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Saints tame Lions 45-27

    <span>              <span>New Orleans – The New Orleans Saints, behind six Drew Brees touchdowns passes (including two to TE Jeremy Shockey) and a 39-yard field goal by John Carney, defeated the visiting Detroit Lions, 45-27, at the Superdome.   

The Saints out-gained the Lions, 515 yards to 231 yards, and held the ball for 36:09 in time of possession en route to their most lopsided opening day victory in team history. New Orleans, who never trailed in the contest, lurched out to a 14-0 lead and watched as their lead shrunk and grew in the ebb and flow of the game in Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford's career debut. The Saints' Kickoff Game 2009, which lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours, was one of the longest regular season games in team history that did not go to overtime.

"I am excited about the result and the win," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "However, there are a lot of things that we did in the game that I told the team will get you beat. The kicking game, in particular the return game, concerns me. We have to look at the film and get that cleaned up. That bothers me."

The Saints' defense displayed their metal, allowing only 231 yards of offense by the Lions and held the Lions to three-of-14 on third downs (21%), while the Saints were nine-of-13 (69%) on the afternoon. S Darren Sharper had two interceptions and continued his ascent towards to the top 10 all-time NFL interception leaders, but the story of the day was Brees' dominance and the Saints' new found freedom with a rushing game that helped control the clock in the second half, largely behind Mike Bell's 143 yards on the ground. Stafford finished his first game 16-of-37 passing for 205 yards and three interceptions for a passer rating of 27.4, his counterpart, Brees, was 26-of-34 for 358 yards with six touchdowns and one pick for a passer rating of 137.0.

"I thought the defense was outstanding," Payton said. "We got them in some tough spots and they responded. And Mike Bell ran it hard, although the one fumble that they returned for a touchdown, is something we can't have. But he ran it hard and we were bale to make some things happen on the ground."

"I am blessed that they have given me an opportunity here," said Bell. "The thing I take out of the game is the opportunity I had and the great job our offensive line did. The fumble is disappointing to me and I can't do that."

The Saints accepted the opening kickoff and took advantage of Robert Meachem's 41-yard kickoff return to the Saints' 45-yard line. The Saints' first play from scrimmage of the season was a 14-yard completion from Drew Brees to WR Devery Henderson on a comeback route, followed up with a 26 yard completion on a wheel route to RB Reggie Bush along to the sideline to the Detroit 14. Two running plays followed, one by Mike Bell and the other by Bush, and on a third-and-five from the Lions' 9, Brees coolly stepped up in pocket a fired a nine-yard scoring strike to WR Marques Colston.

The touchdown reception was Colton's 25th career touchdown reception, breaking a tie with former Saints WR Quinn Early for the fourth most receiving scores in club history.

New Orleans' defense held the Lions to five total yards on their first three plays and Lions were forced to punt, and received a 28-yard effort from P Nick Harris to the Saints' 47.

Bell started the drive with a seven yard run up the middle, Brees and Colston connected over the middle for a first down on a six-yard completion and then Brees dropped back, taking advantage of the time his offensive line gave him and fired a 39-yard strike to Meachem in the end zone, giving the Saints a 14-0 lead after five minutes and 26 seconds had elapsed in the game.

Detroit was forced to start at their own 20 after the Thomas Morstead drilled his second kickoff into the end zone for a touchback. The Lions picked up a quick 21 yards on a completion from Matthew Stafford to WR Calvin Johnson. RB Kevin Smith then picked up four yards on a carry and a quick completion to Johnson for five yards brought about a third-and-one that was converted with a hard inside run by FB Jerome Felton. Three plays later, though, LB Scott Fujita turned the table by stuffing Smith for a loss of three yards, which brought on the Lions' field goal unit. K Jason Hanson, who missed much of the preseason with a knee injury, hit a 47-yard field goal, which gave the Lions the first points of the season and closed the Saints' lead to 14-3 with 5:12 left in the first quarter.

The Saints were stopped on their next possession and forced to punt, with Detroit taking control at their own 31, but the Saints' defense stopped the Lions cold on three downs and forced a punt. Harris hammered a high-hanging 55-yard punt that was fielded by Bush but he couldn't shake free of the pursuing defenders and was halted at the Saints' 17. Bell smashed over left guard Carl Nicks for a five-yard gain and Brees then found TE Jeremy Shockey for a short gain of two on second down. Brees and Colston couldn't connect on third down and Morstead was called on to punt and hit a 42 yard punt that was returned by veteran return man Dennis Northcutt for 43 yards to the Saints' 14. A big tackle for a loss of one-yard followed a short completion of three yards between Smith and Stafford on a hit in the backfield on Smith by S Roman Harper on the final play of the first quarter.

Facing a third-and-eight from the New Orleans 11 on the first play of the second quarter, Stafford found Smith over the middle, who jitterbugged his way to seven yards to the Saints' four. Facing a fourth-and-one Stafford couldn't hear the call from the sideline and elected to call a timeout, the Lions' first of the half. The Superdome crowd steadily built in chorus as the rookie signal-caller brought his team to the line of scrimmage in the power I formation and calmly took the snap and pitched it to Smith on the outside, who went untouched four yards into the end zone to bring the Lions to within 14-10 with 14:06 remaining in the first half.

The Saints came out and pounded out a hard earned 23 yards, primarily on the heels of RB Mike Bell, who picked up two short yardage first downs with hard inside runs. The Saints tried to hit the Lions with a big play on a pitch-pass by Brees' pass was intercepted two yards deep in the Lions' end zone by CB Anthony Henry, who returned the ball 26 yards to the Lions' 24. Two short plays brought about a third-and-four but LB Jonathan Vilma flew into a hole and dropped Smith for no gain and forced the Lions to punt, with New Orleans taking over at their own 40 after an 11-yard return by Bush.

The Saints, in an effort to regain control of the game, started at their own 35 and set out on a methodical drive. Bell started things off with a hard-charging 13 yard run up the middle. Bell continued to pound away on the Detroit defense, with four more hard runs on the drive, picking up a total of 30 yards on the drive. The Saints converted a third-and-one on the drive courtesy of a 14 yard completion to Henderson, then converted a third-and-four on a 13-yard completion to Shockey and finally punched it into the end zone on a one-yard third down completion to Shockey, which marked his first touchdown reception as a Saint and gave the Saints a 21-10 lead late in the second quarter.

Vilma notched his first sack of the season on a second quarter sack of Stafford during the Lions' two-minute drive and cornerback Randall Gay very nearly intercepted Stafford on third down and long, but still managed to knock the ball down and force the Lions to punt with 2:21 left in the second quarter.

Brees then hit WR Lance Moore for his first reception of the day, a tremendous grab in traffic as Moore extended himself and hauled in the 20-yard pass to the Detroit 39 as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. Brees then hit Bush in the flat for a gain of six yards, then Moore made a leaping 18-yard reception over the middle of the field to the Detroit 15. Brees then rolled out and bought a few extra second and fired a high pass into the back-end of the end zone, where Shockey reached up and made a juggling 15-yard touchdown grab that upped the Saints' lead to 28-10 with 1:03 left in the first half.

Detroit started at their 36 and managed five yards on their first two plays from scrimmage, on third-and-five Stafford's pass was batted down by Sedrick Ellis. Bush tried to field the punt and sidestep an oncoming defender, but dropped the punt, which was recovered by Darnell Bing at the Saints' 15 with :39 left in the second quarter. Detroit was flagged for a five-yard false start call on Jeff Backus.

S Darren Sharper alertly laid in wait and picked off Stafford's pass intended for Johnson and raced out of the end zone 51 yards into Detroit territory. The interception was the 55th of his career, his career (tied for 17th most in NFL history), and Detroit was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty (bench interference) on the interception return. Brees then tried to hit Henderson down the middle on a long bomb but Detroit broke the pass up. Detroit's Landon Cohen was flagged for roughing Drew Brees, taking the ball down to the Detroit 15. The Saints tried a shot into the end zone and then a draw play, and attempted to try to extend their lead but John Carney's 35-yard field goal was blocked by DE Dewayne White and Detroit took a knee to run the final second of the first half off the clock.

The Lions accepted the opening kickoff to begin the second half trailing by the score pf 28-10, and started their drive at their own 29. Smith was decked by Roman Harper and Tracy Porter after a gain of four yards and the Saints forced Stafford to throw low and incomplete on second down, which brought up a third-and-six from the Detroit 33. Stafford dropped back and found Johnson for a 64-yard reception before stepping out of bounds at the Detroit four when pressured along the sideline by S Pierson Prioleau. Smith then tried the right side of the Lions' line and managed a yard before DE Mark Brunell/Charles Grant.aspx">Charles Grant brought him down. FB Jerome Felton then was stopped by a big hit from LB Scott Fujita for no gain. A third down pass intended for Johnson in the corner was broken up by tight coverage from Jabari Greer, but Sharper was flagged for a personal foul infraction that gave the Lions a first down at the one.

Smith then tried the middle but was stacked up, with Sedrick Ellis appearing to rip the ball out of Smith's hands but forward progress was called and the Lions retained possession and Grant was flagged for a personal foul infraction for unnecessary roughness, which gave the Lions another first down. Stafford then scored his first career touchdown on a quarterback sneak from inches out and the Lions pulled within 11 points following the extra point, 28-17.

Brees started the next drive with an 11-yard completion to FB Heath Evans, which took the ball from the Saints' 16 to the 27. Mike Bell then picked up one yard on a carry behind the right side of the offensive line on first down. Brees then hit Bush in the flat for an eight-yard gain. The Lions challenged whether Bush was down as the ball hit the turf after he was tackled, but after a video review, he was ruled down by contact. Detroit was charged with a timeout after the review, giving them two left in the second half. Bell went behind the left side of the line and ripped off a 22-yard gain, very nearly springing free from all defenders before rookie S Louis Delmas. Bell then picked up a hard-earned eight yards with a nice run through the middle of the line to the Lions' 28. The Saints could manage to drive only to the Lions' 20 and settled for a 39-yard field goal by Carney to extend their lead to 31-17 with 6:11 left in the third quarter.

Lions return man Aaron Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to Saints' 12 and the Lions advanced the ball as close to the goal-line as possible but the Saints took advantage of stout defense and an untimely false start penalty on G Daniel Loper and held the Lions to a 24-yard Hanson field goal that inched them closer to the Saints' lead, 31-20, with 3:22 left in the third frame.

Brees took advantage of Meachem's 41-yard kickoff return and wasted no time, dropping back, stepping up into the pocket and firing a 58-yard touchdown strike to a streaking Devery Henderson for the score which put the Saints ahead 38-20.

The touchdown pass by Brees tied his career-high for touchdown passes in a game (five), a feat he last accomplished at Dallas on December 10, 2006.

Scott Shanle, a few plays later, intercepted Stafford and returned the ball to the Detroit 30. It was the first career interception for Shanle and appeared to give the Saints the opportunity to widen their lead even more.

But fate had other ideas, as it was the Lions who struck back and turned the tables on the home team.

Bell tried the left side by was stopped by Grady Jackson and fumbled and the loose ball bounced out into the open and picked up by Delmas at the 35 and returned 65 yards for the score, which drew Detroit to within 38-27 with 1:29 left in the third quarter.

Mike Bell, looking to atone for his earlier fumble, came back and helped to grind time off the clock with powerful running. The Saints cobbled together a 13-play, 78-yard drive that took 8:01 off the clock. Bell had an impressive nine-yard run on the drive, newly acquired tight end Dave Thomas made his first grab as a Saint on a third-down 15-yard grab, and FB Heath Evans finished the drive off with a 13-yard grab on a third-and-goal from the 13, which helped Brees set a career-high mark for most touchdown passes in a game with his sixth of the afternoon and tied team mark (Billy Kilmer, 11/2/69 at St. Louis). The Saints' led, 45-27, following Evans' touchdown reception.

Detroit, in obvious passing situations, tried to take advantage of underneath completions but did receive an impressive 14-yard juggling completion on a fourth-and-one from Stafford to WR Bryant Johnson. A few plays later Sharper picked off his second pass of the afternoon and returned the ball 28 yards to the New Orleans 41. Lions center Dominic Raiola then was docked 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the Saints had the ball on the Detroit 44 with 4:48 left in the game.

Sharper's second pick was his 56th career, tying him with Pat Fisher and Lem Barney for 15th on the NFL's all-time interception list.

Mike Bell continued to add to his 100-yard day and kept the ball on the ground in an attempt to help the Saints run the clock out. Bell eclipsed his previous high of 136 yards (2006 as a member of the Broncos against the Indianapolis Colts) in a game during the final team's possession and helped the Saints lock out the clock.

Notes: The Saints won the opening coin toss and elected to receive … New Orleans' game day inactive players were: WR Rod Harper, RB Pierre Thomas, S Usama Young, LB Jonathan Casillas, C Heath Evans/Nick Leckey.aspx">Nick Leckey, T Scott Shanle/Jammal Brown.aspx">Jammal Brown, TE Darnell Dinkins and DT Remi Ayodele. LT Jermon Bushrod made his first career regular season start in Brown's absence.

Detroit inactivated the following players: QB Drew Stanton (third quarterback), WR Derrick Williams, CB Kevin Hobbs, CB Phillip Buchanon, DT Orien Harris, G Manny Ramirez, T Jon Jansen, DE Copeland Bryan. CB Eric King, a fifth-year player from Wake Forest, earned the starting nod in Buchanon's place.

Saints Captains: Drew Brees (offense), Jonathan Vilma (defense) and Troy Evans (special teams) were the Saints' captains... the attendance, a sell-out, was 69,719 … Saints WR Devery Henderson (5-103-20.6 avg.-1 TD) and Reggie Bush (5-55-11.0 avg.) were the team leaders in receptions … CB Tracy Porter and LB Scott Fujita led the team in tackles (7), with Roman Harper adding six stops … Vilma recorded the lone sack of the day for the Saints … Vilma and Sharper each had two passes defensed.

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