NEW ORLEANS -Â The New Orleans Saints offense spent the entire regular season breaking records and opposing teams hearts while beating all who came at them in the Superdome.
And they hardly missed a beat in their first post-season game, another record-breaking drubbing of the Detroit Lions, 45-28, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday night.
The Saints set a playoff record for yards gained in a single game in postseason history, racking up 626 against a Lions defense who offered little to no resistance for most of the game.
Thanks to two turnovers, the Saints trailed 14-10 when the halftime whistle blew. But 14 unanswered points to open the second half put the Saints in the driverâ€™s seat as they scored touchdowns on five of six possessions in the second half, the last ending on a fourth down kneeldown deep in Detroit territory.
Drew Brees was even more masterful than usual, completing 33 passes on 43 attempts for 466 yards and three touchdowns.
His counterpart Matthew Stafford performed well for most of the game, completing 28 passes on 43 attempts for 380 yards and three touchdowns, but two second half interceptions marred his otherwise big day.
Lions All-Pro Calvin Johnson led all receivers with 12 receptions and a wild card round-record 211 yards. He also caught two touchdown passes from Stafford.
Saints wide receiver Marques Colston had seven receptions for 120 yards and wideout Robert Meachem had four catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Saints halfback Pierre Thomas seemed impossible to bring down, using his incredible balance to grind out 66 yards on only eight carries. He also had six receptions for 55 yards.
â€œI kept telling myself â€˜Donâ€™t let the first guy take you down,â€™â€ Thomas said. â€œEverybody tells me Iâ€™ve got freaky balance, but itâ€™s the gift God gave me. I just use it.â€
The Saints never punted in the game, only stopping drives with two first half turnovers and a late kneeldown when the game was well in hand.
â€œI always tell [punter Thomas] Morstead, â€œLots of kickoffs, not a lot of punts,â€ Brees said.
The Lions stormed down the field on the gameâ€™s opening drive, going 80 yards in eight plays, six of them passes. Matthew Stafford was five of six on the drive for 70 yards and the eventual touchdown, a 10 yard pass to tight end Will Heller.
The Saints similarly moved the ball on their first possession, but Marques Colston fumbled It away after a catch, and it was recovered at the Detroit 18 by Justin Durant. The Saints stopped Detroit and forced a punt, but Darren Sproles was tackled immediately upon receiving it at the Saints 11.
But the Saints blazed down the field is typical fashion, eating up all 89 yards in 11 plays, including a 31-yard run by Pierre Thomas. The Saints tied the game early in the second quarter with a two-yard Sproles touchdown run.
Stafford responded quickly, firing the Lions 87 more yards downfield en route to a 13-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.
The Saints got moving again, but Brees was hit and fumbled, and the Lions recovered at their own 38 yard line. The Black and Gold defense got a stop though, and forced a Lions punt that gave the Saints the ball at their own 16.
Brees moved the Saints down to the Detroit 36, where Chris Ivory converted a crucialÂ fourth-and-two. A few plays later, Brees appeared to connect with Colston for a 12-yard touchdown, but upon review it was determined that Colston did not control the ball through the ground, and pass was ruled incomplete. The Saints were forced to settle for a field goal, which John Kasay nailed from 24 yards out.
The Saints came out firing in to start the second half, as two long runs set up a Brees bomb to Devery Henderson, who strolled into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown catch.
New Orleans then got the stop they desperately needed on defense, forcing a punt that gave them the ball at their own eight yard line after a block in the back penalty. Brees threw a deep bomb to Colston to put the Saints within striking distance, and then finished the drive with a three yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham to put the Saints ahead by double digits.
Detroit had no plans of going down for the count, though. Mostly on the strength of yet more connections between Stafford and Johnson, the Lions got to the New Orleans one yard line, where they faced 3rd and Goal. Stafford took it in on his own, scrambling to the pylon for a one yard touchdown run.
But the Saints offense simply couldnâ€™t be stopped. On the next drive, they converted crucial third downs, one fourth down, and finished the drive with a 17-yard Sproles touchdown run. Altogether the drive went 80 yards in 14 plays and took a little over six minutes off the clock.
Stafford felt the need to force things down by 10 with less than 10 minutes left in the game, and his underthrown deep pass was intercepted by Jabari Greer, which gave the Saints the ball near midfield.
Brees smelled blood in the water and delivered the kill shot, a 56-yard bomb to Robert Meachem. This gave the Saints a 17-point lead with 7:29 to go, effectively ending the game.
The Lions scored another touchdown on a 12 yard pass from Stafford to Johnson. The Saints matched them again, though, when Thomas took it in from one yard out.
The Saints victory was reminiscient of their NFC divisional round blowout of the Arizona Cardinals in 2009. They will head to San Fransisco to take on the No.2 seed 49ers next week.
Recently-named All-Pro guard Carl Nicks and his battery mates along the offensive line won the matchup with one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, giving Brees time and opening holes for all three halfbacks. But Nicks thinks the line will have to be in even better form next week.
â€œNext week itâ€™s going to get even harder,â€ Nicks said.
Saints Postgame Notes
With Saturdayâ€™s win, the Saints advance to an NFC Divisional Playoff matchup against the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CST. The Saints and 49ers have met 71 times in the regular season, but this will be their first playoff matchup.
Saints coachÂ Sean Payton is now 5-2 as a head coach in the postseason. Payton led the Saints into a playoff game for the seventh time Saturday night; prior to Paytonâ€™s arrival, the franchise had played a total of six playoff games.
The Saints won their fifth consecutive home postseason game, dating back to the franchiseâ€™s first-ever playoff win in 2000.
One week after closing out the regular season with a franchise single-game record 617 yards against Carolina, the Saints set an NFL postseason record with 626 yards Saturday night. The previous mark was 610 by San Diego vs. Boston in 1963.
New Orleans (626) and Detroit (412) combined for 1,038 total yards, tying the NFL postseason record for yards gained by two teams in a game. Buffalo (536) and Miami (502) also combined for 1,038 in an AFC Wild Card game in 1995.
The teams also combined for an NFL postseason record 839 net passing yards (Saints 459, Lions 380). The previous record was 809 by San Diego (415) and Miami (394) in their 1981 AFC Divisional Playoff game.
The 34 first downs by the Saints ties an NFL postseason record. The San Diego Chargers also had 34 first downs in their classic overtime victory over Miami in the 1981 AFC Divisional Playoffs.
The Saints and Lions combined for 56 first downs and 40 passing first downs, each of which are the third-highest total in NFL postseason history.
The Saintsâ€™ 45 points scored tied a franchise postseason mark originally set in the 2009 NFC Divisional Playoffs vs. Arizona.
The Saints scored 35 second-half points, tied for the second-highest total after halftime in NFL postseason history. The Chicago Bears scored 45 second-half points in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. Three other teams have scored 35 second-half points, most recently Green Bay against Arizona in a 2009 NFC Wild Card game.
The Saints scored three rushing touchdowns in a postseason game for the first time in team history. Its previous high was two, on three occasions.
QBÂ Drew Brees completed 33 of 43 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns. The yardage total is a postseason career high for Brees, a Saints playoff record and the second-most in NFL postseason history. Only Clevelandâ€™s Bernie Kosar, who passed for 489 yards against the New York Jets in the 1986 AFC Divisional Playoff, has thrown for more yards in the postseason.
In seven career postseason games with the Saints, Brees has 16 touchdown passes and one interception. He has a streak of 215 postseason pass attempts without an interception, including 102 in the Saintsâ€™ three-game run to Super Bowl XLIV. Brees lowered his own NFL record for lowest career percentage of passes intercepted in the postseason (0.61%; 2 interceptions in 328 attempts).
Brees improved his postseason career passer rating to 103.7, third-best in NFL history behind Aaron Rodgers (112.6) and Bart Starr (104.8). Brees entered Saturday with a career postseason passer rating of 102.0 and moved past Kurt Warner (102.8) into third.
RBÂ Darren Sproles scored his first two postseason touchdowns as a Saint, on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter. It was Sprolesâ€™ first rushing TDs in the postseason since his 22-yard run in overtime for San Diego against Indianapolis three seasons ago.
RBÂ Pierre Thomas led the Saints with 66 yards rushing on eight carries, including a postseason career-long 31-yard run in the first quarter. Prior to Saturday night, Thomasâ€™ career-long run in the playoffs was 12 yards.
WRÂ Devery Henderson caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Brees on the opening possession of the third quarter. Though Hendersonâ€™s last regular-season TD was in Week 2 against Chicago, he has been much more productive in the playoffs. He has a TD catch in four of the Saintsâ€™ last five postseason games over the last three seasons, only failing to score in Super Bowl XLIV.
WRÂ Marques Colston caught seven passes for 120 yards, a career postseason high and his first career 100-yard playoff game. In six seasons with the Saints, Colston has topped the 100-yard mark 20 times, second most in franchise history.
Colstonâ€™s 40-yard reception in the third quarter is a career playoff long.
WRÂ Robert Meachem had four receptions for 111 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Prior to tonight, his previous career long postseason catch was 12 yards.
Meachem had just one 100-yard game in the regular season â€“ a three-catch, 119-yard effort on Dec. 4 against Detroit.
TEÂ Jimmy Grahamâ€™s 3-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was his first postseason TD. Graham tied a franchise record with 11 receiving touchdowns in the regular season.
CBÂ Jabari Greer had two interceptions in the fourth quarter to tie a franchise record for interceptions in a postseason game, matching the mark of Sammy Knight (2000 vs. St. Louis).
In 113 career regular-season and postseason games before Saturday, Greer had never had a two-interception game.
Greer also had four passes defensed and shared the team lead with seven tackles.
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