NEW ORLEANS — Running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 237 yards from scrimmage, the Saints’ resurgent defense forced five turnovers and scored a franchise-record three times, and New Orleans took a 52-38 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday in a game full of crazy bounces and unusual plays.
New Orleans (3-2), which has a winning record for the first time since its last playoff season in 2013, built a five-touchdown lead, only to wind up gutting out a remarkable bid by Detroit to pull off the greatest comeback in NFL history.
Detroit (3-3) scored four straight TDs, including one on a punt return by Jamal Agnew and another on A’Shawn Robinson’s close-range interception near the Saints goal line, in less than 15 minutes off the game clock to pull as close as 45-38 with 6:41 to go. But after Agnew muffed a punt and barely got it out of the end zone, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan scored on virtually the same type of play as Robinson when he got his hand on Matt Stafford’s pass from the end zone.
The Saints’ defense produced its first points on Detroit’s first possession, when Alex Okafor sacked and stripped Stafford in the end zone and safety Kenny Vaccaro recovered. In the third quarter, rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans’ top draft choice last spring, made his first interception and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.
Playing on a sore right ankle that visibly limited his mobility, Stafford was hit often, sacked five times and turned the ball over five times — twice on fumbles and three times on interceptions, two of which were tipped. New Orleans also batted down many of Stafford’s throws.
Stafford completed 25 of 52 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns, but much of his production came after Detroit had fallen behind 45-10.
Drew Brees completed 21 for 31 passes for 186 yards and touchdowns of 20 yards to Ted Ginn and 2 yards to Michael Hoomanawanui. However, he was also intercepted for the first and second time this season. The first interception — also the Saints’ first turnover this season — came when cornerback Darius Slay wrestled the ball away from Michael Thomas before the receiver could secure it.
Ingram scored two TDs on short runs and rushed for 114 yards on 25 carries in the first game since the Saints traded Adrian Peterson to Arizona. He also fumbled after a short reception.