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is a factor for the Lions offense. He was the team's leading receiver in the game, finishing with nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.

LaPorta is such a big part of the offense, and that is surprising to see in his first season in the NFL. I predicted that LaPorta would be the best tight end that Goff has ever played with and within the next few weeks, he should jump over Goff’s former teammate, Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee. LaPorta should be a Pro Bowler and possibly an All-Pro tight end this season. He came up clutch with a first down late in the fourth quarter to keep the drive alive and help seal the win.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin

With Anzalone out, the linebacker room needed someone to step in and step up and Reeves-Maybin did just that. He finished with six tackles, a pass deflection, and a QB hit. He was everywhere he needed to be and stepped up with some key stops. Reeves-Maybin is a solid special teams player, so it’s encouraging to see him play well on defense when he’s been in. The linebacker position has some of the best depth on the team and it showed today.

Losers

Pass defense

Despite the Saints being down two of their three starting wide receivers, the Lions pass defense continues to struggle. Chris Olave had a big game with five catches for 119 yards and was the main weapon in the air for New Orleans. The only other wide receivers who had a catch were A.T. Perry who only had one catch for 30 yards and Lynn Bowden Jr. who caught one for 5 yards. The rest of the yards through the air by the Saints were thrown to either tight ends or running backs.

The Saints got a lucky catch by Olave that was tipped off Branch, and if he hadn’t tipped it, it would have been intercepted by cornerback Jerry Jacobs. It was that kind of day for the passing defense. The Lions allowed 249 yards through the air as the secondary caught a break when the Saints' starting quarterback Derek Carr left the game with an injury. Backup quarterback Jameis Winston stepped in and went just 2-for-5 for 41 yards and had two poor throws that changed the game late in the fourth quarter.

Third down

In the game, the Saints shot themselves in the foot on offense to make it a third-and-long multiple times. The Lions defense couldn’t take advantage of the long distance as they were able to execute and convert on third down. The plays weren’t just enough to get the first down, they were big plays. On third-and 16, Carr completed a 30-yard pass to Perry. Then on third-and-9, Carr found Olave for a 24-yard gain. That was just in the first half.

In the second half, on third-and-12, the Lions allowed Olave to get another big catch for a gain of 33 yards to put the Saints inside the 5-yard line. In the next play, the Saints would score. On both drives where the Saints executed on the long third-down plays, they would score. Another third down mistake came in the fourth quarter where newly-signed defensive end Bruce Irvin hit Carr and planted him into the ground, for a roughing the passer penalty, giving the Saints a first down.

What would they do with a fresh set of downs? Score once again. If the Lions simply make the stops, they either force three punts or two punts and a field goal attempt. That is a 17-to-21 point swing. The Lions hurt themselves with the poor stops on third-and-long all game long.

Offensive line injuries

In what seems to be the worst position to play in Detroit, the offensive line suffered another injury in the game this week. After getting Jonah Jackson back at left guard, the Lions would lose center Frank Ragnow with a knee injury in the second quarter. A teammate fell and his leg would hit the back of the calf on Ragnow, and it seemed to have affected his knee.

Another week where a starting offensive lineman goes down with an injury. First, it was former starting guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai who got an injury. Then it would be Jackson and now Ragnow. The backups have gotten banged up this year as well with offensive tackle Matt Nelson on IR and tackle Dan Skipper was injured earlier this year but is now back and healthy.

That is five offensive linemen who have been injured this season. Detroit seems to always have injuries within their offensive line and can never have their starters on the field.

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