The New Orleans Saints defeated the Detroit Lions 52-38 on Sunday afternoon in one of the weirdest games you might ever see. Despite scoring 52 points, the Saints did not win on the strength of Drew Brees' right arm. They won instead on a flurry of big plays on the defensive side of the ball, scoring 3 defensive touchdowns and causing 5 turnovers. Despite winning by 14 points, scoring 31 first half points, and holding a 35-point lead with 21 minutes left to play, New Orleans had to hold on until the end, coming dangerously close to an epic meltdown in the 4th quarter. The young Saints instead persevered, winning the type of game where recent New Orleans teams may have fallen short.
In honor of the major league baseball postseason, Canal Street Chronicles will award our normal game balls, and with a little extra award at the end.
Game Ball #1 — Mark Ingram
Ingram had his best game of the 2017 season, rushing for 114 yards while averaging 4.5 yards per carry, leading the team with 5 receptions and rushing for two touchdowns. He led a Saints ground attack that rolled up 193 yards rushing on the afternoon, as rookie Alvin Kamara added 75 yards on 10 carries.
Game Ball #2 — Andrus Peat
Peat was the top performer on a line that controlled the Lions front in the running game and did not allow a single sack on quarterback Drew Brees. Left tackle Terron Armstead returned to the lineup and played well, and rookie Ryan Ramczyk is solidifying his spot at right tackle, earning a 79.2 grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF), rating the 9th-best performance among offensive tackles.
Peat was a mauler in the running game for the Saints all afternoon, showing good mobility when pulling, and numerous times opening holes in the second level of the Lions defense for longer runs. The 13th overall pick in 2015 has done an admirable job filling in at tackle during Armstead's injury absences over the last two seasons, but is looking like a potential Pro Bowler from the left guard position.
Game Ball #3 — Marshon Lattimore
Lattimore's play this season has put him in early consideration for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The 11th overall pick grabbed his first career interception, aggressively jumping a 3rd Quarter slant route and snatching a tipped pass to return it 27 yards for his first career touchdown, giving the Saints what seemed to be an insurmountable 45-10 lead.
Lattimore is quickly putting his name among the better cover corners in the league, but he is also proving to be a complete player. He is extremely aggressive in run support, and is a solid fundamental tackler. One of the biggest plays of the game on Sunday came at the end of the first half, when Detroit was deep within Saints territory on 4th down. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford found tight end Darren Fells on an underneath route that looked like a sure score. Lattimore recognized the play, came up and took down the big tight end at the 1-yard line.
Game Ball #4 — Craig Robertson
Robertson, the Saints leading tackler in 2016, has again taken on a bigger defensive role with the season ending injury to rookie Alex Anzalone. He responded with a team high 11 tackles, a quarterback sack, forcing and recovering a fumble. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Robertson's performance at 89.4, the second-highest among all linebackers on Sunday. According to PFF, the Saints defense blitzed on 56.3% of their plays on Sunday, a season high. Robertson led the way on the blitz heavy scheme that coordinator Dennis Allen employed against Stafford, particularly on 3rd down, and helped provide solid pass coverage on tight end Eric Ebron and running back Theo Riddick, limiting Riddick to just 2 first half receptions and Ebron to just 1 catch for the game.
Walk-off Home Run — Cam Jordan
Defensive ends Alex Okafor and Cameron Jordan provided the perfect bookends to the Saints defensive afternoon. Okafor got the show started with a sack and forced fumble of Stafford on the Lions first drive, recovered by safety Kenny Vaccaro in the end zone for the team's first defensive touchdown since 2015. Okafor had a solid afternoon, playing the run extremely well and providing consistent QB pressure to rank 6th among all defensive ends in pass rush proficiency according to PFF.
It was Jordan, however, that took his game to a new level. He had five total tackles on the day, but as usual, Jordan's impact on the game went far deeper than that. He helped the Saints defense hold Detroit runners to just 66 yards and numerous stops in the backfield. Minus a 34-yard broken tackle effort by the Lions' Ameer Abdullah, the Detroit running game averaged less than 2 yards per carry. Jordan spearheaded a pass rush that gathered 5 sacks in the game, along with tipping numerous balls at the line of scrimmage. He added 2 sacks of his own, bringing his team high total to 5 on the season.
There was a little more than five minutes left in the game. The Lions had stormed back from a 45-10 deficit with 28 unanswered points to sit within a touchdown of tying the game. Despite starting at their own two yard line, Detroit clearly had the game's momentum. On 2nd and 10, Jordan tipped a Stafford pass with his left hand, then turned in the same motion to intercept the ball in the end zone, giving the Saints a 52-38 lead and essentially clinching their third win in a row.
Who had the top performance in the Saints victory over Detroit?
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