Lions grades: Stafford's benchmark game sets winning tone
Matthew Stafford had the most efficient game of his career, completing 88 percent of his passes and finishing with a 148.6 passer rating. The impressive career highs were reflective of how well he played as the Lions scored touchdowns on four straight drives. He finished 22 of 25 for 254 yards with three touchdowns and had just one incomplete pass in the first half.
Running backs: Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah each had some big plays and a touchdown, but both fumbled once, which stains the overall performance. Bell finished with eight carries for 71 yards and two catches for 30 yards. Abdullah had 77 yards on nine carries. Theo Riddick wasn't involved much, but had a slick cut on a 21-yard catch. Fullback Michael Burton added a 4-yard touchdown catch, too.
Wide receivers: For the second straight game, Calvin Johnson had just one catch, but his 19-yarder helped set up an early touchdown. Golden Tate, meanwhile, scored two touchdowns for the second straight game. He was efficient with six catches for 45 yards, but made timely plays. TJ Jones added a key 20-yard catch, too.
Tight ends: Eric Ebron had one of the most productive games of his career with four catches for 79 yards, including a 45-yarder. Tim Wright and Bear Pascoe didn't contribute in the passing game, but Pascoe played a fair amount as a blocker in his first week with the Lions.
Offensive line: All three of them were sacks, but the Lions allowed just three hits on quarterback Matthew Stafford. Plus, the Lions averaged 6.5 yards per carry en route to gaining 150 yards, their second-highest total of the season. On several plays, Stafford had ample time to go through his reads.
Defensive line: The Lions hit Saints quarterback Drew Brees just three times, including a lone sack by Jason Jones. There were plenty of other plays where Brees was on the run, but with Ezekiel Ansah dealing with an illness, the pass rush was far from great. Haloti Ngata had a pass breakup, and the line can feel good about holding the Saints to just 69 rushing yards.
Linebackers: Stephen Tulloch had some hard hits in the game and finished with a game-high nine tackles and a forced fumble. Tahir Whitehead added seven tackles and a pass break-up, and Josh Bynes had four tackles, two pass break-ups and quarterback hit in what was a smothering effort by the linebackers.
Secondary: Cornerbacks Quandre Diggs and Darius Slay made several good plays with a combined 12 tackles and three pass break-ups. The Saints managed to move the ball as receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead gave the Lions some problems at times. But, for the most part, the defensive backs played well enough, particularly considering they played most of the game without Glover Quin.
Special teams: Matt Prater missed a 38-yard field goal that would've secured the Lions' win instead of giving the Saints nine seconds to create a miracle. It was Prater's first miss after hitting his first 17 field goals this year. Punter Sam Martin didn't have any eye-popping plays, but the Lions did well to limit the Saints return game.
Coaching: Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was in a good rhythm calling plays for most of the game, and players gave him plenty of credit for the offensive explosion. Even though the defense allowed 28 points, coordinator Teryl Austin had his players in position to limit a potentially high-powered Saints team. Coach Jim Caldwell had one bad challenge on a ball that Willie Snead clearly caught, but it was a shock he lost his second challenge on a Benjamin Watson catch.