Another Saints knockout
By Mike Detillier - Jan 12, 2012
The New Orleans Saints just keep rolling along. The Saints put on another record-breaking performance in a 45-28 victory over the Detroit Lions in the wild card game of the NFC playoffs.
The Saints totaled 626 yards of total offense, which broke the record set in 1964 by the San Diego Chargers.
Quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns, said the team is putting the pedal to the metal on their offensive attack.
"The Lions are a really good young football team, but we are pulling out all the stops," Brees said. "We are not going to apologize for being aggressive. That gives the guys in this huddle a lot of confidence. We’re not going to pull the reins back."
But as good as the Saints are throwing the ball it has been their success in the running game that has fueled their nine-game winning streak.
Over the last nine games the Saints have rushed for 1,355 yards on 255 carries, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and they are averaging 150.5 yards per game rushing.
Against the Lions the Saints rushed for 167 yards on 36 carries and the Lions rushed for only 32 yards on 10 carries. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz says that his team needs to balance their attack more to gain better success come playoff time.
"This was a great learning experience for us as a team. We’ll get better. We’ll be back," Schwartz said. "It hurts right now, but give the Saints credit they did a great job keeping us off balance because as good as Drew Brees and their passing attack is they become an even more dangerous team because of how well they can run the football."
The Saints did get a full dose of the finest wide receiver in the game today in Calvin Johnson. Johnson caught 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions and besides Drew Brees it was Johnson who was the best player on the field Saturday night.
For the first time since the third game of the 2011 season the Saints trailed at halftime in the Superdome 14-10, but the team scored in five consecutive series in the second half and blew out a gutsy Lions football team.
Saints cornerback Jabari Greer, who intercepted two passes against Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, said the team is focused on the task at hand, which is taking the next step on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.
"We are going to enjoy this victory a little, but we know there is more to accomplish this season. The 49ers are a good football team, they got a great running back in Frank Gore, a terrific wide receiver in Michael Crabtree and one of the top tight ends in the business in Vernon Davis," he said. "We got a lot of experience on this team from the Super Bowl run and we are going to refocus our efforts on being that lead dog team again."
Many of the national football experts will point out that the Saints play much better in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome than on the road, but the New Orleans Saints hold the best road record in the NFL over the past three seasons with an 18-6 mark.
Former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden says that the Saints are the best team in the NFL right now.
"Right now the Saints are the best team in the league," Gruden said. "Green Bay has a superb team, but right now the Saints are the hottest team in the league and they are running the ball real well. When you have to play in San Francisco and probably Green Bay, and probably in bad weather, the ability to run the ball when you need to and have to is important.
"Gregg Williams has done a good job with this defense and while they give up some yards the points are hard to come by. Games like this are decided by turnovers. If the Saints stay away from the costly turnovers they will head back to the Super Bowl."
One matchup to watch Saturday when the Saints play the 49ers is how well the best middle linebacker in the game today in Patrick Willis will match up against the game’s top tight end in Jimmy Graham.
Over the past nine weeks Graham has caught 57 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns, but Willis is considered one of the elite cover linebackers in the game today.
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