After jumping out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead, the Detroit Lions took their foot off the gas, allowing the New Orleans Saints to claw their way back into Sunday’s interconference matchup. By halftime, the Lions led 24-7, and after the Saints scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half, the Lions’ lead was just three. Although New Orleans battled back, Detroit never relinquished their lead and held on to win 33-28 to push their record to 9-3. Let’s take a look at some of the big takeaways from Detroit’s road win.
Takeaways From Lions’ Rollercoaster Win Over Saints
Bruce Irvin Makes His Presence Felt…
Bruce Irvin made his Lions debut on Sunday after signing with the team in mid-November. Detroit’s struggled to generate pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback in recent weeks and signed Irivn hoping he could help along the defensive line. In one of his first snaps, he did just that; Irvin got home and sacked Saints quarterback Derek Carr on third and long.
It was a welcomed sight for a defensive unit that’s 25th in the NFL in sacks this season. Irvin, 36, hasn’t played at all this season after appearing in 11 games for the Seattle Seahawks in 2022. It remains to be seen if Irvin can continue to produce for a Lions pass rush that needs all the help it can get, although Sunday looked promising.
… But The Defense Still Struggles
After boasting one of the top defenses in the NFL through the first month of the season, things have taken a major turn for the worse for Detroit.
The Lions’ defense has been one of the worst in success rate since their Week 7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and on Sunday that trend continued. The Saints had 362 total yards of offense, throwing for 249 and rushing for 113. The Detroit defense had New Orleans in numerous 3rd-and-long situations but failed to get off the field, allowing the Saints to keep drives alive that led to points.
Cornerback Jerry Jacobs struggled in his match-up with Saints receiver Chris Olave, who had five catches for 119 yards; Detroit continues to show trust in Jacobs to cover the opposing team’s number-one receiver but he’s struggled in doing so this season. After Carr was knocked out of the game with an injury, backup quarterback Jameis Winston took over for the Saints. After scoring on their first drive with Winston under center, New Orleans was unable to move the ball and failed to score again. Had Carr not gotten hurt, the result of today’s game could’ve been different.
A defense that once looked primed to help carry Detroit has reverted to the unit we saw last season that struggled to stop anyone. It’s been said time and time again but if the Lions want to be considered true contenders and playoff threats, then they must improve on that side of the ball. Otherwise, they’ll be one-and-done in the postseason assuming they qualify.
Detroit Wins Turnover Battle
Despite the poor performance from the defense, the Lions still won the turnover battle 2-0. Rookie defensive back Brian Branch recorded his second career interception on the Saints’ first offensive play from scrimmage, setting up a Sam LaPorta touchdown that pushed Detroit’s lead to 14-0. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Lions recovered a fumble that led to another touchdown, this time from Jameson Williams on a double reverse where the second-year receiver showed off his blazing speed.
After struggling the last two weeks, Lions quarterback Jared Goff bounced back, throwing for 213 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he protected the ball after giving it away six times over the last two games. Goff made big throws down the stretch, connecting with LaPorta and receiver Josh Reynolds on Detroit’s final drive that put the game to bed. Goff’s done a nice job of taking care of the ball since arriving in Detroit, and it was good to see him get back to his usual form on Sunday.
Sam LaPorta Is One Of The Best Tight Ends In Football
It’s hard to put into words just how impressive the rookie tight end from Iowa has been in his first season in Detroit.
LaPorta is not just playing like one of the best rookie tight ends — he’s playing like one of the best tight ends in all of football. He had the best game of his young career on Sunday, recording nine catches on nine targets for 140 yards and a touchdown while also setting a franchise record for most yards by a tight end in a single game. For the season, LaPorta has 64 catches for 679 yards and six touchdowns and is well on his way to producing the single-best rookie season for a tight end in NFL history. He came up big on the final drive of the game, hauling in a contested catch on 3rd down to keep the drive moving for the Lions. LaPorta has quickly become one of Goff’s favorite targets and continues to be dependable, especially on 3rd down and in the red zone.
It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but a win is a win and the Lions won’t apologize for leaving New Orleans with a much-needed victory. Next up is an NFC North matchup against the Chicago Bears from Soldier Field, where Detroit will look to reach double-digit wins in a season for the first time since 2014.
Main Image: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports