Game Grades: Saints put Detroit in its place

The best way to recap Detroit's playoff loss to New Orleans? The two teams are currently at different levels, with the Saints at the pinnacle of the league and the Lions still amidst their ascension from the abyss.

In a game highlighted by missed opportunities and poor execution on defense, the Detroit Lions were eliminated from the NFL post season by the New Orleans Saints after a 45-28 loss.

The Lions did some good things on offense but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the record-breaking Saints as their return to the playoffs was short lived. 

OFFENSE

The Lions offense did have a productive outing, registering an impressive 412 yards and 28 points, although their performance was significantly dwarfed by the output of the Saints offense.

Still, Matthew Stafford and Co. deserve credit for a solid performance in what was – for the majority of the group anyway – their first playoff experience. 

Stafford threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns – as well as rushed for another – in his effort to match points with the Saints.  

Calvin Johnson had an explosive playoff debut, catching 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.  

The Lions were not effective running the ball, rushing only 10 times for 32 yards and despite a couple decent scampers, really had no production in the run department.

Despite the ineffectiveness on the ground, the Lions converted on 70 percent of their third downs and were 4-for-4 in the red zone. 

Overall, the offense had a solid game but didn’t do enough to keep pace with the Saints.  Against almost any other team, they would have done enough but heading into the game there was a sense that the offense needed to be near perfect to win and they simply were not.

Grade: B+

DEFENSE

The return of Ndamukong Suh, Chris Houston and Louis Delmas provided hope to a defense that was torched the previous week.

For some, that hope may have lasted into the third quarter of Saturday night’s game but was doused soon thereafter.  

The Saints racked up a record-breaking 626 yards of offense while also scoring 45 points.  They converted on seven of their 11 third down tries and when they didn’t convert, it didn’t matter, because they made up for it with several fourth down conversions.

You could summarize the Saints mauling of the Lions defense in one stat: The Saints had 0 punts in the game -- a franchise record.

The Saints had four drives of 11 plays or more and moved the ball at least 60 yards on seven of their 10 drives. 

There is no doubt that the Saints are one of the greatest offenses in the history of the NFL, so the defense does deserve a little bit of slack.  Still, the Lions kept drives alive with dropped interceptions and extremely poor tackling.  

Had the defense taken advantage of their opportunities, the final score may not have appeared so lopsided.  

Grade: D

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Lions kicked no field goals in this game and punted only three times. Ben Graham did a good job on his three punts, downing each inside the 20.  

Stefan Logan averaged 20.5 yards on two kickoff returns and had no punt return opportunities. 

Darren Sproles averaged 27 yards on two kickoff returns against the Lions.

Overall, special teams played a very small role in the outcome of the game.

Grade: B

COACHING

As frustrating the loss might have been, the Saints were the team that deserved to move on.  

The two teams are currently at different levels, with the Saints at the pinnacle of the league and the Lions still amidst their ascension from the abyss.

So, before throwing stones at the coaching staff, it should be realized that very little can fall on their shoulders for this one.

Yes, the Lions had seven penalties for 64 yards but none of them were a product of coaching.

The defense did get torched but the Lions simply played the defense that they have all year; limited blitzing, keeping the play in front of you.  Brees burned them anyway. The Saints simply couldn’t be stopped (although the Lions didn't help with failed tackles and would-be interceptions). 

Ultimately, the Lions continue to rise, but they lost to the better team.  

The coaches can’t be faulted for that. 

Grade: C+


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