Five reasons the Detroit Lions lost to the New Orleans Saints in a weird game

In second half, Detroit scored 28 unanswered points

Not much went right for the Lions on Sunday in New Orleans where they lost 52-38 to the Saints.

Give them credit though for fighting until the end.

Detroit was down 45-10 in the third and came back to within a touchdown scoring 28 unanswered points.

“We don’t give up, our guys show a lot of resolve. They think We’ll get things straightened out as we move along. Our guys always think they have a chance to get it done, always think they have a chance to close the gap, they believe in one another,’’ coach Jim Caldwell told the media afterward. “I don’t think these guys ever think they’re out of a ball game.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions dropped to 3-3 and will be off next weekend on their bye. With so many injuries it’s perfect timing. Perhaps the time off will allow some guys to heal up.

The injury list is long and lengthened in the second half when Glover Quin (concussion) went down, same with Golden Tate (shoulder).

Matthew Stafford started with a wonky ankle and got beat up early and often — he was sacked five times and pressure more. At one point he was holding his ribs when the Lions were down five touchdowns (45-10) in the third quarter. Jim Caldwell kept him in the game and he fought back.

“It was a different one for sure. I talked to Drew (Brees) about that after the game. He came up and said that was a weird one, eh? It was, it was crazy. We have to find a way to start faster and make it competitive early on,’’ Stafford said.

Right guard T.J. Lang surprisingly was inactive when his back tightened up before the game. Late in the game right tackle Rick Wagner left the game with an injury and came back in. Left tackle Greg Robinson also went out with an ankle injury.

Injuries, though, are not an excuse in the NFL. In the first half Detroit’s offense stunk.

Ditto for the defense. Even Matt “Mr. Automatic” Prater missed a 56-yard field goal, although it wasn’t a difference maker.

It’s tough to narrow it down, but here are five reasons the Lions lost.

1. The Lions defense couldn’t stop the run. Last week in the loss to the Panthers they held Carolina to 28 rushing yards. The Saints had 128 rushing yards in first half and 193 total. Inexcusable. “Any time we allow a team to run consistently on us and run well we’re not happy about that. … In terms of run defense we weren’t able to do that consistently. Once things got turned around we started playing better defense and started tackling better to give ourselves a chance,’’ Caldwell said.

2. Detroit’s defense couldn’t stop the pass either. Drew Brees had a good day with 186 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Those were his first two picks this season. Detroit’s defense was also caught off-guard by two straight plays  in second quarter — a fullback option on fourth-and-1 for the first down, and a flea flicker that gained 20 yards. Inexcusable.

3. On the plus side for the Lions’ defense, defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson got his hands on a Brees’ pass, held on and sprinted two yards into the end zone. The Saints defense scored three touchdowns — one on a fumble recovery in the end zone and two on interception returns by Marshon Lattimore and Cameron Jordan. Also Darius Slay also had an interception but the Lions couldn’t capitalize on that.

4. Stafford was playing with wonky ankle, but worse than that the make-shift offensive line stunk. Right guard T.J. Lang was inactive after his back tightened up so Emmett Cleary started at right guard. It’s not all on Cleary either. Left tackle Greg Robinson, who has struggled throughout the start of the season, was benched in the first half, came back and injured his ankle. Sacks are not all on the offensive line, but they share the blame. The consistent pressure on Stafford gave him little time to work. Stafford was sacked five times which makes it 17 sacks in the last three games. Guess what? Inexcusable.

5. Stafford had a dozen passes tipped. That was the most in one game in the NFL this season. Part of that goes on the offensive line and credit also goes to the Saints’ defense. Stafford’s stat line wasn’t too pretty — 26-of-52 for 316 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions, and two fumbles lost. Caldwell said Stafford had ups and downs, but also mentioned he’s got to have help. There was some question about whether Stafford should’ve started with his bad ankle. He practiced all week and Caldwell, like always, left the decision up to the doctors. Afterward Stafford said his ankle felt “great” but the bye week for his body is coming at a good time. The quarterback wasn’t himself but even at 75 percent (or whatever) he is better than Jake Rudock would be at 100 percent.

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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