There was a lot to like, and from many sources, in the New Orleans Saints' 52-38 victory over Detroit on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Here are a few of the best:
OFFENSE: All Mark Ingram II does is show up for work and produce. Superdome fans showered him with love during pregame introductions, and he gave them the kind of performance that he's capable of giving on any Sunday: 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, including a season-best 51-yard run, and a team-leading five catches for 36 yards. By far, it was his most productive game this season and, obviously, it helped that he only had to share the load at running back with Alvin Kamara (10 carries for 75 yards, four catches for 12 yards) instead of sharing with Kamara and Adrian Peterson, who was traded to Arizona on Tuesday. Not enough credit can be given to the offensive line for the overall rushing performance (193 yards on 37 carries; the Saints had run for 192 yards in their previous three games against Detroit, all losses) and left tackle Terron Armstead was a standout in his first game of the season. But Ingram was the brightest spot offensively. His blemish was a lost fumble in the fourth quarter that contributed to the Lions' comeback, but he also helped put the Saints in position to withstand the furious rally.
DEFENSE: Sometimes, defensive end Cam Jordan is a man amongst boys. Actually, more often than not, Jordan is a man amongst boys and Sunday was another one of those days. He was as dominant as a defensive player can be in a 52-38 game, noticeably putting a wrecking ball on much of what Detroit hoped to accomplish offensively. He had five tackles, two sacks – on one, he powered through right tackle Brian Mihalik and pushed him into Matthew Stafford's lap with enough force to knock down Stafford – two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, three passes defensed and his first career interception, an end zone pass that he batted to himself and caught to give the Saints their final margin. It looks very much as if there's nothing Jordan can't do as a defensive lineman. Honorable mention to defensive end Alex Okafor (an end zone sack of Stafford on which he caused a fumble, which was recovered for a touchdown by safety Kenny Vaccaro) and a pass defensed, and Vaccaro, who was all over the place while posting four tackles, three passes defensed, an interception and the fumble recovery. But Jordan was a head-and-shoulders above player against the Lions, and the Saints needed all of it.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Frankly, there wasn't a ton to like Sunday. When a unit allows a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown, to a player (Jamal Agnew) who entered the game as the league leader in punt return average – so you know what he's capable of – then it's nowhere near a great day. Still, defensive back Justin Hardee did this: When Agnew muffed a 57-yard punt by Thomas Morstead, Hardee tackled Agnew at Detroit's 1-yard line. With the Lions backed up and trailing 45-38, and obviously needing to throw with 5:23 left in the game, Stafford threw incomplete on first down and was intercepted by Jordan in the end zone on second down. Hardee had two tackles and an assist on special teams.