The Lions suffered more injuries and played sloppy football, and even though they found themselves down 45-10 in the third quarter, they still came back to make a game of it.
The Saints did just enough to hold on for a 52-38 victory, forcing Matt Stafford into five turnovers (3 INTs, 2 fumbles) as the defensive line made a living out of pressuring the Lions hobbled quarterback.
To his credit, Stafford stayed in the game and led a Lions charge of 28 straight points. Early in the fourth quarter, A'Shawn Robinson pitched in with a pick-six off of Drew Brees that cut the deficit to 45-38, but Stafford threw a pick-six of his own that sealed the Lions fate.
All-in-all, the defense wasn't THAT bad despite the gaudy score. Drew Brees threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, as well as two interceptions. The Saints hadn't turned the ball over all year coming into the game.
It was the makeshift offensive line, missing T.J. Lang, Rick Wagner and Greg Robinson, that couldn't protect Stafford. The quarterback was hurried all day, and that caused a lot of the turnovers. That isn't to say Stafford isn't at fault, as he made plenty of bad decisions and bad throws that led to 12 (!) tipped balls for the Saints defense.
The Lions have two weeks to get healthy before Pittsburgh comes calling to Ford Field on Sunday Night Football.
Given that the Packers may have lost Aaron Rodgers for the season to a broken collarbone today in Minnesota, the NFC North suddenly appears within the Lions reach despite a 3-3 record and sub-par performances over the last two weeks.
Lions comeback bid on life support
The Lions took over at their own 18 with 4:15 on the clock, but a holding penalty put them behind the chains and they were never able to recover, punting the ball back to the Saints after back-to-back sacks of Matt Stafford.
It appears the Lions have made peace with their fate, trailing 52-38 with 2:38 remaining in the game.
Stafford throws another interception
A pass interference penalty on first down gave the Lions the ball at the New Orleans 35. But then, it happened again. Matt Stafford threw the ball off of Theo Riddick's helmet and it was intercepted by Kenny Vaccaro.
With 4:31 left to play, the Lions are still down 52-38.
Saints return the favor
After the Lions defense got the ball back for its offense again, Jamal Agnew muffed the punt, recovered it in the end zone and barely made his way out to the 1.
That's when the Saints returned the favor, batting the ball on a Matt Stafford pass for the 12th time today, and Cam Jordan came down with the interception in the end zone.
With 5:08 remaining, the Saints have a two-score lead at 52-38.
Robinson makes biggest play yet for Lions
Well, well, well. We may have something here.
The Saints decided it was a good idea to throw the ball from their own end zone on second down, and A'Shawn Robinson telegraphed a Drew Brees pass, picking it off at the goal line before rumbling into the end zone with 6:41 remaining in the game.
The Lions, after finding themselves down 45-10 in the third quarter, have cut the Saints lead to 45-38.
Lions can't keep good times rolling
The Lions defense got ANOTHER three-and-out. But even though Matt Stafford hit T.J. Jones for a 24-yard gain out to the 44, the Lions weren't able to pick up another first down and punted the ball back to the Saints.
With 7:29 remaining, the Saints are holding on to their 45-31 lead.
Agnew makes a big play on special teams
The defense got another three-and-out and Jamal Agnew brought some life into this game with a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown that cuts the Saints lead to 45-31 with 11:03 left to play.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Agnew was called for taunting on the play as he waved at the defender as he entered the end zone. That will cost the Lions 15 yards on the kickoff, something that could be big in this comeback bid.
Lions can't capitalize on good field position
The Lions defense forced a three-and-out, and Jamal Agnew set the offense up with good field position after a 26-yard punt return into Saints territory.
After Ameer Abdullah was dropped for a six-yard loss on first down, the Lions were unable to get anything going and had to punt back to New Orleans.
With 13:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Saints still lead 45-24.
Lions capitalize on Saints turnover
Mark Ingram fumbled after reeling in a screen pass, giving the Lions possession at their own 39.
With 1:21 remaining in the third quarter, Matt Stafford hit Darren Fells for a 22-yard touchdown that cuts the Saints lead to 45-24.
Earlier in the drive, on third-and-5, Stafford found Marvin Jones for a first down at the Saints 42. After two incompletions, Stafford hit Theo Riddick on a screen pass that netted 12 yards. Two plays later, the Lions called the same play, and Riddick took the ball down to the 15. On second-and-10, behind his makeshift offensive line that's now missing Rick Wagner, Stafford was dropped for a seven-yard loss.
After their last score, the Lions attempted an onside kick that New Orleans recovered.
Stafford finds Jones for leaping score
Matt Stafford hit Marvin Jones for a 38-yard gain into Saints territory before coming back to his receiver four plays later for what was a great 22-yard touchdown catch by Jones. Jones leaped up and grabbed the ball one-handed in good coverage, and the Lions have cut the Saints lead to 45-17 with 5:56 remaining in the third quarter.
Golden Tate made a catch across the middle earlier in the drive. He took a big hit and was taken back to the locker room prior to the Jones score.
Lions cooked after pick-six
Another Matt Stafford pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and this one was picked off and taken to the house by rookie Marshon Lattimore for a 27-yard touchdown.
With 8:34 remaining in the third, the Lions trail the Saints 45-10.
Quin injured, Saints add to lead
Glover Quin took an knee to the head as he was ran over by teammate A'Shawn Robinson on the Saints first play of the drive. Quin laid out on the ground for several minutes before walking off under his own power and back to the locker room accompanied by trainers.
The Saints added insult to injury as Alvin Kamara carved them up on the ground and Drew Brees found Michael Hoomanawanui wide open in the back of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown.
With 9:17 remaining in the third quarter, the Saints are rolling, 38-10.
Another opportunity gone by the wayside
Ameer Abdullah gained a yard on first down, and the offense did nothing else after that as Matt Stafford couldn't find his receivers and Matt Prater missed a 56-yard field goal.
Saints ball, leading 31-10, with 12:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Lions force first Saints turnover of season
The announcer's jinx is in full effect.
Right after the FOX broadcast pointed out that the Saints hadn't turned the ball over this season, Darius Slay made a great play, leaping over Michael Thomas' shoulder and taking the ball away from the New Orleans receiver for a Lions interception.
Matt Stafford and Co. will take over at the Saints 39.
Lions offense off to a slow start in second half
Matt Stafford overthrew Marvin Jones on a deep ball on the Lions first play from scrimmage in the second half. After a five-yard run by Ameer Abdullah on second down, Stafford took a sack on third down and the Lions were forced to punt.
Not an ideal start to the second half when you're trailing 31-10.
Saints shut the door on Lions before the half
The Lions got a bit of a break before the half when the Saints kicked the ball out of bounds and gave Matt Stafford and Co. possession at the 40.
The offense was able to get the ball all the way down to the New Orleans 5 in the waning seconds of the half, but they couldn't get the ball into the end zone, as Stafford hit Darren Fells short of the goal line on fourth down and the big tight end was tackled at the 1.
That turnover on downs is probably the nail in the coffin for the Lions. If they had been able to score and trim their deficit to 14, they would have been able to get the ball back to start the second half with a chance to get it to seven.
Stafford hit Theo Riddick with a 13-yard screen pass into Saints territory on the first play of the drive. On the next play, Stafford had a ball tipped at the line, but Eric Ebron stayed with the play and made a catch to set up a second-and-1. Stafford hit Golden Tate for a big gain to get down to the Saints 20 with 52 seconds on the clock. After a short pass to Marvin Jones, Stafford found Theo Riddick for a gain of 10 that got the ball to the 5 with 26 seconds remaining in the half, forcing the Lions to use their final timeout.
Saints running on all cylinders
It was a demoralizing way for the Lions to end the first half, giving up an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a two-yard Mark Ingram touchdown run.
With 1:48 remaining in the first half, the Lions are in a 31-10 hole.
Alvin Kamara broke off a 21-yard gain to get the Saints out to midfield, and then when the Saints decided to roll the dice on fourth-and-1, Kamara took the pitch on the outside for a five-yard gain down to the Lions 35. The Saints continued to use their bag of tricks, going to the flea-flicker on the next play, as Drew Brees hit Brandon Coleman for 20 yards.
Lions add a Prater field goal
The Lions got three points back with a 41-yard Matt Prater field goal that cuts the New Orleans lead to 24-10 with 6:38 remaining in the first half.
Ameer Abdullah took off for a 34-yard gain into Saints territory. After the Lions found themselves behind the chains following a hands to the face penalty by Emmett Cleary, Stafford stepped up and found Marvin Jones for a nine-yard gain on third-and-long. After a completion to Jared Abbrederis set up a third-and-1, Zach Zenner was unable to pick up the first down.
Lions in trouble after another Saints TD
The Saints got very little resistance from the Lions defense in the short field, and Mark Ingram waltzed into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown that puts New Orleans in a commanding position up 24-7 with 10:46 remaining in the second quarter.
Willie Sneed had an 11-yard grab, and Ted Ginn added to his game-high 66 receiving yards with a 13-yard gain down to the 1 to set up the Ingram score.
Stafford fumbles again
Rick Wagner or Theo Riddick missed a blocking assignment on Craig Robertson, who found himself alone in the backfield with Matt Stafford. Robertston leaped in the air, hit the ball out of Stafford's hands on the way down, and was able to recover the fumble at the Lions 27. Stafford actually made a touchdown-saving tackle.
On the prior play, Stafford found Golden Tate again on third-and-4, allowing his receiver to run with the ball for a 19-yard gain out to midfield.
New Orleans adds a field goal
The Lions defense bent, but it did not break at the end of the first quarter, forcing the Saints to settle for a 41-yard Wil Lutz field goal after getting down near the red zone.
With four seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Saints lead 17-7.
Ted Ginn picked up where he left off, catching a short pass for a nine-yard gain on the Saints' first play from scrimmage after the Lions offense went three-and-out. On the next play, Drew Brees hit tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for a 25-yard gain out near midfield. After Alvin Kamara bulldozed his way to a 10-yard gain and a first down, Brees and Ginn hooked up again for a 24-yard gain down to the Lions 23.
Saints offense joins the party
Mark Ingram was off to the races for a 51-yard gain on the first play of the drive, setting the Saints up at the Lions 24. On third-and-six, Drew Brees hit Ted Ginn coming across the middle, and the former Ohio State wide receiver worked his way to the sideline and dove into the end zone to put New Orleans back on top, 14-7, with 4:56 to play in the first quarter.
It appears we're going to have a track meet on our hands, as neither defense appears to be willing to use proper tackling techniques.
Tate dances his way to TD
Golden Tate took a short pass from Matt Stafford and did the rest of the work himself, breaking multiple tackles and dancing through the defensive secondary on his way to a 45-yard touchdown that ties the game at 7-7 with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter.
A pass interference call earlier in the drive gave the Lions good field position at the Saints 38. On third-and-short near midfield, Stafford put his head down and picked up a couple of yards for a first down.
Ameer Abdullah ran three times on the drive for three yards.
Saints pounce on Stafford fumble in the end zone
Backed up against his goal line, Matt Stafford didn't feel the pressure coming as he tried to get outside the pocket in his own end zone. He took a punishing hit from Alex Okafor, dropped the ball, and it was recovered by Kenny Vaccaro for a Saints touchdown.
With 11:02 to play in the first quarter, it's safe to say the Lions aren't off to the start they envisioned as the Saints take a 7-0 lead.
Lions defense gets an early stop
Despite giving up a first down to Mark Ingram on a screen pass on the second play of the game, the Lions defense was able to bottle up the former Heisman Trophy winner on third-and-short to force a Saints punt on the game's opening drive.
The Lions will take over at their own 2 with 11:56 remaining in the first quarter.
LIONS VS. SAINTS
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
TV / radio: Fox / WJR 760
Records: Lions 3-2, Saints 2-2
Line: Saints by 3