Lions locked in to beat Brees, Saints
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Detroit safety Glover Quin recognized a deep route by Brandin Cooks just in time to make a diving breakup of a long pass down the middle of the field.
A few plays later, Quin intercepted Brees along the sideline.
“Obviously Drew Brees is a great player with great talent around him; we knew it was going to be a challenge, so we locked in — all week,” Quin said.
That much was evident in the Lions’ 28-13 victory over the Saints on Sunday in the Superdome, where Brees had a touchdown pass in 60 straight home games before Detroit derailed that streak.
If there was ever an outing that could embolden a defense as the stakes rise for the NFC North Division-leading Lions (8-4) late in the season, that was it.
After all, the Saints (5-7) had scored seven TDs in the Superdome one week earlier in a blowout victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
This week, the Lions intercepted Brees three times — once each by Quin , Tavon Wilson and Miles Killebrew .
“We just did what we do. That’s what great defenses do,” Quin said. “They put up 49 points in this building last week, so for us to come in here and not allow (Brees) to throw a touchdown, to get three turnovers, to hold them to 13 points, 50 yards rushing … against an offense like this, I think it was a good performance.”
While Brees finished with 326 yards passing, he only had 94 yards at halftime and didn’t get his last 75 yards until New Orleans’ final drive, when Detroit led by 15 and was giving up underneath routes in an effort to reduce the chances of a quick strike.
The more productive quarterback on the day was Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, who completed 31 of 44 passes for 341 yards, two touchdowns and did not turn the ball over.
His only regret was that Detroit failed to score touchdowns on four trips inside the New Orleans 20. This time, though, the Lions didn’t need those points.
“Our defense, giving up 13 to that group, is pretty incredible,” Stafford said.
Detroit’s suffocating defense emerged as one key story line from the Lions victory in New Orleans. Here are some others:
The Saints regretted several chances to make game-changing plays which slipped through their fingers. Cornerback Sterling Moore dropped what had the makings of a certain interception of a tipped pass with the potential for a long return.
Tight Coby Fleener had a pass bounce off his hands at the goal line. Cameron Jordan made a strong play to bat one of Stafford’s passes into the air in the fourth quarter when the Saints trailed by six, but he couldn’t pick up the ball in time to catch it before it dropped right next to him.
Brees also failed to handle a shotgun snap on third-and-1.
Saints coach Sean Payton said his team looked, “sluggish, like we came off a short week or something.”
Stafford connected with Golden Tate eight times for 145 yards , and the pair was particularly in synch on a third-and-10 play early in the fourth quarter.
With the Superdome crowd roaring in hopes of disrupting the Lions’ communication at the line of scrimmage, Stafford recognized safety Kenny Vaccaro’s impending blitz, checked into a different play and rifled a pass to a wide-open Tate for a 66-yard TD pass that gave the Lions a 25-13 lead.
While the Lions consolidated their perch atop their division with a seventh victory in eight games, the Saints slid closer to the brink of elimination. New Orleans was only fortunate that NFC South leader Atlanta lost, as did the Redskins, who entered the day holding the last wild-card slot. The results left the Saints two games out of a playoff spot with four games left.
“It’s nice to have something that we’re still playing for,” Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. “We’re not out. We’re not done, and yet, if you thought your back was against the wall before, look now.”
Detroit is trying to win its first division crown since 1993, when it played in the NFC Central. The Lions have a two-game lead over second-place Minnesota and Green Bay.
KEEPING IT CLEAN
With his latest game without a turnover, Stafford has thrown just one interception in his past eight games.
As he has done regularly this season, Stafford mixes in a few timely scrambles rather than force throws. He rushed three times for 22 yards, including an 11-yard run for a first down, giving him 30 rushes for a career-high 178 yards, an average of 5.9 yards per carry.