Lions hang on for prime-time win in New Orleans
Lions hang on for win on Monday Night Football
Calvin Johnson grabbed the onside kick, and after a big Joique Bell run inside the New Orleans 20, it looked all but over. The Lions took a delay of game penalty before Matt Prater pushed a 38-yard field goal wide right. The Saints got the ball with nine seconds remaining from their own 28, but they couldn't pull off a Packers-type miracle.
The Lions hang on, 35-27, in a finish that was anything but comfortable.
There were a couple moments in the third and fourth quarters that had the markings of a Lions collapse, but Matt Stafford and Co. answered with a late touchdown drive to put the game away and hang on for their fifth win of the season, 35-20.
For a period of time, the Lions were on cruise control. After going three-and-out on their first possession, the offense reeled off four consecutive touchdown drives. The Saints, meanwhile, couldn't stop shooting themselves in the foot.
Drew Brees led a late rally, and the Lions looked like they were going to quite literally fumble the game away. The final Lions touchdown drive proved to be too much to overcome, however.
Stafford was excellent, going 22-for-25 for 254 yards and three touchdowns against one of the league's worst defenses.
The Lions (5-9) will head home for their final game of the season at Ford Field against the 49ers on Sunday.
New Orleans scores late, onside kick coming
The Saints marched 69 yards in just under four minutes, getting a 1-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Benjamin Watson, and the Lions lead has been trimmed to 35-27 with 1:55 left to play.
With just two timeouts, New Orleans is going to have to try an onside kick.
Lions answer with late TD
Ameer Abdullah atoned for his fumble, scampering for 27 yards on 3rd-and-1 from midfield, and setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Joique Bell that puts the Lions up, 35-20, with 5:24 left to play.
The play following Abdullah's big-gainer had a couple hearts jumping into throats, though, as Bell fumbled only to have it recovered by a teammate at the bottom of a pile of jerseys. Matt Stafford hit Eric Ebron with a zinger down to the 1 to set the stage for Bell's touchdown.
It was a close call for the Lions on Bell's fumble, but they avoided another big mistake that could've let the Saints right back into the game. As it stand, the Lions are in pretty good shape as the game winds down.
Abdullah fumble sets up New Orleans TD
Ameer Abdullah fumbled, and the Saints answered with a predictable 38-yard touchdown drive that has a once 25-point lead down to just eight after Drew Brees found Marques Colston for an 11-yard touchdown.
There's still a ton of time left on the clock (10:06), and the Lions lead is down to one possession at 28-20.
Abdullah has struggled with fumbles all year, and this latest one could play a big part in a possible Lions implosion.
Saints settle for short field goal
It was just about time to put the Lions under full-blown implosion watch as Drew Brees marched the Saints down the field and inside the 10-yard line. The defense stiffened, however, and New Orleans was forced to settle for a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to get within two possessions.
With the fourth quarter now underway, it's 28-13 with 13:01 left to play.
The Saints were already in a rhythm as they marched towards Lions territory, and Stephen Tulloch helped turn a 15-yard gain into a 30-yard gain when he was called for a horse collar tackle on Willie Snead.
The Lions offense picked up a first down on its last drive, but the New Orleans defensive line was able to get pressure on Matt Stafford, sacking him on third down to force another punt.
Saints strike quickly
Drew Brees found Brandin Cooks again, and this time the touchdown catch resulted in a touchdown for the Saints, as New Orleans has entered its hurry-up offense midway through the third quarter.
The Lions lead, 28-10, with 5:03 to play in the third.
Brees led a drive that went 69 yards on five plays and took just over two minutes.
Prior to the drive, the Lions went three-and-out, punting for the first time since their opening drive.
Abdullah scores, Lions rolling
The Lions offense picked up where it left off in the first half, and Ameer Abdullah was the benefactor with a 15-yard touchdown run. By my count, it's now 28-3, with 11:50 to play in the third quarter.
The Lions have now scored a touchdown on their last four possessions after going three-and-out on their first. A 23-yard screen pass to Joique Bell got the Lions into Saints territory, and a Stafford bullet for 20 yards to TJ Jones got the Lions down to the Saints 15.
The rushing touchdown by Ameer Abdullah was his first since the opening game in San Diego, in which he scored on his first career carry.
Quin out with concussion
Glover Quin is out with a concussion after he caught a knee to the head trying to tackle Tim Hightower in the second quarter.
Saints can't punch it in before the half
It's usually the Lions that can't get out of their own way, but during a final first half drive to try and get back into the game, it was New Orleans that bungled a seemingly prime scoring opporunity.
The Saints had the ball down to the Lions 1 after a 29-yard pass from Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks was originally called a touchdown and overturned. Four plays and over a minute later, the Lions defense came up with a huge "stop" to keep the Saints out of the endzone, and keep their 21-3 lead intact at the break.
It appeared the Saints had scored on a Tim Hightower run on second down, but New Orleans was called for illegal formation. After Hightower got the ball back down to the 1, he was subsequently stuffed on third down. The Saints let the clock run down to three seconds to run one last play before halftime. Brees found Marques Colston in the endzone, but Colston was called for offensive pass interference, ending a wild final minute of the first half.
The Lions offense was dominant in the first half, taking advantage of good field position and an awful New Orleans defense. They scored a touchdown on their final three possessions of the first half after opening with a three-and-out. The Lions will get the ball to start the second half, and they have to avoid the letdown that has plagued them after other fast starts this season.
First half stats
Pass yards: Lions 142, Saints 110
Rush yards: Saints 48, Lions 40
Lions lighting up the Superdome in first half
Matt Stafford found Golden Tate in the endzone for the second time tonight, this time on a 5-yard hookup that has the Lions leading, 21-3, with 4:27 to play in the first half.
It looked like the Lions drive may stall facing 1st-and-20 from the Saints 41, but Theo Riddick took a short pass 21 yards for a first down. On the play, Riddick shook Saints linebacker Dannelle Ellerbe out of his boots, leaving his as confused as a guy on a basketball court that just got hit with a killer crossover.
The Lions are rolling right now on both sides of the ball. It looks like Drew Brees will continue to play for New Orleans.
Update on Ansah
The Lions have said that Ziggy Ansah is questionable to return with an illness.
One play, two injuries
Ziggy Ansah came off the field after an apparent upper body injury. He walked off the field on his own, but the trainers had his helmet. On the same play, Drew Brees came up limping on a non-contact throw down the field. We'll have updates for you as soon as they become available.
Stafford finds Burton for TD after Ebron's big play
This isn't something you've heard a lot over the past two seasons, but a 46-yard catch and run by Eric Ebron set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Matt Stafford to fullback Michael Burton.
The score is Burton's first of his career, and the Lions are out to a 14-3 lead with 14:12 to play in the second quarter.
Ebron caught a short pass from Stafford before he turned towards the sideline and outran two Saints defenders. Running after the catch has never been a problem for Ebron. It's the catch part he's always needed to work on.
The Lions offense is clicking right now, but they have to keep their foot on the gas, as they've been known to trail off as the game wears on.
Forbath good from 44 yards
It was shaping up to be a classic Drew Bress drive, as the Saints quarterback picked his way into Lions territory and down to the 27, but the Lions defense stiffened to force a 44-yard field goal from Kai Forbath.
It's 7-3, Lions lead, with 1:03 to play in the first quarter.
Bress was 5-for-5 for 32 yards before his last two passes fell incomplete. On second down, Quandre Diggs had tight coverage on Marques Colston, and may have gotten away with interference. On third down, Darius Slay kept up his stellar first quarter play on Saints star Brandin Cooks, as he was all over the receiver on a pass to the endzone.
Stafford to Tate puts Lions on top
Thomas Morstead shanked a punt after the Saints went three-and-out for the second time, and this time the Lions took advantage of excellent field position, going 40 yards on six plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Matt Stafford to Golden Tate.
The Lions showed a little creativity with a shovel pass to Tate that netted seven yards on the drive's first play. After a first down pass to Michael Burton, Matt Stafford found Calvin Johnson for 19-yard gain inside the New Orleans 10. On the play, Brandon Browner was called for a personal foul when he drove his shoulder into Johnson's head, setting the Lions up at the Saints 4.
Defense is the name of the game...for now
The Saints won the toss and elected to receiver, but the Lions played excellent coverage on second and third down to force New Orleans into a three-and-out. Darius Slay was all over Brandin Cooks on third down, and a decent return by Golden Tate set the Lions up with good field position at the 43.
The Lions being the Lions, however, couldn't take advantage. Matt Stafford was sacked on second down, and on third down he couldn't find anyone open downfield before he decided to try and run for it, taking a big hit after only gaining a yard.
New Orleans will take over at its 6 for its second drive.
Are you ready for some football?
The Lions are in New Orleans for their first game in the Superdome since the 2011 wild card loss to the Saints. And while a playoff berth isn't really on the line for either team tonight (the Saints have a slim chance to make the postseason), we're almost assuredly going to see some offensive fireworks.
Matt Stafford and Co. will take on one of the NFL's worst defenses, and rest assured they've heard the whispers about their recent play and will look to light up the night in New Orleans. Calvin Johnson is active and will play tonight, per The News' Josh Katzenstein.
Drew Bress is still slinging the ball around the field, but the loss of Jimmy Graham to an offseason trade with Seattle appears to be taking its toll on the aging star's offense. And with Mark Ingram out for the season due to injury, Brees is chucking the ball around to guys named Brandin Cooks and Willie Sneed. With Bress at the helm, this offense is still capable of putting up numbers, but it's not quite the same Saints team of the past five years.