Brees’ Saints send Lions packing
NEW ORLEANS – Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are pouring on the points, racking up the wins and rewriting the record books nearly every time they play.
Things sure are rollin’ on the river.
Brees led an unstoppable offense by throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns, and New Orleans poured it on in the second half for a 45-28 NFC wild-card victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.
New Orleans broke the postseason mark for total yards with 626, beating the record set 49 years ago.
Brees hit on 33 of 43 passes while throwing for the most yards in a regulation playoff game. He highlighted his night with three completions of at least 40 yards.
“We just focus on winning. We’re not focused on yards and records,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I’m serious when I say that.”
As usual, the quarterback had plenty of help from an offense that set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage this season (7,474). The Saints (14-3) will travel to San Francisco (13-3) for Saturday’s second-round game.
Matthew Stafford threw for 380 yards and three TDs for the Lions (10-7), who simply could not keep pace in their first playoff appearance since the 1999 season. They have lost seven straight postseason games.
All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson had 12 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns in his playoff debut for Detroit, but that was not nearly enough as the Saints’ defense responded in the fourth quarter with two interceptions by Jabari Greer.
The teams combined for 1,083 yards, tying an NFL playoff record set by Buffalo and Miami on Dec. 30, 1995.
Pierre Thomas rushed for 66 yards and one touchdown, while Sproles added 51 yards, two scores and several other clutch plays.
Marques Colston overcame an early fumble with seven catches for 120 yards, including a 40-yarder to set up Jimmy Graham’s short TD grab.
Robert Meachem had four catches for 111 yards, including a 56-yard score. Devery Henderson added a 41-yard touchdown reception.
New Orleans showed guts and got a little good fortune on a decisive 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. The Saints ran Sproles around left end on fourth-and-2 at the Lions 40 and gained 3 yards. Soon after, Brees’ pass went through the hands of defensive back Aaron Berry.
Berry would regret that drop two plays later as Sproles bolted 17 yards to make it 31-21.
Stafford tried to get some of that back quickly, throwing deep for Titus Young, but Greer ran under it and picked it off. Four plays later, Brees spotted Meachem behind blown coverage for his long score to make it 38-21.
The Lions became only the second visiting team all year to lead at halftime in the Superdome, where the Saints were unbeaten during the regular season.
‘So going into halftime at a deficit, we just realized, ‘Listen, just bear down, one play at a time, one drive at a time’,” Brees said, “and I think we scored on every drive in the second half. I guess that’s what you hope for.”
The Saints opened the second half by driving 78 yards to take their first lead on Brees’ 31-yard pass to Henderson.
New Orleans then widened its lead to 24-14 with a 92-yard drive that included what may have been a favorable spot on Colston’s third-down grab at the Saints 18.
Later, Brees converted a risky dive over the pile on fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans 38 to sustain the drive before finding Colston for a 40-yard gain to the Detroit 3. Brees hit Graham for a score on the next play.
“He’s definitely playing at an extremely high level right now,” Colston said of Brees. “It’s the way the guy prepares. … He really just tries to get better on a daily basis and that’s what you see on the field.”
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