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Only one team ends the NFL season on a winning note and last night the Detroit Lions felt the sting of a strong season suddenly end with a playoff loss at New Orleans.
Related: NFL Playoffs Schedule
But after the dust settles from the loss and that sting fades away, the Lions should feel quite good about the team they have headed into the offseason. With several young impact players showing solid growth and finishing the season with strong performances and consistent production, there is no doubt the Lions are headed in the right direction. That growth was seen in the Lions taking care of business in the regular season and only losing one game to a non-playoff team.
Now Detroit moves to the offseason continuing on the same path while making adjustments to start beating those playoff teams more consistently. Then they can think about hosting playoff games in the future. No site covers the Lions like Pride of Detroit, and they captured these sentiments nicely following the frustrating loss last night.
It was a lot of fun to watch this team make the playoffs, win 10 games and show the world how good Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are. The building blocks for championships are there, and it's much nicer going into the offseason knowing that the Lions are a few players away from being championship caliber instead of a few players away from merely potentially being .500.
The Detroit Lions started the fourth quarter trailing by a field goal, but the New Orleans Saints quickly turned that into a two-score deficit, as Darren Sproles took the ball up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown run just a couple minutes into the quarter. Desperate to come back, Matthew Stafford tried to go deep to Titus Young on first down, but was intercepted by Jabari Greer, ending that drive.
Drew Brees then went on to hit Robert Meachem for a 56-yard touchdown and the game was out of reach for the Lions, regardless of an immediate response touchdown to Calvin Johnson. The final score would end up 45-28 in favor of the Saints, and that has all to do with how insane that offense is.
Brees threw for 466 yards with three touchdowns. Pierre Thomas only rushed for 66 yards, but there were multiple points in which he looked down, but still fought for the extra yards. Overall, the Saints rushed for 170 yards, with Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory both notching 45+. The Saints went for, and converted three fourth-down attempts and didn't punt the football once.
Detroit's offense didn't play poorly, with Stafford throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns, but also had two picks. One of them was in garbage time, but the first was infinitely costly. The Lions only ran for 32 yards.
Many folks said that this game would come down to which team got a big turnover on defense. The Lions got two of them, but were hurt on the second, a fumble forced by Willie Young, when the referee blew the whistle far too early and negated what probably would have been a touchdown and a significant Detroit lead. It was an offensive shootout, as everyone expected it would be, but those calls and a costly turnover late in the game were enough to tip it in New Orleans' favor.
Detroit loses its first playoff game after a long drought of no appearances. The Saints will now go to Candlestick Park to take on the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 14
The New Orleans Saints started the third quarter against the Detroit Lions trailing 14-10, but the deficit didn't last long, as Drew Brees hit Devery Henderson for a huge 41-yard touchdown, just one play after Robert Meachem was wide open and dropped a long bomb. Following the extra point, the Saints led 17-14 less than two minutes into the third quarter.
So Matthew Stafford and the Lions took the field again, and they started off with a 21-yard reception by Calvin Johnson. Stafford would go on to hit another receiver, for close to a first down, but the Lions were called on a holding penalty, and were forced into a 2nd and 19 situation. They tried a fake end-around, and it went nowhere, so Stafford was forced to throw the ball away, bringing up a third and long. Unable to convert, the Lions were forced to punt after a pickup of about eight yards.
Brees and the Saints started to drive again, picking up yardage in chunks. They were helped along by some more questionable calls, but the Lions eventually were able to hold them on 3rd and 1, when they stuffed Chris Ivory on a run. Or perhaps not, the Saints line up to go for it on fourth and inches, and they do - Brees takes it, leaps up in the air, extends the ball and picks up the first. New Orleans end up at midfield with a first down and a lot of momentum. Eventually, Brees hits Jimmy Graham for a beautiful touchdown pass and the Saints took a 24-14 lead.
The Lions came back out, looking to get some more points on the board. Stafford missed Titus Young deep, or rather, Young couldn't real in the spectacular catch, but then Calvin Johnson caught a big one for 21 yards while being covered by three guys. After Tony Scheffler dropped another pass, it was Johnson once again, covered by two guys, picking up a 42-yard reception and taking the ball to the two-yard line. On first down, they inch it forward to the one-yard line. On second, they're stuffed, and on third down, Stafford takes it in himself, diving for the pylon, and it's ruled a touchdown on the field. They review it, and confirm it, so the Lions come within a field goal near the end of the third quarter, after an extra point.
The New Orleans Saints started the second quarter in the red zone, and Darren Sproles was able to score from a few yards out on third down to tie the NFC Wild Card game at 7-7. That gave the Detroit Lions the ball near the beginning of the quarter, trying to pull back ahead. Matthew Stafford hit Calvin Johnson on first down for an 18-yard gain, but faced a third down following that. Stafford converted through the air again though, hitting tight end Tony Scheffler for seven yards.
At the 44-yard line, it was Kevin Smith who got the carry, and he took it across midfield for nine yards and a 2nd and 1 was up next. Stafford did a quick dropback, and hit Nate Burleson over his back shoulder for the first down and then some, picking up 21 yards and taking the ball close to the red zone. From the shotgun on firs down, Stafford threw deep, at ... basically nobody. But the Lions kept it up, and eventually, Stafford hit Johnson with a beautiful pass and beautiful catch for 13-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Lions lead.
But the Saints came back, once again, and started driving. Brees eventually hit Pierre Thomas for a short pass that, once again, Thomas took for far more yardage than he had any business doing, getting the Saints into Lions territory. But on the 37-yard line, Brees dropped back, cocked a throw, and was immediately hit by Willie Young, who forced the fumble. Detroit recovered once again, and an over-zealous referee blew the whistle far too early. It almost definitely would have been a touchdown for Detroit if the referee hadn't blown the whistle.
Naturally, the Lions were unable to take advantage of the situation, and instead of 21-7, we have 14-7 after a quick three-and-out. So the Saints took over again, and started to drive down the field. Eventually, they lined up at 3rd and 1 on the 36-yard line, and Detroit gets pressure, forcing a Brees incompletion. But the Saints quickly line up on fourth down, and Chris Ivory runs it, picking up the yard they needed and keeping the drive going with a minute to go. They kept driving, and ended up at the Detroit 17-yard line, calling their final timeout with 21 seconds left and a first down.
Brees then hit Colston for a touchdown in the back of the endzone, but it's clear he didn't complete the process of the catch, so it was waved off. But there's a facemask penalty on the play, so New Orleans gets the ball with a first and goal at the six-yard line with 16 seconds to go. Detroit holds them until there's four seconds on the clock, so the Saints kick the field go and trail 14-10 at the half.
Here's a video of the Calvin Johnson touchdown.
The Detroit Lions lead the New Orleans Saints 14-7 in the second quarter, but it could have been a 21-7 lead, had an over-zealous referee blew a whistle too early, something they've been doing all season. Late in the second quarter, the Lions forced their second fumble of the day when Willie Young hit Drew Brees while he was attempting a pass in Lions territory, and forced the ball out of Brees' hands and onto the ground, where Detroit recovered it, and started to return it, when they heard the whistle.
It was very clearly a fumble, as Brees' hand didn't come forward at that point. The problem is the whistle, which negated a potential return and big play for the Lions, who are huge underdogs in this contest. Detroit took over instead, but were unable to get anything done on the drive, quickly being forced to punt.
Below, we've got a video of the fumble and the whistle.
The Detroit Lions took the opening kickoff and got underway at their own 20-yard line after a touchback. Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson, both listed on the injury report this past week, got things started for the Lions. Smith picked up seven yards on the ground, and then Johnson snagged 22-yard reception, breaking a couple tackles en route. Detroit did face an early third down though, when the lined up for 3rd and 2 following an end-around to Titus Young. They were assessed a penalty for having too many men in the huddle, so they took a 3rd and 7.
But Young struck again, catching a 15-yard reception and converting the third down. Then it was Young again, picking up 11 yards and another first down. Right outside of the red-zone, it was Johnson again on first down, catching a pass for 12 yards and setting Detroit up in scoring position. From 10 yards out, Matthew Stafford hit Will Heller over the middle for ten yards and a touchdown, taking a 7-0 lead following the extra point.
Drew Brees then led the Saints onto the field and, wouldn't you know it, picked up where left off. On first down, he hit Devery Henderson for 23 yards and, obviously, a first down. Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory then combined for another 32 yards for a couple more Saints first downs. But Detroit stepped up and made a fumble, when Marques Colston caught a 13-yard pass from Brees. Justin Durant recovered it and Detroit took back over.
Facing an early third down on their second drive, the Lions ran an end-around with Nate Burleson, who had to dive, but he picked up the yard and Detroit picked up a first down. After converting another third down, the Detroit drive stalled out around midfield, when Stafford missed Johnson deep on 3rd and 11, so they were forced to punt.
The Saints took back over, and were stuffed on two consecutive plays, bringing up a third down. Brees dumped it off to Pierre Thomas, who was grabbed a few yards short of the first, but he jumped somehow and got the first. Then he took a rush for 31 yards and the Saints were set up in the red zone. Detroit held them twice, but Sproles was able to take it into the endzone to tie the game following an extra point at the start of the second period.
The New Orleans Saints are set to play host to the Detroit Lions for the first NFC Wild Card matchup. About 90 minutes before kickoff, the gameday inactives came out for both teams, and for the Saints, there's few surprises. Wide receiver Lance Moore is set to miss the action, and he's the only significant player not in action on the day. He's had a hamstring injury and there was little hope that he'd be able to play. Outside of that, there's not much of note for the Saints.
They'll be taking on a Lions team that will have Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith available on offense, something that wasn't a certainty as they were listed on the injury report over the past week. Detroit also will have Louis Delmas in action, and he could be a difference maker against Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense.
The Detroit Lions are set to play their first playoff game in a very long time, and aside from players already on injured reserve such as Jahvid Best, they're relatively healthy coming into the game. They did have some key names listed on the official injury report this week, such as running back Kevin Smith and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Neither of them are set to miss the game, though. Johnson didn't practice at all in the week leading up to the game, and didn't before the Week 17 matchup against the Green Bay Packers, either, but he played, and played well.
About an hour and a half before the game, the inactives for the came out, and there are no surprises. There was a chance that Joique Bell would be active, but that's not the case, either way. Everything else is par the course. Of particular note is the fact that safety Louis Delmas is active for the game.
For the first time since the 1999 season, the Detroit Lions will be in the NFL Playoffs, but it won't be an easy route for the Lions to make if they want to wind up in Indiana for the Super Bowl. They are in Louisiana on Saturday night to face the 13-3 New Orleans Saints. The odds makers have the Lions as far down as 11-point underdogs.
This game could turn into a shootout between Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Brees shattered Dan Marino's single-season passing record by finishing with 5,476 passing yards. He also had 46 passing touchdowns. Stafford nearly matched him with 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Detroit will look to reverse its Dec. loss to the Saints, which was 31-17 in favor of New Orleans.
Game date, time: 7:00 pm CT, Saturday, Jan. 7
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
TV channel: NBC
Odds: Saints favored by 11 points.
Check out Canal Street Chronicles for the latest on the Saints and Pride of Detroit for the latest on the Lions, and head on over to the SB Nation NFL news hub for everything you need to know about the 2012 playoffs.
Both Drew Brees for the Saints and Matthew Stafford for the Lions enter the game playing the quarterback position at a high level with the ability to spread the ball around through the air to their respective offensive playmakers. The game will be a rematch of a December 4th regular season meeting that saw the two QBs combine for 750 passing yards, so look for much of the same in this game.
As Pride of Detroit observes, the Saints appeared to easily handle the Lions in that game but Detroit worked their way back into the game only to fall prey to self-inflicted wounds.
The two teams faced off in early December, with the Saints holding off a late comeback from the Lions. Statistically speaking, the two teams played a nearly identical game. The Saints had 338 yards passing and 100 rushing; the Lions had 379 passing, 87 rushing. The Saints averaged 7.2 a play, Lions 6.8. The biggest difference was penalties. The Lions had 11 for 107 yards, while the Saints only had three for 30.
So while this game is a rematch, the stakes are much higher and the level of intensity will be cranked up for both teams. The Saints have the advantage of experience with several playoff games and a Super Bowl under their belt, while the young Lions enter the playoff den for the first time. Maintaining their composure while still making plays will be key for Detroit to give themselves a chance to win and advance in the playoffs.
The Detroit Lions are preparing for one of the biggest games they've had in a long time as they set to do battle with the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs on Saturday. The team got some good news from its injury report as both Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson were listed as probable heading into Saturday's game.
Johnson missed all of practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday, according to the final report of the week, but he's apparently healthy enough to be deemed probable heading into tomorrow's game. The wide receiver missed both Wednesday and Thursday last week with his Achilles injury before playing very well in the regular season finale.
Smith is listed on the injury report with both ankle and knee injuries, but the starting running back didn't let them both him too much this week. He was limited, but will still have a good chance to play on Saturday according to his probable status.
Safety Chris Harris is the only player listed as doubtful this week as every other Lion showing up on the injury report is listed as probable.
The New Orleans Saints are hosting an NFC Wild Card game this weekend as they attempt to eliminate the Detroit Lions from the NFL Playoffs. The Saints injury report barely changed at all this week -- and that's a good thing for New Orleans, it would seem.
The Saints listed just seven players on their injury report this week and only one contributor, wide receiver Lance Moore, will be out when they meet in the Lions in the Superdome. The Saints listed two others as out as tight end John Gilmore will be unable to play with a toe injury while linebacker Jonathan Casillas is still getting over a knee injury, but neither player was expected to factor much into the Saints' game plan this week.
It's no secret that the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints' offenses have abounding firepower, both touting 5,000-yard passers. When these two teams played in Week 13, Matthew Stafford threw for over 400 yards and Drew Brees -- the all-time leading passer for a single season -- threw for 342, with both teams racking up over 430 yards of total offense. All common sense seems to indicate that Saturday's game will not play out any differently.
That is unless the defenses can put some pressure on the quarterbacks [via ESPN]:
Brees shredded opposing defenses for a 74.0 completion percentage and an 89.9 Total QBR when facing four or fewer rushers, both best in the NFL.
The Lions used four or fewer pass rushers on 78.9 percent of their opponents’ dropbacks this season, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. In Week 13, Brees went 22-28 for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Lions when Detroit sent four or fewer rushers. [...]
Stafford struggled this season when facing the extra pressure, with a 44.4 Total QBR and six interceptions against seven touchdowns.
No qualifying quarterback faced extra defensive pressure more often than Stafford this season, as he faced five or more pass rushers on 24.6 percent of his dropbacks. However, only four quarterbacks threw more interceptions in such situations than Stafford’s six.
The reason ESPN chose to use the stats that Brees accumulated when facing little to no rush is because his stats were still pretty good against the rush, so the former helps drive home ESPN's premise of the story a little better.
Stafford did well in the first match up despite getting sacked three times and hit five, so it's possible these numbers don't play out on Saturday. Either way, it'll be interesting to see how much the front fours can disrupt otherwise lethal passing games. You have to believe Ndamukong Suh, who was suspended for the regular season game, will make an impact for the Lions, but will it be enough?
The Saints defeated the Lions 31-17 in Week 13, thanks in large part to the undisciplined Lions picking up untimely undisciplined penalties and the dirty Ndamukong Suh being out due to suspension as a result of -- you guessed it -- undisciplined play.
I'm being a little sarcastic there, of course, but that was the storyline NBC announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth beat viewers over the head with. Hopefully, the Lions will give them something else, something more positive, to talk about this Saturday in their first playoff appearance in 12 years. Here comes Kitty.
When: Saturday, January 7 at 8:00 p.m. EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome; New Orleans, LA
For the first time ever, you can stream the game live online.
Live Streaming Audio: NFL.com Audio Pass ($$$)
Listen: WXYT 97.1 FM in Detroit, WWL 870 AM in New Orleans
Betting Line: Saints -11
The New Orleans Saints are relatively injury free, at least as far as their big names are concerned, heading into Saturday night's game with the Detroit Lions. The players that are out aren't getting any healthier over night, however, as the Saints' injury report stayed the same on Thursday.
The biggest name being held out thus far this week is wide receiver Lance Moore as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Considering all of the receiving options the Saints have, though, he likely won't be missed all that much in the lineup if he isn't able to recover in time for the NFC Wild Card game on Saturday evening.
The only other players that missed practice on Thursday were linebacker Jonathan Casillas and tight end John Gilmore due to ailing knee and toe injuries respectively. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma was limited again on Thursday while safeties Jonathan Amaya and Malcolm Jenkins, along with wide receiver Robert Meachem, all went through the full practice.
The Detroit Lions have a pretty important game coming up this weekend as they head south to face the New Orleans Saints as they try to advance past the NFC Wild Card round and into the heart of the NFL Playoffs. The injury report seems to be on the Lions side in their quest, too, as Calvin Johnson returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday.
There's little doubt that Johnson would need to sit out this weekend considering he missed Wednesday and Thursday last week before posting a huge game on Sunday. Either way, it's helpful to know Johnson was able to return to practice a day earlier than last week as he continues to recover from his Achilles injury.
The Lions did have a different player sit out of practice on Thursday, however, as Chris Harris was out after going through a limited practice on Thursday due to his back injury. Everyone else listed on the report stayed with the same status as Wednesday.
As Saturday night's NFC wild card game in New Orleans gets closer the line continues to grow in favor of the hometown Saints. The Lions are now an 11-point underdog, according to SB Nation's official odds partner, Oddsshark, and much of that line is based on New Orleans' convincing 31-17 win over the Lions earlier this season at the Superdome:
Detroit couldn't beat Green Bay's backups in Week 17 and as punishment their first playoff action is many years is a tough road test against the red-hot New Orleans Saints in Wild Card betting action Saturday.Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's passing yardage record and the Saints reeled off 8 straight wins (and ATS covers) to end the season. The opened as 10-point home chalk here against a Detroit team that may be happy just to make the playoffs.
Detroit's secondary will be tested by Drew Brees, who established three new single-season passing records this season and could be the league's MVP in 2011.
The Detroit Lions have a pretty difficult task ahead of them this weekend as they travel south to take on the New Orleans Saints in an NFC Wildcard match-up for the first round of the NFL Playoffs. The Saints are entering the game a bit banged up, but none of their high profile guys are expected to miss Saturday's game.
Head coach Sean Payton declined to elaborate on the injury report, according to NOLA.com, but the following players were listed:
New Orleans Saints receiver Lance Moore (hamstring), tight end John Gilmore (toe) and linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee) did not participate in the team portion of practice Wednesday. But the rest of the team's injury report looks promising.
More information should come out on Thursday, but as of now, that's about it as far as the Saints are concerned.
The Detroit Lions had their first official practice of the week on Wednesday as they begin to prepare for their playoff game this weekend with the New Orleans Saints. The offense was a bit light according to the official injury report, however, as Calvin Johnson sat out completely while starting running back Kevin Smith was limited.
Johnson sat out Wednesday and Thursday last week, too, but ended up playing quite well despite the Achilles injury. The Detroit Free Press's Dave Birkett expects the same to happen this weekend.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson today sat out his second straight practice with an Achilles tendon injury, but there's little doubt he'll play in the Detroit Lions' playoff opener Saturday against the New Orleans Saints.
Johnson worked on the side with trainers during the open portion of Lions practice, and receiver Titus Young returned to the field after sitting out Tuesday.
Johnson was the only player to miss practice on Wednesday, but quite a few were limited -- mostly on the defensive end. The entire report for Wednesday is available here.
For more on the Lions, check out Pride of Detroit.
The NFL has now officially announced the kickoff times for the first two rounds of the playoffs, and the Detroit Lions will be in the featured games both weeks if they win in round one. Detroit will play at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7 at the New Orleans Saints on NBC. The Lions' game will immediately follow the Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans, also on NBC.
Should Detroit win, it will play the following week on Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Green Bay Packers at 4:30 p.m. on FOX. The rest of the wild card round will feature Atlanta at New York/Dallas on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. on FOX, followed by Pittsburgh at Denver.
In the divisional round, the Saturday games will be the ones hosted by San Francisco and New England, followed by the ones hosted by Baltimore and Green Bay on Sunday. New England and Green Bay will play the lowest seeded wild card team.
The Lions will return to New Orleans for their first playoff game in 12 years.
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