Five main reasons Lions lost 35-29 to Saints

It was such a fast start by the Lions offense, it was a bit baffling. Before five minutes was off the clock Detroit was up 14-0 courtesy of Matthew Stafford’s 7-yard toss to De’Andre Swift, an interception of Drew Brees by Darryl Roberts and then a 15-yard scoring pass to Kenny Golladay.

Then the Lions gave up 35 unanswered points. Still baffling but to another degree.

When the dust had settled the Saints took a 35-29 win back to New Orleans and boosted their record to 2-2.

The Lions fell to 1-3 and blew a big lead for the third time in four games. 

“It’s frustrating because we have the pieces to be successful in this league, and we just have to go out there and finish,’’ linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “There’s no excuses. There’s nothing else to be said. We have to go out and play ball.”

 While the offense certainly had its issues, the defense could not keep Brees and the Saints off the field. New Orleans didn’t punt in the first three quarters. Time of possession wasn’t even close with the Saints holding a 36:46 to 23:44 edge.

Five main reasons the Lions lost:

1. It was no secret that running back Alvin Kamara is a game-changer and yet the Lions defense couldn’t stop him. He rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown, along with three catches for 36 yards. Patricia said they knew stopping the run was going to be a big challenge. “Alvin is one of the best players in this league, and I’ve known Alvin since high school – that’s my little brother. I know he’s a problem,’’ Lions linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “Then you have one of the best at throwing the ball. They’re not going to stop fighting. They have a great head coach. So, we have to get pressure. We have to get pressure on them – sometimes we had pressure on them, but he got it out on time, just like at the end.’’ It was not just Kamara, he had plenty of help. They just kept pounding — their longest run was for 12 yards.

2. It wasn’t just the Lions run defense that was lacking. The Saints converted 10 of 14 third-down attempts – that’s an amazing 71 percent. “I think on defense, we all think we can play better and coach better,’’ Patricia said. Brees is 41-years-old but don’t throw him in the retirement home just yet. He was 19 of 25 for 246 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

3. After a hot start Stafford and the offense struggled until they scored another touchdown late in the third quarter on a 1-yard pass to T.J. Hockenson. Stafford missed the second half of last season and obviously didn’t have preseason games to knock off the rust, but he is not looking for excuses for his play which hasn’t been up to his normal standards. “I feel like myself, obviously we haven’t hit some of the bigger plays down the field like we did last year,’’ Stafford said.

4. The run game has to find more consistency. Adiran Peterson averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 11 carries for 36 yards. In total, the Lions rushed for 90 yards. Stafford’s 12-yard scamper for a first down was the longest run for the Lions. It’s a sure sign improvement is needed.

5. Coaching. It’s a huge issue. The Lions looked like they had little energy out on the field. Certainly it’s different with no fans in the pandemic, but all teams have that disadvantage. After being down 28-14 at the half, you would expect more urgency on both sides of the ball. Just didn’t see it. Patricia always says that the Lions need to improve from the coaching on down. Obviously he’s right, but we haven’t seen it. They’ve lost 14 of the last 16 games under his guidance. That is unacceptable in the NFL.

BY THE NUMBERS: WR Danny Amendola had just two catches but one was for a game-high 50 yards, the other 7 yards. … The Lions were 7 of 14 on third-down attempts while New Orleans was an 10 of 14. … Detroit was 3 of 3 on fourth-down attempts. … Neither time attempted a field goal. … The Lions were 4 of 5 in the Red Zone while the Saints were 4 of 4. … Linebacker Jamie Collins led the Lions with 9 tackles. … Lions Reggie Ragland and Romeo Okwara each sacked Drew Brees.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Lions vs. Saints: Five things to know

The Lions hope to extend their win streak to two games when they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Detroit (1-2) is coming off a 26-23 win at Arizona while the Saints (1-2) lost to Green Bay, 37-30, last week.

Of course home field advantage means nothing with no fans allowed at Ford Field. When Matt Patricia was asked about it on Friday, he smiled. It is what it is.

Still it hasn’t been pretty under Patricia even in pre-COVID seasons.

“Look, I’m not going to live in the past as far as the numbers. I think we all know what the numbers are,’’ Patricia said on a Zoom call. “From that standpoint, we’re obviously just trying to push forward and get better and go. I think you’re right. The teams that are consistent in this League, the teams that have won a lot in this league over a long period of time, have been able to establish that home-field advantage scenario.’’

In 2019 the Lions were 2-6 at home. In 2018 they were 3-5.

“ We’re just trying to go out and just be consistent in the moment right now and see where that goes from there,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to watch on Sunday:

1. The offense needs to build on its effort in the win over the Cardinals. Tight end Jesse James played a big role and the return of Kenny Golladay provided a much needed spark. Matthew Stafford had his best game of the season with two touchdown passes and zero interceptions. But they were 2 of 6 in the red zone. “There (are) times where we try to run it in. There’s been times where we try to throw it in. We just have to be able to put it all together – whether it’s play calls, whether it’s execution of the specific plays, but we can definitely be better down there,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “That’s a focus. I believe the week before we were two-for-two in the red zone. So it has to become more consistent.”

2. Keep giving the ball to Adrian Peterson who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the first three games.  He had 22 carries in the win at Arizona.  “This guy is a freak of nature now. I don’t know where that wall is or where he’s going to hit it. The guy is always asking for more,’’ Bevell said.

3. After zero turnovers created by the defense in the first two games, they had three interceptions of Kyler Murray. Keeping him and the Cardinals’ offense was a huge part of the close win. The secondary is expected to have Desmond Trufant back in action. (Justin Coleman should be back soon too.) 

4. While the Saints have stumbled to a 1-2 start, never underestimate quarterback Drew Brees. He’s thrown six touchdown passes against just one interception. Patricia said he sees no difference in Brees. “I think you always look at the quarterbacks that have been in the League for a long time. Is there anything that shows up that’s different: arm strength, mobility, what they’re doing from a communication at the line of scrimmage standpoint – guys that are established like that,’’ Patricia said. “I’ve played against Drew Brees for a long time. I have the utmost respect for him, and his arm talent and his arm strength is still phenomenal. I don’t really read in to all that stuff.’’

5. However, the defense’s focus needs to be on running back Alvin Kamara who has three rushing and three receiving touchdowns. “It puts a lot of pressure on everybody. The guy’s highly, highly productive, and (Drew Brees) is really good at – if he doesn’t like what he sees down the field, he can be quick, or he can be late and get the ball in the guy’s hands,’’ defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said. “Once it’s in his hands, it takes everybody to get the guy on the ground. So, you’ve got to pick your spots when you’re calling the game.

Prediction: Lions 27, Saints 24