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John DeShazier analysis: Why the Saints lost to the Lions

Offense never recovered from slow start

OFFENSE: Carryover can't be assumed from week to week, and that never was more evident than Sunday with the New Orleans Saints. Seven days after piling up seven touchdowns and 555 yards in a 49-21 victory over the Rams, the Saints had 369 yards and one touchdown – and went 1 for 3 in the red zone – against Detroit in a 28-13 loss. New Orleans failed to convert on third-and-1 on each of its first two drives (Drew Breesfumbled a shotgun snap on the first one and was penalized for intentional grounding after he threw incomplete to avoid the sack on the first one, and Tim Hightowerwas stopped for no gain on the next one) and never appeared to recover afterward. Detroit ran just 10 more offensive plays (67-57) but those quick outs were a precursor to the Saints offense spending the majority of its day on the sideline (the Lions' time of possession advantage was 36:52-23:08). When Coach Sean Paytonreferenced lethargy after the game, the offense likely was the biggest culprit. The Saints were 2 of 6 on third down in the first half and the inability to score touchdowns loomed large on a day when possessions were few. The running game almost was nonexistent (12 carries for 50 yards), but it's difficult to stick to it when you barely have the ball and are trailing, and losing tight end Josh Hillto an ankle injury didn't help at all. He's a factor in the running and passing game. A possible touchdown at near the end of the first half, from Brees to tight end Coby Fleener, might have impacted. But even with Fleener's drop, there was time to recover from a 13-6 halftime deficit.

DEFENSE: The 442 yards and 28 points allowed actually don't speak to how well the defense played against Detroit. The Saints held the Lions to one touchdown on five red zone trips (Detroit kicked five field goals) and limited Detroit to 85 rushing yards on 23 carries. Obviously, there were spots of glaring imperfection: a Detroit conversion on third-and-11 led to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Staffordto Theo Riddickin the second quarter; a 36-yard pass from Stafford to T.J. Joneson third-and-16 led to a 32-yard field goal by Matt Praterin the third quarter; and a 66-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Golden Tatecame on third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, with Stafford standing in the pocket and taking a huge blow while delivering a spiral to Tate. But the defense held for as long as it could and it kept the Saints in the game by allowing field goals rather than touchdowns early. It needed a little help from the top-ranked offense in the league, but the imbalance eventually caught up to New Orleans against the Lions. Stafford extended several plays with his mobility and even though he was sacked twice, by linebacker Dannell Ellerbeand defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, he remained poised. Still, despite the long conversions allowed, the defense was New Orleans' best unit Sunday.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Another uneventful day for this group, which is a good thing. Wil Lutz's40-yard field goal in the second quarter wasn't clean, but it was good, and his 32-yarder as time expired in the first half was a much better effort even though the Lions jumped offside and had a clearer path to a block. Tommylee Lewishad a 24-yard punt return to help set up Lutz's second field goal, and he added two kickoff returns for 26 yards. Thomas Morsteadhas had better punting days – his 40.5-yard average (gross and net) on four punts was skewed by a 19-yarder off the side of his foot in the fourth quarter. But the Saints weren't glaringly deficient on returns (Detroit didn't a punt, and Andre Robertsaveraged 24.5 yards on two kickoffs.

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