Detroit Lions A Afoul, New Orleans Saints Win No Brees
Written by  // Monday, 05 December 2011 09:39 //

graham-panthersThe Saints (9-3) continued on a winning roll by trading shots with the Lions, who ran out of bullets, and beat them 31-17 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as they took a two-game lead over the Falcons in the NFC South.

"We've gotten kind of on a little bit of a run," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "We felt going into this third quarter of the schedule, we were going to play some good football teams. So that was a challenge starting off with Tampa, Atlanta, the Giants and Detroit.

"All four of those teams to start this third quarter were all teams that we felt were in playoff contention. I liked the fact we are playing with confidence. I like the fact we answered in the second half when the momentum shifted.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees continued to make passing history as he threw for three touchdowns and 342 yards as the Saints won their fourth straight.  The performance gave Brees 4,031 yards this season, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark in the first 12 games.

"We were able to spread the ball around and come up with some big plays," said the quarterback.  "I hope our hopes and aspirations are bigger than setting records."

Penalties and personal fouls continue to plague the Lions. Nate Burleson was flagged four times, three times for offensive pass interference. The Lions took three personal foul calls and were flagged 11 times for 107 yards.

Brees took advantage of the penalties, plus the absence of starting cornerback Chris Houston (knee), starting safety Louis Delmas and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (suspended), shredding the Lions with his passes. He was 26-of-36 as a passer and completed 13 straight in one stretch

Brees said after the loss to the Rams that left the Saints 5-3 and in the middle of the division with Atlanta and Tampa, two divisional games that are twice as important, “We wanted to be playing our best football."

The Saints scored a late touchdown and didn't put the game away as the players wanted to. "We extended the lead on that drive, but we didn't put it away," said Brees. "The defense did a good job."

Brees' scoring strikes went to Robert Meachem (67 yards), Lance Moore (20 yards) and Darren Sproles (6 yards).

Jimmy Graham led the Saints in receiving with eight catches for 89 yards. His season receiving yards total stands at 1,046 yards, making him the first Saints tight end to surpass 1,000 yards.

Graham on reaching 1,000 yards: "I'm not concerned with 1,000 yards. For me it's not about 1,000 yards -- we'll wait til the offseason to look at those."

On the last touchdown drive: "Drew said one drive, one play at a time. We just focused on making third downs and marching down the field. Great job by Drew. He's a surgeon out there."

Saints running back Mark Ingram, who has added more East-West lanes to his game plan, ran 14 yards for a touchdown and had 54 yards on 16 carries. Chris Ivory was inactive for the second straight week.

The Lions, Bears and Falcons are all 7-5 fighting for the two wildcard spots in the NFC.

Middle linebacker Jon Vilma (knee) returned to the Saints lineup. "I was a little rusty at first, but midway through the second quarter, I was good to go," said Vilma.  I had the knee scoped. They wanted to clean out some particles, some cartilage in there. Last week, I tried to give it a go and it swelled up in there.

"It felt great. I was dying to get out there. It was great to see the guys hold it down for me. It was great to enjoy the moment."

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 31-of-44 passes, but was sacked three times and intercepted by Tracy Porter to effectively end the Lions’ efforts.

"We lost to the Saints, but we beat ourselves tonight," said Lions coach  Jim Schwartz.  "Our offense continued to get derailed by penalties. We need to be a team that doesn't beat ourselves. We have talent, we have good schemes, good coaching. We can't afford to be selfish and put the team,  the risk of taking points off the board and there was way too much of that tonight."

Drew Brees likes the selection of Curts Johnson as the new Tulane head football coach.

"He's going to be great," said Brees of the Saints wide receivers coach who will be named Tulane head coach on Monday. "He has a lot of relationships here in New Orleans," said Brees. "He's been around the football field here for a long time.

"That's one thing he's great at -- he has a ton of relationships He's been a great part of our offensive staff here over the last six years. He's known Sean (Payton) for 20 years. He's been a lot of places and coached a lot to big-time players. It's great for the Tulane program. They got a great coach in Curtis Johnson."

by Ed Staton

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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