Lions vs. Saints: 5 Things We Learned in New Orleans' 45-28 Win

Zayne Grantham@ZPGSportsContributor IIIJanuary 8, 2012

Lions vs. Saints: 5 Things We Learned in New Orleans' 45-28 Win

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    I think the picture above says all that needs to be said about the Saints' Saturday night win against the Lions.

    New Orleans just wrapped up a 45-28 victory over the Detroit Lions and will travel to play the San Francisco 49ers next week.

    The Saints looked about as bad as they have looked all year in the first half, but they came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. The Saints look like a near unbeatable team right now.

    New Orleans finished Saturday night with 626 total yards, with 167 on the ground and 459 yards through the air. Drew Brees and the Saints offense hit the Lions from every possible vantage point and the Lions collapsed in the second half.

    The New Orleans defense came out in the second half and played like a totally different team. They forced some pressure and got two interceptions to really turn the game around.

    There is a lot that we can take away from this game, but let's focus on five things that really stuck out in the Saints' 45-28 victory.

Saints Make Great Halftime Adjustments

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    In the first half of Saturday night's game against the Lions, the Saints did not look like a Super Bowl contender.

    The offense was able to go down the field, but they kept turning the ball over. The defense was giving up big plays to the Lions, and the Saints looked like they may lose to the young Detroit team.

    However, the Saints have made good changes at halftime all year, and they made great changes against the Lions.

    In the first half, the Saints scored only 10 points and allowed the Lions to score 14. In the second half, the Saints scored a touchdown on five drives and put up 35 points, but allowed only 14 from the Lions. The Saints offense got its stuff together and did not turn the ball over, and the defense actually forced two interceptions.

    The defense, despite allowing two touchdowns, played completely different in the third and fourth quarters. They put pressure on Matthew Stafford and were able to shut down everyone not named Calvin Johnson. Even though Johnson was able to get 211 receiving yards, no other Lions player went over 50 yards.

    The Saints offense was able to continue running the ball well and they also got open deep down the field for a couple touchdowns.

    Against the Lions, the Saints showed that a football game lasts 60 minutes, and they can make the changes necessary to shut down the opposing team in the second half.

Saints Can Run the Ball Down a Defense's Throat

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    Despite the great publicity that the New Orleans Saints' passing game gets, it was the running game of the Saints that carried them in the game against Detroit.

    The Saints came out early and ran the ball very well. They continued running and finished the game with 167 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Pierre Thomas ran the ball for 66 yards, Darren Sproles added 51 yards and Chris Ivory got another 47 yards.

    This team is known for Brees and the Saints' amazing passing game, but the running backs in New Orleans are just as important to the New Orleans offense.

    If the Saints want to go to San Francisco, Green Bay and the Super Bowl, then they have to continue to run the ball in this way. I strongly believe that they will.

Pierre Thomas May Be the Saints' Best Back

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    As great as the Saints backs were on Saturday night, Pierre Thomas may have proved that he is the best of the bunch.

    Thomas was the Saints' leading rusher and catcher out of the backfield. He finished the night with 66 rushing yards on only eight carries, 55 receiving yards and one touchdown.

    The best part of Thomas' game is that he is great in yards after the catch. He can brush by tacklers and gain the tough yards. Thomas is not just a bruiser though, he is very shifty and can shake would-be tacklers with one or two steps.

    Thomas has the ability to carry the Saints, and they will depend on him a lot through the rest of this postseason. I have no doubt that Thomas will come through for the Saints.

Sean Payton Is Still Very Gutsy

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    Sean Payton is known for the onside kick against the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, and it looks as though he wants to keep that reputation.

    Payton and the Saints went for it on fourth down four times against the Lions, and converted on three of them. That is the kind of risk the Saints will need to take if they want to win their second Super Bowl.

    New Orleans is one of the best teams in the NFL and Payton is among the league's elite coaches. He will have the Saints ready to face the 49ers next week, just as he did for the Lions. I have no doubt that Payton has a few tricks up his sleeve for the rest of the playoffs, and I am excited to see them.

    Since 2006, I have learned not to doubt Payton and the Saints, especially when it matters the most. If Payton wants to be gutsy then, by all means, please be gusty Mr. Payton.

Saints Defense Is Starting to Look a Lot Like 2009 Unit

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    As soon as Jabari Greer's second interception came against the Lions, I began to realize that this defense may be transforming before our eyes.

    I have no doubt that this defense is much better than the stats, analysts or media like to say it is. I have watched them play all year and they consistently step up when they need to. They did that yet again against Detroit.

    The Saints allowed 14 points in each half, which means they held one of the most explosive offenses in the league to 28 points. That may seem like a lot of points, but we are talking about a team that has scored at least 28 points in their last four games.

    The New Orleans defense forced pressure and got two picks when they needed it most. They were able to shut down every player on the Lions offense except for Calvin Johnson, and they may not face another receiver like him in the postseason.

    The defense is good enough to stop elite offenses, they have proven that much.