So this is what 9-3 feels like with a two-game lead on your nearest division rival. Pretty good stuff, I must say.
It wasn't the prettiest win, and I feel like the defense is getting close to "cover your eyes" terrible with giving up big plays while not hanging onto the ball in numerous takeaway opportunities, and the Saints owe part of this win to Detroit's inability to maintain composure and the refs not seeing/calling a few things on the Saints that could have gone against them.
But, the Saints made enough plays to keep the playoff-hopeful Lions 14 points behind at the final whistle, so let's take it for what it is: the team's fourth consecutive win, the first win in December, and now let's move on to the Tennessee Titans to try for the Saints' 10th win of 2011.
Make the jump to delve into the stats, analysis, breakdowns, quotes, videos, and wrap-ups from this big Week 13 win.
Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints | ESPN.com
Includes recap, box score, play-by-play, drive charts, highlights, and photos.
Brees' Three Touchdown Passes Power Saints Past Lions, 31-17 | sportsnola.com
Chris Seemann - In yet another primetime showdown, the New Orleans Saints had the opportunity to take a two game lead over the rival Atlanta Falcons with a victory over the Detroit Lions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday night.
Saints defeat Lions, extend win streak | The Advocate
Sheldon Mickles - Early in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game with the Detroit Lions, the New Orleans Saints’ offense decided that enough was enough.
Fast start helps Saints hold off Lions, 31-17 | wwltv.com
Bradley Handwerger - The Saints survived a third quarter in which they had the ball for only one possession, holding off Detroit for a 31-17 win Sunday night, New Orleans’ fourth consecutive win.
New Orleans Saints again enjoy prime time, holding off Detroit Lions | NOLA.com
Mike Triplett - The Detroit Lions put up a better fight than most opponents in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night.
Video: Lions vs. Saints Highlights | neworleanssaints.com
Media page includes NFL GameDay highlight package and individual play videos.
Photo Gallery: Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints | NOLA.com
Photo Gallery: Lions @ Saints II | NOLA.com
From the Saints Sideline
New Orleans Saints dominate the Detroit Lions in the Superdome | NOLA.com
Jeff Duncan - Another home game. Another home run for the Saints.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham setting some lofty standards | NOLA.com
John DeShazier - They're trying. You know they are, because no NFL defense worth the pads it wears willingly will subjugate itself to embarrassment.
Meachem breaks out against Lions | The Advocate
Brian Allee-Walsh - For the past few games, veteran wide receiver Robert Meachem seemed almost like a forgotten man in the New Orleans Saints’ high-powered offense.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees sets another NFL record | NOLA.com
Trey Iles - Though somewhat subdued in the second half, Saints quarterback Drew Brees continues his assault on the passing record book.
Penalties largely contribute to Detroit Lions' downfall against New Orleans Saints | NOLA.com
Andrew Lopez - Eleven infractions cost Detroit 107 yards.
Saints beginning to get that feel of something special | wwltv.com
Bradley Handwerger - Carl Nicks sat in his locker late Sunday night, in no mood to consider going 4-0 in the past five weeks of football a major accomplishment, even after a 31-17 win over Detroit.
Saints Postgame Notes | neworleanssaints.com
Defense starting to make Saints scary - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y. - We’ve known for quite some time that the New Orleans Saints’ offense could probably score enough to stay with an NBA team if it needed to. Defense, though, hasn’t exactly been a strong point during the Sean Payton era.
Rapid Reaction: Saints 31, Lions 17 - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y. - Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 31-17 victory against Detroit on Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Game Notes: Lions at Saints | detroitlions.com
Lions their own worst enemy with a series of bonehead penalties | Detroit Free Press
Michael Rosenberg - The Lions did not catch up to the Saints on Sunday night, but they did catch up to the rest of us. After weeks of denial, they realize they have an attitude problem. That’s the first step, isn’t?
New Orleans 31, Detroit 17: Mistakes, penalties too harmful to Lions | Detroit Free Press
Dave Birkett - These are the Detroit Lions. Costly penalties. Undisciplined play. Two wins in the last two months. And yet, still in the thick of the playoff chase.
Nick Fairley's solid night cut short after re-aggravating foot injury | Detroit Free Press
Dave Birkett - Nick Fairley’s frustrating season turned sour again Sunday when the rookie defensive tackle re-aggravated his troublesome foot injury in the first half of the Lions’ 31-17 loss to the Saints.
Lions ticker: Yellow flags have Cris Collingsworth seeing red | Detroit Free Press
Steve Schrader - Who said the Lions would miss Ndamukong Suh? There were plenty of teammates willing to step it up with stupid penalties Sunday night.
Wrap-up: Saints 31, Lions 17 - NFC North Blog | ESPN.com
Kevin Seifert - A few thoughts on a closer-than-expected game at the Superdome.
Detroit Lions penalties | Detroit Free Press
Mike Thompson - Do the refs have it in for the Detroit Lions? Another Monday, another rough sketch for you to complete!
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS COACH SEAN PAYTON
"Obviously, a big win for us. Each week is a different challenge. We felt Detroit, with the way they've been playing this year, presented a number of problems. They are a team that plays very well in the second half; I said that earlier in the week. You could see they rallied around the quarterback and made some plays. In that third quarter I thought the momentum shifted. It was going to be important for us to answer."
"There are a number of things we'll be able to look at on tape that we'll be able to clean up. We are going to have to continue to work on those things. Nonetheless, to get to nine wins was significant. I'm proud of the way our guys fought. It wasn't perfect. There is a hand full of things that we have to get corrected to get where we want to go. Fortunately, we have time to do that. Now we kind of shift our gears for two away games, beginning with Tennessee this week."
(on the consistency developed) "We've gotten kind of on a little bit of a run here. We felt going into this third quarter of the schedule, we were going to play some good football teams. So that was a challenge starting off with Tampa, Atlanta, the Giants and of course, Detroit. All four of those teams to start this third quarter were all teams that we felt were in playoff contention. We've got a lot of work to do still. Our players know that, our coaches know that, and that will start with me and our staff. I like the fact that we are playing with confidence. I like the fact that we answered in the second half when that momentum shifted. We'll be back at it this week and trying to make the improvements we feel are necessary."
(on defense play in first half) "When you play a team with a number of guys at the skill positions, specifically a receiver in Calvin Johnson, a guy that can take over a game, and obviously their quarterback is playing with confidence. Some of those stops on third down were pivotal for us, especially early in the game where we were able to get a lead. In the second half, when that momentum swung a little bit, we got a key score and a key stop defensively. All in all, a good win. We have a ton of respect for the team we just played. We talked it about most of the week, where they have come with their improvement. Jim (Schwartz) does a great job with his staff. It was a good, hard-fought win.
(on Detroit's 55-yard field goal attempt) "Field position's important so the challenge always as a coach is you recognize when you want to attempt a long field goal the downside is not only the field position but the momentum swings. They have one of the best kickers in the league. I think, in our case, we attempt the same field goal and you just hope you hit more than you miss. Capitalizing on the field position was is important for us and I think it was significant."
(on specific things to improve on) "We gave up some big plays, some guys were uncovered. Defensively, we can be better on the back end. Honestly, we gave up too many big plays. Offensively, I'd like to see us finish the game with fourth down and a yard and a half to go. Credit Detroit, they did enough good things in the third quarter to kind of shift that momentum. On the kicking game, I'd like to see us improve our punt return units. We've got a real good returner (Sproles), he's come close on a few kickoff returns. I think the minute you think everything's perfect is not a good thing. The play at the end of the first half, for instance, with 18 seconds left and all of the sudden they are kicking a field goal. Those are things that in a more significant situation will cost you football games."
QB #9 DREW BREES
(on last TD) "We still didn't put it away the way we wanted to. We extended the lead with that drive. The defense did a good job.
(on Detroit's missed field goal) "You weigh your options. If you make it, it's big time, a big momentum swing in their favor. If you miss it, it's great field position.
"I think every guy on our team knows to get where you're supposed to be. Protection was great all day long. We continued to move the ball down the field.
"The loss to St. Louis left us at 5-3 and in the middle of the division with Atlanta and Tampa. Two divisional games - these are twice as important. November is when you begin to separate yourselves from the pack, and we wanted to be playing our best football.
(on Curtis Johnson) "I think he's going to be great. Curtis Johnson has a lot of relationships here in New Orleans. He's been around the football field here a long time. That's one thing he's great at - he has a ton of relationships. He's been a great part of our offensive staff here over the last six years. He's known Sean for 20 years. He's been a lot of places and coached a lot of big-time players. It's great for Tulane's program. They got a great coach in Curtis Johnson."
RB #28 MARK INGRAM
(On his touchdown) "Anytime you see the open field and score a touchdown it's an exciting feeling. (Robert) Meachem threw a great block on the outside and made it an easy run for me."
"Top to bottom, this is a great organization. I'm proud to be a Saint.
(on BCS title game) "Rematch. Right here in the NOLA.
(prediction for BCS) "Roll Tide. If I said otherwise, you'd look at me like I was crazy.
TE #80 JIMMY GRAHAM
(on reaching 1,000 yards) "I'm not that concerned with 1,000 yards. For me, it's about wins. Personal accolades - we'll wait till the offseason to look at those.
(on last TD drive) "Drew said one drive, one play at a time. We just focused on making third downs and marching down the field. Great job by Drew. He's a surgeon out there.
WR #17 ROBERT MEACHEM
(On the touchdown pass) "I was just having fun at the end of the run. I caught the ball looked to the right of the field and there was nobody over there. I figured if I take a step to the right, then maybe he'll go right. He did and I just cut back left. It was intentional because I wanted to go in the inside."
(On his performance tonight) "It was a great day for me. God gave me a gift and I just wanted to show the world my gift. When your time is called in this offense, you have to make the best of it."
SS #41 ROMAN HARPER
"At the end of the day, I really enjoyed the way we came out and played.
(on Jon Vilma) "He was flying around. The way he played tonight was very inspiring.
(on BCS title game) "I'm definitely looking forward to the rematch. Hopefully, the Saints can continue winning some games and we can get a bye week. I'm looking forward to being back in the Dome on Jan. 9."
LB #51 JONATHAN VILMA
(on returning to lineup) "In the beginning, I was a little rusty. By midway through the second quarter, I was good to go.
(on knee injury) "I had it scoped. They had to clean out some particles, some cartilage in there. Last week, I tried to give it a go and it swelled up in there.
"It felt great. I was dying to get out there. It was great to see the guys hold it down for me. It was great to enjoy the moment.
(on Lions offense) "It wasn't anything schematically we had to adjust to. We had to weather the storm. Detroit's so explosive offensively. We faced Matthew Stafford when he was a rookie, and he's improved tremendously. You can put him in that upper echelon now.
"They're going to put up points. Everything they scored, we wanted to make them earn it.
* * *
DETROIT LIONS COACH JIM SCHWARTZ
"We lost this game to a very good football team today. The New Orleans Saints are a team that has won championships, and has obviously played well this season. As much as anything, we lost to the Saints, but we beat ourselves today. Our offense continually got derailed by penalties from before the snap, after the whistle, and during the snap. It was the only thing that took us out of scoring."
(on the play of the defense) "Defensively, we had some injuries, but that is absolutely no excuse. We have paid professionals that have a lot of experience who stepped in today. In the first half, we played poorly on defense. We never gave ourselves a chance. We didn't get the job done in coverage. We didn't get the job done in rushing the passer. We made a big point last year pretending that we were in a playoff run. Guess what? We're in one right now."
(on the play of Matt Stafford) "He did a good job of putting us in position. He kind of hung in and took some hits to get some balls off. I thought that he made really good decisions the entire game against a really good defense like that. But it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough when there is more than the other team that he has to overcome."
(on not winning today and being able to gain ground on the other NFC teams that lost) "The missed opportunity was not beating the Saints in a road game. If we would have won this, it really doesn't matter about those other teams. What mattered is that we beat the Saints down here, we pull ahead of the Saints. That was the only thing that mattered."
DETROIT LIONS PLAYERS
QB #9 MATTHEW STAFFORD
"We moved the ball really well tonight. We really did some dumb things that really set us back. We had a tough day with the penalties all day. I've never been in a game before when one player had three offensive pass interference calls. It's something we have to get better at. We have to lock it down and understand we can't beat ourselves like that.
"We played well. We were moving the ball well in the second half. We were in a position to win the game, but we can't continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.
"We had all the opportunities to make it happen, and it's upon us to do it. We had a great opportunity to do what we wanted to do. Obviously, we did not do it tonight. Smart football teams are still playing in January. Teams that make smart decisions don't beat themselves."
WR #81 CALVIN JOHNSON
"A lot of these games that we have been losing recently, we have been moving the ball. We get multiple penalties that end drives, and it's very difficult to overcome that.
"We experienced multiple penalties tonight. No matter where you are on the field, it's going to stall the drive.
(on Saints defense) "They had a plan. I saw a lot of ‘roll' and ‘invert two,' but we also experienced a lot of penalties and that killed us, and it's very hard to overcome that.
WR #13 NATE BURLESON
(on offensive pass interference penalties) "On the first penalty, I know I pushed off, but the other two, I'm going to have to see those on film. I did not put my hand on the DB at all on the other two.
"I will take full responsibility for the first one. Maybe you guys saw something that I did not."
DT #98 NICK FAIRLEY
"For the most part, I thought we put a lot of pressure on Brees, but they are a tough offense to handle. I also thought we did a great job of stopping the run, but in the end, we gave up too many big plays and that was the difference in the game."
Poaching of the Saints Coaching Staff
Dickson: Assistant to be next TU coach | The Advocate
Staff Report - Tulane will name New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson as its next head football coach, Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson confirmed Sunday night.
Report: Saints WRs coach to Tulane - NFC South Blog | ESPN.com
Pat Y. - Sunday night could be the last game for wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson with the New Orleans Saints.
V-Roll Roll Call