Detroit Lions vs New Orleans Saints: An In Depth Game Review

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The Lions Were Outscored For A Second Straight Week, Falling 52-38 To The Saints.

1st Quarter

The first quarter of this game was owned by the Saints, as they quickly got out to a commanding 17-7 lead. Matthew Stafford looked off, as he lost a fumble that was recovered for a New Orleans touchdown, and Drew Brees was on, finding Ted Ginn for a 20 yard Saints touchdown.

Golden Tate turned a short pass into a 45 yard Lions touchdown, keeping the quarter somewhat close.

2nd Quarter

Saints halfback Mark Ingram ran for two short touchdowns on the second half, with the Lions only able to muster one Matt Prater field goal on the possession in between them.

Detroit had a good drive going before halftime, but fell short as they turned the ball over on downs at the New Orleans one yard line. The Saints had a big halftime lead of 31-10.

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3rd Quarter

The Saints scored two touchdowns within the first seven minutes of the third quarter, as Brees threw a 2 yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercepted Matthew Stafford and returned it for a New Orleans touchdown.

Now facing a 35 point deficit, Matthew Stafford answered the Saints with one 22 yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones, and another 22 yard touchdown to Darren Fells, making the score 45-24 at the end of the third quarter.

4th Quarter

The Lions started the fourth quarter strong, forcing a Saints punt. Rookie Jamal Agnew fielded the punt and returned it for a 74 yard touchdown, making this a 14 point game. A few minutes later, Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson intercepted Drew Brees and returned it for a two yard touchdown, making this a seven point game.

However, on the next Lions possession, Matthew Stafford was intercepted in his own end zone by Cameron Jordan resulting in a Saints touchdown, effectively ending the game with a 52-38 Saints victory.

Key Stats

Matthew Stafford turned the ball over 5 times

There were many factors that contributed to this loss, but none were greater than Matthew Stafford’s five turnovers. Yes, some of them were not his fault, as passes were tipped or his protection was bad. Still, Stafford has not looked like the same guy from the 2015 and 2016 seasons thus far in 2017.

Matthew Stafford was sacked 5 times

On Sunday, there was a combination of issues that led to Stafford being sacked another 5 times. There were plays were his offensive line gave him little time, but there also were plays where the protection was good and Stafford was sacked because he held the ball for too long.

New Orleans scored 3 defensive touchdowns

Not only did the Lions give the ball away five times, but three of them directly resulted in touchdowns, as Stafford had a fumble that was recovered in the end zone and threw two pick sixes.

The Saints rushed for 193 yards

For much of the game, the Lions run defense was helpless. The Saints duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara ran all over the Lions defense on Sunday.

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The Saints deflected 16 passes (a new NFL record)

The Saints got their hands up and batted down Stafford passes all game, and set a new recorded for the most deflected passes in a single game. This was because of bad blocking by the Lions, and predictable play calling that led to the Saints constantly knowing where Stafford was going to go with the ball.

The Lions defense held Drew Brees to just 186 yard and intercepted him twice

One of the positives from this game was that the Lions pass defense looked alright against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Holding Drew Brees under 200 yards and intercepting him twice is quite an accomplishment for any defense.

Detroit’s defense held New Orleans to just 2 for 12 on third down conversion attempts

Detroit’s defense also tightened up on third downs for much of the game, holding the Saints offense to just two third down conversions. The Lions defense did a good job of getting off the field particularly in the second half.

Detroit went 0-1 on fourth down conversion attempts 

Maybe the key moment in the entire game was when Detroit when for a touchdown on the Saints 5 yard line right before halftime. Facing fourth and goal, Matthew Stafford threw a short pass to Daren Fells who was stopped shy of the end zone, giving the Saints the ball and forcing the Lions to walk away with no points.

What Went Right

Spectacular Plays From The Wide Receivers

Marvin Jones and Golden Tate were some of the only Lions players who came to play on Sunday. They each had their share of spectacular offensive plays, here are a few examples.

This play came on the second Lions drive of the game. Already facing a seven point deficit and a third down and four, Matthew Stafford found Tate on a hook route for what looked like a eight yard gain. Tate spun out of one tackle and turned up the sideline though, eluding two more Saints as he took the pass all the way to the end zone.

Marvin Jones made a Calvin Johnson-esque play here as Matthew Stafford found him on a deep pass after scrambling out of the pocket. Stafford fit the ball into a very tight window over a Saints defensive back, and Jones did a great job of adjusting to the ball in the air and bringing it in, resulting in a big Lions gain.

This Marvin Jones reception is a candidate for catch of the year. Despite being interfered with by the Saints cornerback in the end zone, Jones was still able to turn around and bring in the pass with one hand, and tap both of his feet down in bounds.

The defense continued to force turnovers

The Lions defense forced three turnovers on Sunday against the Saints, who had not yet had a turnover all season going into this game. Even though the Lions defense gave up their share of big plays, they did do a good job of taking the ball away.

This interception is largely thanks to the pressure of Ziggy Ansah. Ansah chases Drew Brees out of the pocket and forces an inaccurate throw to a place where Darius Slay can take it away from the Saints receiver. If the Lions can continue to pressure quarterbacks like this, they will continue to get interceptions.

This turnover is a great play by Lions safety Miles Killebrew. Drew Brees dumps off the ball short to Mark Ingram, and Killebrew comes up to make the tackle. Killebrew gets a hand in the exact perfect spot though, and the ball pops free, leading to a Lions defensive recovery.

This second interception is an incredible defensive play by defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson reads Brees’ eyes perfectly, and decides to drop back into coverage rather than attempt to rush the passer. Robinson gets right in the throwing lane, and makes an easy interception that he returned for a touchdown.

Jamal Agnew is a great find on special teams

Jamal Agnew had his second punt return for a touchdown this season on Sunday. He is the only player in the NFL with multiple kicks returned for touchdowns this season. His return skills are largely due to his speed and agility, both of which are displayed in this play.

What Went Wrong

The defense couldn’t stop anything in the first three quarters

Through the first three quarters of this game, it seemed like anything the Saints offense tried worked. They ran and passed the ball effectively, and even had a few trick plays that worked. Here are some examples.

On this Mark Ingram 51 yard run, the Lions defense did a horrible job of tackling. Ziggy Ansah and Tahir Whitehead both whiff on tackles early in the play, resulting in Ingram having a ton of room to run.

On this play, Drew Brees just throws a short crossing route to Ted Ginn, who catches the pass at the 15 yard line. Again two lines miss on tackles, this time rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis and Darius Slay are guilty. Loose coverage by Slay also resulted in the reception to begin with.

This is Ingram’s second short yardage touchdown of the game, and although it is not a particularly impressive play, it just shows the the Saints offensive line was consistently winning. They push the Lions defensive line back, and making getting into the end zone easy for Ingram.

Saints rookie halfback Alvin Kamara also had a big game on Sunday, this being his most spectacular play. The Saints offensive line set up a good running lane for him to the outside, allowing him to pick up 10 easy yards. At the end of the play, he completely hurdles Darius Slay, getting an extra five yards out of the run.

Continued protection issues for the Lions offensive line

Stafford was sacked five times on Sunday. Some of the sacks were on him for holding onto the ball for too long, but he was also hit frequently due to bad pass protection. Here is an example.

On this play, the Saints rush five defenders, but linebacker Craig Robertson is able to get into the backfield unblocked. As Stafford drops back to pass, Robertson literally takes the ball out of his hands, resulting in a turnover.

Stafford turned the ball over 5 times, while only completing 25 of his 52 pass attempts

Matthew Stafford three three interceptions and lost two fumbles on Sunday, resulting in three New Orleans defensive touchdowns. The turnovers were due to sloppy play from Stafford, the offensive line and the receivers. Here area few of them.

This was only the third offensive play of the game. The Lions started out backed up, so Stafford drops back into his own end zone to pass. He held onto the ball for way too long on this play, resulting in not only a sack, but a strip for the Saints. New Orleans picked the ball up in the end zone, giving them the first points of the game. This turnover was 100% on Stafford.

Stafford’s pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage on this play, and flutters right into the hands of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore is then easily able to turn upfield and jog in for a New Orleans touchdown.

This is another interception off of a deflection at the line of scrimmage. This time, defensive end Cameron Jordan both tips the ball up into the air, and reaches up to catch it in the end zone, resulting in a third New Orleans defensive score on the day.

Player Of The Game

Golden Tate is this weeks Lions player of the game. Tate finished the game with seven receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown before exiting with injury in the third quarter. He was the Lions most consistent playmaker in this game.

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Going forward, the Lions will need will need their other receivers to step up in place of Tate, as Tate is expected to miss at least a few games with a shoulder injury. However, expect Tate to continue to be the Lions most reliable offensive player whenever he returns.

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