2017 was such an exhilarating year as a Saints fan. First playoff appearance since 2013, outstanding rookie class yielding the offensive and defensive rookies of the year, a historically successful ground attack, and a reinvigorated defense all made for an inspired season of football. Though the postseason ended short of the team’s potential on a miracle, the regular season went from doom to boom rather quickly. With that, I’ll be counting down my top five Saints games of 2017.
Today we’re taking a look at game #2: the Saints 52-38 nail-biter against the Detroit Lions.
It didn’t start of a nail-biter. It actually started off as a complete blow out. The Saints were dominating the Lions 45-10 about halfway through the third quarter before an unexpected surge came from all sides from Detroit. The Lions went on a tear scoring 28 straight in a combination of two passing touchdowns from Matthew Stafford, a punt return touchdown from Jamal Agnew, and an interception return touchdown by A’Shawn Robinson. The entire Superdome and fans from home were all collectively holding their breath as they watched the Saints’ 35-point lead dwindle down to a mere touchdown before Cam Jordan batted a pass into the air and caught it for his own big-man interception touchdown. The Saints then put the nail in the coffin by playing stout defense that had begun to go missing in the third quarter.
Getting out of that game showed yet another element that the Saints had improved in, facing adversity to close out games.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara Do That Stuff They’re Really Good At
In the 2017 season, the Saints were undefeated in all nine games in which Mark Ingram rushed for more than 55 yards. In this game, he went for 114 on the ground and added a respectable 36 through the air, mostly through screens. Alvin Kamara added 87 all-purpose yards and a couple of dazzling runs including one in which he completely leapt over Lions CB Darius Slay Jr. (pictured above) The tandem’s combined 201 scrimmage yards ended up being the 5th best output of the pair by the end of the season. Bear in mind, too that this game solidified the Saints made the right move in parting way with Adrian Peterson the week prior to focus the backfield down to the Ingram/Kamara tandem.
While Kamara didn’t score a touchdown in this game, he was a huge factor in spreading the field. He did his usual damage by lining up in the backfield as well as in the slot and out wide. His 13 touches came from all over the field, but his affect wasn’t limited to when he had the ball in his hand as he sometimes served as a decoy that the defense had to bite on. Ingram, on the other hand ran in for two scores, both from the redzone in the second quarter.
The Saints put up their best scoreboard total for the season in this game with 52 points, 31 in the first half. Despite a 52-point game it’s tough to believe but Drew Brees only through for 186 yards, what would end as his second lowest total of the year. He added two touchdowns, one to Ted Ginn Jr. who showed he’s still got the juice, and an unfortunate two interceptions, one of which probably should have been overturned.
The defense helped out a little. The understatement of the article. But after a rough start, the Saints defense accounted for 18 points (not including PATs) on three touchdowns. Two by interception and the other (the first Saints score of the game) on a fumble and recovery by long-time friends Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro (the latter of which also had a dagger of an interception of an interception after Cam Jordan’s endzone heroics.) This was the first time in franchise history that the Saints had three defensive touchdowns in a single game and only the second they’d scored on two interceptions, the first was in 2009.
2017’s Boonk Gang was the revival of defense in New Orleans. This game, though set them over the top. The defense wrangled five takeaways, the franchise’s best performance since they managed six against Tampa Bay in 2003. That totaled three interceptions and two fumble recoveries with a helping hand from Craig Robertson in one of my favorite plays of the year when he elected to pass on trying to sack Stafford taking instead to the air before stripping the ball from Stafford’s hand on the way down. They nearly more as there were a couple fumbles the Lions got away with by the skin of their teeth.
In addition to the takeaways, the Saints were also active along the line of scrimmage adding five sacks and a total of 16 passes defended, many at the line which led to two interception touchdowns, the aforementioned Cam Jordan contribution as well as a catch-and-run by Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore.