Sunday was an important day for the Detroit Lions. With a victory over the ever-tough New Orleans Saints, the team could make a statement that they were ready to contend as one of the elite in the NFC.
Things didn’t seem to be going that way most of the day. Matthew Stafford was making mistakes. The defense was getting carved up through the air, and the Saints looked like they were poised to cruise to a win, likely cueing plenty of “same old Lions” catcalls.
Then, a huge touchdown by Golden Tate woke the team up late in the fourth quarter. Drew Brees made an uncharacteristic mistake late firing a bad interception to Glover Quin, and after a dubious pass interference penalty on New Orleans, Corey Fuller toe-tapped in the back of the end zone to pull Detroit ahead.
The hunt became successful when the best defense in the league went to work late, getting in the grill of Brees and preventing him from getting in position to give New Orleans a chance to win. When a pass fell to the turf on fourth down, Detroit had a comeback victory and had stolen back the headlines.
Matthew Stafford Is Showing An Ability To Overcome His Mistakes. Both early and late, Stafford made a pair of critical interceptions, either of which could have doomed his team. Instead of hanging his head and making another mistake, though, Stafford hung tough and made a pair of clutch throws late, one to Tate for an important score and another to Fuller in only a spot he could catch the football which ended up winning the game. Stafford might not be making elite plays all over the field, but he’s helping his team win games by staying steady and not trying to play hero. Jim Caldwell would likely admit that’s what he has in mind for Stafford, and part of his process to becoming a more well-rounded quarterback.
Adjustments Keyed The Defensive Resurgence. The Lions were carved up through the air by the Saints and Brees most of the day, but when the chips were close to being down late, they were able to get the stops they needed, holding New Orleans to a field goal, nabbing a stunning interception and then getting pressure up front which deflated a possible two minute drill. Early in the game, Detroit was eaten up by the Saints’ two minute drill, but did a nice job the second time around of collapsing the pocket quicker and holding over the middle of the field. In the NFL, it’s never too late to make a key adjustment which could help lead in a win.
James Ihedigbo And Glover Quin Are A Great Tandem. Quietly, the heart and soul of the Lions’ excellent defense might be coming from the safety spot. In the past, that’s hardly been the case. Both Ihedigbo and Quin had massive games on Sunday, regestering a sack, an interception, 14 tackles and two tackels for loss between them. Finally, the Lions have a responsible combo in the backfield that can make some big plays happen by playing in control, staying at home and tackling well. It’s no surprise they are seeing some massive production from each of these players, who are forming a fantastic duo together.
Corey Fuller Showed Impressive Moxie. Just before making one of the catches of the year in the NFL, Fuller had a pass go through his hands near the goal line. As a youngster, that could have affected Fuller in a significant way late, but he stuck with it and refused to let the mistake define him. Later, the tables would turn in a hurry when he made the game winning play. It was another display of why players should never give up over the course of the action. Credit Detroit’s coaching staff for trusting Fuller again, as well. The simple act of faith could mean a big deal for his long-term development.
Lions? Give all those mentioned above credit in a huge win, but also give role players like Darryl Tapp, Jason Jones, Joique Bell, Rashean Mathis and the offensive line credit. All did their jobs late. Without their gritty effort first, the Lions cannot come back to win the game and the elite players cannot make the big plays they desperately needed to make.
Lambs? Matt Prater hit the uprights on a 21 yard field goal. Enough said. Danny Gorrer had a key penalty and struggled today. As a team, Detroit had a few too many key penalties (nine), but overcame the overall discipline lapses as a group to win,
What About The Key Matchup? Yesterday, it was written that the Lions might have to do a little something extra knowing they were going up against Rob Ryan and Sean Payton, two coaches who know Joe Lombardi well. The offense didn’t really do anything of note in this manner though, and relyed on a few huge plays by their play makers down the stretch to win. Probably exactly what should have happened.
Number To Note: 342, the number of passing yards Detroit’s defense allowed, the largest margin of the season. It didn’t help the team was going up against a team like New Orleans, which routinely executes on a high level offensively. In some ways, it only makes Detroit’s comeback all the more impressive. Though the Saints had gotten what they wanted much of the day, New Orleans couldn’t make one big catch on their final drive of the game. Telling.
He Said It: “Sometimes you just gotta take a chance. I went, he threw it, and the rest is history.” —Glover Quin. Afterwards, when detailing the play of the game, Quin admitted that the Lions’ secondary didn’t have their best day of the season, but still didn’t lose faith in their own ability to make a big play in a key moment, which ended up happening. Quin also said that the victory can provide the team with plenty of momentum going to London.