Brees led an unstoppable offense by throwing for 466 yards
and three touchdowns, and New Orleans dominated the second half for a 45-28 NFC
wild-card victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.
New Orleans broke the postseason mark for total yards with
626, beating the record set 49 years ago.
“We were pulling out all the stops,” Brees said.
“We play aggressive. We’re not going to apologize for that. That gives
guys in the huddle a lot of confidence. We’re not going to pull the reins back.
It’s pedal to the medal.”
Brees hit on 33 of 43 passes while throwing for the most
yards in a regulation playoff game. He highlighted his night with three
completions of at least 40 yards.
“We just focus on winning. We’re not focused on yards
and records,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I’m serious when I say
As usual, the quarterback had plenty of help from an offense
that set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage this season (7,474), outgaining
Detroit on the ground 167 yards to 32. The Saints (14-3) will travel to San
Francisco (13-3) for next Saturday’s second-round game.
Marching Into San Francisco
The Saints move on to face the 49ers in the divisional
round. For the Saints to advance to their third NFC championship game in six
seasons, they’ll have to do something they’ve never done before — win a road
Season Opp. Result
2010 at Seahawks Lost
2006 at Bears Lost
2000 at Vikings Lost
1990 at Bears Lost — ESPN Stats & Information
Matthew Stafford threw for 380 yards and three TDs for the
Lions (10-7), who simply could not keep pace in their first playoff appearance
since the 1999 season. They have lost seven straight postseason games.
“It’s a learning experience for the whole team. We’ll
get better. We’ll be back,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “Obviously
it hurts right now.”
All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson had 12 receptions for 211
yards and two touchdowns in his playoff debut for Detroit, but that was not
nearly enough as the Saints’ defense responded in the fourth quarter with two
interceptions by Jabari Greer.
“We did make the playoffs this year and that’s a great
accomplishment,” Johnson said. “We have some things to work on and we
will. We know what we have to do to make the next step.”
The teams combined for 1,083 yards, tying an NFL playoff
record set by Buffalo and Miami on Dec. 30, 1995. The Superdome will likely
host a much different contest on Monday night, when defensive stalwarts LSU and
Alabama meet for the BCS national title. Fans in the dome cheered wildly for
the LSU band as it played before the game and at halftime, then enjoyed a
second half that culminated in what they hope will be the first of two Big Easy
celebrations in three nights.
Pierre Thomas finished with 66 yards and one touchdown
rushing, while Darren Sproles added 51 yards, two scores and several other
Marques Colston overcame an early fumble with seven catches
for 120 yards, including a 40-yarder to set up Jimmy Graham’s short TD grab.
Robert Meachem had four catches for 111 yards, including a
56-yard score. Devery Henderson added a 41-yard touchdown reception.
Mega Effort From Megatron
Calvin Johnson became the third wide receiver since the
merger to tally at least 200 receiving yards and two TDs in a playoff game.
Season WR Tds-TD
’11 Wild Card Calvin
’05 Divisional Steve
’04 Wild Card Reggie
Wayne 221-2 — ESPN Stats & Information
New Orleans showed guts and got a little good fortune on a
decisive 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. The Saints ran
Sproles around the left end on fourth-and-2 at the Lions 40 and gained 3 yards.
Soon after, Brees’ pass as he was clobbered by Nick Fairley went right through
the hands of defensive back Aaron Berry.
Berry would regret that drop two plays later as Sproles
bolted 17 yards to make it 31-21.
Stafford tried to get some of that back quickly, throwing
deep for Titus Young, but Greer ran under it and picked it off. Four plays
later, Brees spotted Meachem behind blown coverage for his long score to make
The Lions became only the second visiting team all year to
lead at halftime in the Superdome, where the Saints were unbeaten during the
“So going into halftime at a deficit, we just realized,
‘Listen, just bear down, one play at a time, one drive at a time,’ ” Brees
said, “and I think we scored on every drive in the second half. I guess
that’s what you hope for.”
New Orleans has won nine in a row overall.
The Saints opened the second half by driving 78 yards to
take their first lead on Brees’ 31-yard pass to Henderson. New Orleans then
widened its lead to 24-14 with a 92-yard drive that included what may have been
a favorable spot on Colston’s third-down grab at the Saints 18. Later, Brees
converted a risky dive over the pile on fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans 38 to
sustain the drive before finding Colston for a 40-yard gain to the Detroit 3.
Brees hit Graham for a score on the next play.
“It was fourth and inches and we felt like we had a
rhythm going,” Brees said. “Obviously it was a gutsy call but we’ve
been known to make those types of calls.”
The Lions fought back with a quick 80-yard scoring drive
highlighted by Stafford’s 42-yard completion to Johnson at the Saints 2,
setting up Stafford’s dive for the pylon on a bootleg that made it 24-21 late
in the third quarter.
Detroit could not have planned a much better start to its
first playoff game since the ’99 season.
Stafford completed five of his first six throws for 70
yards, starting with a 22-yard completion to Johnson on the second play from
scrimmage. A 10-yard strike to reserve tight end Will Heller gave the Lions a
New Orleans responded by quickly driving into Lions
territory, but Colston was stripped by Stephen Tulloch on the 18-yard line and
Justin Durant recovered. It was a rare lost fumble for the Saints, who had an
NFL low and franchise record low five during the regular season.
New Orleans found the end zone on its next drive to tie it
at 7, but Stafford led the Lions right back downfield, hitting Johnson in the
back of the end zone for a 13-yard score.
The Saints then fumbled a second time in Detroit territory
when Brees was stripped just before throwing by defensive end Willie Young and
the ball squirted to Durant for his second recovery. Durant wanted to return
it, but the play was inexplicably blown dead. What might have been a touchdown
return instead became a stalled drive.
The Saints thought they had tied it when Colston’s catch in
the back of the end zone was ruled a touchdown, but it was overturned on replay
and New Orleans wound up settling for John Kasay’s 24-yard field goal and a
14-10 halftime deficit.
Bernie Kosar still holds the record for yards passing in a
playoff game, though his game in 1986 went to overtime when he reached 489 for
Cleveland against the New York Jets. … Detroit’s leading rusher was Kevin
Smith with only 21 yards. … The Lions rushed the ball only 10 times and their
longest gain was 9 yards. … The Saints surpassed 500 total offensive yards in
five regular season games, with the playoff game being the sixth. … Brees
finished the regular season with seven straight 300-yard or more passing games
and easily continued the streak against the Lions.