For about two-and-a-half quarters on Sunday at Ford Field, the New Orleans Saints were as spotless as they've been this season.
If it wasn't perfection, it was fairly close.
The result was this: Touchdowns on five consecutive possessions for the offense, and stops on four consecutive possessions for the defense. It helped the Saints turn a 14-0 deficit into a 35-14 lead and, ultimately, into a 35-29 victory.
Considering New Orleans was shorthanded (six starters missed the game, then All-Pro right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, All-Pro returner Deonte Harris and special teams standout Justin Hardee Sr. departed early with injuries), not much more reasonably could have been asked or expected.
Oh, and the team dealt with a false-positive Covid-19 test for fullback Michael Burton, which tossed another layer of adversity onto the pile.
Still, New Orleans persevered. Sunday could be one to grow on.
OFFENSE: The Saints scored a season-high 35 points and the five-touchdown run was as impressive as any in-game offensive run that you'll see. The Saints scored on drives of 75, 80, 80, 49 and 75 yards, respectively, as they carved the Lions defensively. Quarterback Drew Brees (19 of 25 for 246 yards and two touchdowns, with a tipped-ball interception) was the best he has been this season. Alvin Kamara (119 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 23 touches) had another notable game. Latavius Murray (64 rushing yards, two touchdowns), Tre'Quan Smith (54 receiving yards and two touchdowns) and Emmanuel Sanders (a game-high 93 receiving yards) were more than complementary pieces. And the Saints rolled up 392 yards, went 10 of 14 on third-down conversions and were a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone. It was a good day.
DEFENSE: New Orleans transformed a rocky start (touchdowns on Detroit's first two possessions, one a short-field score after the Brees interception) into a string of stops that helped provide the necessary breathing room. The Saints forced a punt, interception, punt, punt, and produced another crucial stop between two Lions touchdowns in the second half to make the lead stand. Patrick Robinson's end-zone interception was huge, because it turned out to be a 14-point swing. And New Orleans generated three sacks (Cam Jordan, Trey Hendrickson and David Onyemata) and seven quarterback hits. And, finally, the Saints again shut down the run, allowing 90 yards on 22 carries, most of them while the score was lopsided.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Thomas Morstead punted twice, for no return yards and one was downed at the Lions 2-yard line; he's just really good at what he does. Harris' 22-yard punt return set up the Saints for a short-field touchdown drive and the Saints were good in kickoff return coverage, too. The unit continues its streak of solid work, making an impact in sometimes subtle ways.