NEW ORLEANS – The Detroit Lions saw a 7-7 tie turn into a 45-10 deficit followed by a huge rally that came up short en route to a wild 52-38 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Sunday afternoon.
The Saints entered the fray as 5-point favorites while riding a two-game winning streak and coming off their bye week. The point spread increased steadily throughout last week after news became public about an ankle injury sustained by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Stafford wound up making his 102nd consecutive start Sunday, but was hobbled under continual pressure by the defense.
New Orleans quickly jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Stafford was sacked in the end zone, fumbled while going down and the ball was recovered by the Saints’ Kenny Vaccaro for a touchdown with 11:02 to go in the opener.
Detroit quickly tied up the score on a 45-yard scoring strike from Stafford to Golden Tate, who raced down the right sideline while breaking multiple tackles with 7:02 left in the first period.
Quarterback Drew Brees soon responded with a 20-yard TD pass to speedster Ted Ginn Jr. as New Orleans retook control at 14-7 at the 4:56 juncture of the initial stanza.
As the first period wound down, Brees methodically picked apart the Lions defense while moving steadily downfield to a 41-yard field goal by Wil Lutz and a 17-7 advantage with just :04 showing on the clock.
Another Stafford fumble then led to the Saints tacking on another touchdown, this one a 1-yard run by Mark Ingram for a 24-7 bulge with 10:46 remaining until intermission.
Matt Prater then moved Detroit to within 24-10 with a 41-yard field goal with 6:39 to go until halftime.
New Orleans once again retaliated with the clock winding down, this time with a 2-yard scoring run by Ingram for a 31-10 count with 1:48 until intermission.
The Lions ran out of downs as the first half ended with the score still 31-10.
The Saints resumed scoring at the outset of the second half, as a quick 2-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Michael Hoomanawanui was followed by Marshon Lattimore’s 30-yard interception return of a Stafford pass to up the margin to 45-10 with 8:34 left in the third quarter.
Stafford hit Marvin Jones Jr. with a 22-yard touchdown pass to move the Lions to within 45-17 midway through the third frame and followed that up with another 22-yard TD pass, this one to Darren Fells, to move Detroit to within 45-24 with 1:21 remaining in the third.
In the fourth quarter, Lions rookie Jamal Agnew then returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown to cut the gap to 45-31 with 11:03 left in the game.
Detroit then closed to within 45-38 on a 2-yard interception return by A’Shawn Robinson.
The Saints came right back when Cameron Jordan pulled in a batted Stafford pass in the end zone for a touchdown and a 52-38 advantage with 4:58 showing on the clock, a score that ultimately held up until the final gun sounded.
The Lions are now 3-3 entering their bye week. Their next game will be 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field in Detroit.
The Saints now stand 3-2 going into next Sunday afternoon’s trip to Lambeau Field to meet the Green Bay Packers.