NEW ORLEANS — A few thoughts on Saturday night's wild-card playoff game at the Superdome:
What it means: The Detroit Lions hung tight with the New Orleans Saints into the fourth quarter but ultimately saw their uplifting season end. They are now 0-7 in wild-card games in franchise history and will have to wait at least one more year to end droughts of 20 years without a playoff victory and 54 years without a playoff victory on the road. A game many of us thought would be a shootout ended with the Saints never punting and setting an NFL record for total offense with an incredible 626 yards.
Turning point: The Lions controlled most of the first half, but the Saints doubled up on them by scoring on their final possession of the second quarter and their first drive of the third. That flipped a 14-7 Lions lead into a 17-14 advantage for the Saints, a lead they never relinquished. It took the Saints only four plays to go 78 yards for that second score, a 41-yard pass to receiver Devery Henderson.
Early turnovers: The Lions' first-half lead was mostly due to a pair of takeaways, one a fumble by Marques Colston and one a fumble by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. We spent a good part of last week discussing the Lions' need to pressure Brees and cause turnovers. But the Lions punted on both of the ensuing possessions, and the Lions defense literally didn't stop the Saints thereafter. Brees completed 33 of 43 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns. One play particularly stood out: Safety Amari Spievey was way too late to line up against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in the third quarter, giving Brees the easiest touchdown pass he'll ever throw.
MegatronWatch: The Saints couldn't do much to slow down Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, even when they had him covered by multiple receivers. Johnson caught 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a total of 455 receiving yards in the Lions' past two games. The 12 catches is tied for the second-most catches in a playoff game in NFL history.
Injury report: Lions cornerback Chris Houston (shoulder) and safety Louis Delmas (foot) both suffered injuries in the second quarter. They returned but appeared limited, with Houston taking several more trips to the sideline.
What's next: The Lions should return to Detroit proud of their season and ready to build on it. Any team with an elite 23-year-old quarterback, which the Lions have in Matthew Stafford, should be set up for long-term success.