- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: It wasn’t quite as easy as the final score would suggest. The Lions led early and much of the game was competitive. The Saints were far from perfect and the offense turned the ball over twice in the first half. But this was still a solid win against a good team. That’s a lot better than what happened last year when the Saints got beat by Seattle in the first round of the playoffs. The Saints had plenty of momentum carrying over from the regular season and they only built on that.
Unsung hero: Running back Pierre Thomas had a huge impact. Detroit’s defense deserves some blame for poor tackling, but Thomas deserves lots of credit. He broke a bunch of tackles as a runner and a pass receiver. Darren Sproles brought the flash, but Thomas was just as important in this victory.
What I liked: The way the Saints never blinked after they got down early. Drew Brees and Marques Colston each lost fumbles in the first half. But the Saints’ offense just kept churning out the yardage and quickly wore out Detroit’s defense. The Saints reacted like a confident, veteran team and that will accomplish a lot in the playoffs. The Saints were so good on offense that they didn’t have to punt a single time. I also liked the way coach Sean Payton adjusted his offense in the second half. The passing game was pretty much horizontal in the first half, but it got very vertical in the second half.
What I didn’t like: Calvin Johnson had over 200 receiving yards. There’s no real shame in that. The guy is the best receiver in the league and he can make just about any defense look bad. The troubling thing was that the Saints got very little pressure on Matthew Stafford. They’re going to have to find a pass rush if they want to keep winning in the postseason.
What’s next: As the No. 3 seed, the Saints will travel to San Francisco next weekend to play the second-seeded 49ers.