Brian Allee-Walsh

Opportunistic Saints defense shines against Detroit in game for the ages

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (84) blocks out Detroit Lions defensive end George Johnson (96).
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (84) blocks out Detroit Lions defensive end George Johnson (96). Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS Sunday’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome defies logic.

I’ll begin with the final score: Saints 52, Lions 38.

The 14-point spread neither explains the Saints’ total dominance — they led 45-10 midway through the third quarter — nor the Lions’ dogged determination to make a game of it with 28 unanswered points and stress out the sellout crowd of 73,117.

Before we fully unpack this game, know that the Saints improved to 3-2 with their third consecutive win and climbed above the .500 mark for the first time in 52 games, dating to Jan. 11, 2014.

Exactly 1,385 days ago.

Also know that the Green Bay Packers (4-2) will be without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers when the Saints go marching into Lambeau Field next Sunday. Rodgers reportedly suffered a broken collarbone in his team’s 23-10 loss at Minnesota and likely will miss the rest of the season.

Wait there’s more.

Elsewhere around the NFC South, Atlanta (3-2) squandered a 17-0 lead at home and fell to the schizophrenic Miami Dolphins, suggesting the Falcons just now might be feeling the effects of the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, and Tampa Bay (2-3) got blown out at Arizona.

Suddenly, inexplicably, the Black and Gold find themselves in the thick of the division race (one-half game behind 4-2 Carolina) after being left for dead at 0-2.

OK, now to the Lions-Saints fiasco.

“It was a crazy game,’’ a relieved/elated quarterback Drew Brees said after the Saints snapped a three-game losing streak to the Lions, including the last two seasons in New Orleans. “I felt like (the game) was five hours long.’’

It only seemed that way.

The teams combined for eight turnovers (five by Detroit), four defensive touchdowns (a franchise-record three by New Orleans), one punt return for a TD, 20 penalties and 20 pass deflections (a NFL record 16 by the Saints).

After being manhandled by the Saints (five sacks, six QB hits), Carolina (six sacks, eight QB hits) and Minnesota (six sacks, nine QB hits) over the span of 15 days, Lions quarterback Matt Stafford will need the team’s bye week to get his body feeling right again. The NFL’s highest-paid player might even see a swarm of faceless Saints defenders (with arms fully extended skyward) charging after him in his dreams the next few nights.

So, now it appears the game is on for the Saints who are giving off post-season vibes for the first time since 2013.

Next up, the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers and third-year quarterback Brett Hundley.

Look for the surging Saints to enter the game as slight favorites.

If true, that, too, would defy logic.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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