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John DeShazier: Saints top performers vs. Lions

Defense was the Saints best unit Sunday

Check out the Saints vs. Lions action at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

OFFENSE: Ordinarily, there's a handful of worthy candidates for a unit that entered Sunday averaging 30 points per game. The dearth of them pretty much sums up the New Orleans Saints' offensive production in a 28-13 loss in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. So we'll go with receiver Brandin Cooks, who, a week after not being targeted vs. the Rams, caught seven passes for 73 yards against the Lions. The Saints didn't have much in the way of a running game (12 carries for 50 yards total, including 37 yards on seven carries by Mark Ingram) and partially due to a couple of early fails to convert on third down, the time of possession was as lopsided as it has been this season (36:52 for Detroit, 23:08 for New Orleans). And the Lions applied consistent pressure to Drew Brees(31 of 44 for 326 yards and three interceptions, without a touchdown). All in all, it likely was the Saints' worst offensive showing this season, including the 16-13 loss to the Giants. A potential touchdown pass from Brees to tight end Coby Fleenernear the end of the first half, a pass that glanced off Fleener's hands, might have provided a boost to the unit. But that drop led to a field goal, the Saints trailed 13-6 at halftime and there wasn't much in the form of sustaining drives after that.

DEFENSE: It probably sounds a tad off to say this after Detroit scored 28 points and quarterback Matthew Staffordcompleted 30 of 42 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception, but the Saints defense was the team's best unit Sunday. And linebacker Dannell Ellerbeprobably was its best member. When Ellerbe is on the field he shows why he was worth the wait after injury, and on Sunday he again stood out with five tackles, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a tackle for loss. Ellerbe can be employed in a multitude of ways and be effective – as a pass rusher, covering running backs and tight ends, slicing through for tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He makes a noticeable difference for the Saints defense when he's on the field.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Two candidates here and, for the first time this season, neither is named Thomas Morstead. Morstead, the Saints' punter, had an atypical game (four punts for a 40.5-yard average in gross and net), but kicker Wil Lutzdeserves some love because he was a perfect 2-for-2 on his field-goal attempts Sunday. The Saints just need him and the field goal unit to be solid, and they were against the Lions (though his 40-yard field goal in the second quarter wasn't totally a thing of beauty). However, this sticker is reserved for returner Tommylee Lewis. Lewis, who, muffed a punt last week against the Rams, took the one he fielded and returned it 24 yards, to set up Lutz's 32-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Lewis was a little shaky returning kickoffs (two for 26 yards, including a 9-yarder) but, again, he held on to the ball.

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