Saints quarterback Drew Brees tied a career high with six touchdown passes as the New Orleans Saints defeated the Detroit Lions, 45-27. Brees tossed touchdowns to five different receivers, including two to tight end Jeremy Shockey.
In my Saturday preview, I asked five questions about the Saints as they headed in to week one. Here are the answers.
How will the running game look with Pierre Thomas out of the lineup?
Mike Bell had a career game even though he didn't score a touchdown. He set career highs for yardage (143) and carries (28). Bell was key on the Saints' last drive when they were trying to run out the clock as he gained 28 yards on six carries.
Bell's one negative play came in the third quarter when he was stood up for a loss and fumbled the ball away. The Lions returned the fumble 65 yards for a touchdown.
Is Reggie's knee finally healthy?
Bush did not appear injured but probably had the worst game out of anybody on the field. He fumbled the ball twice on punt returns and didn't gain yardage running the ball until late in the fourth quarter.
I expect wide receiver Rod Harper to be activated next week against the Eagles in order to return punts.
How often will Gregg Williams dial up a blitz for rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford?
I was surprised at how little Williams blitzed the rookie, but that's probably why he's coaching in the NFL and I'm sitting on my couch.
New Orleans sacked Stafford just once but intercepted him three times.
Even though the team allowed 27 points, much of that came because of a fumble return and poor special teams play. The Saints held the Lions to just 231 yards of total offense.
How well will the Saints defend against wide receiver Calvin Johnson?
Overall, Saints fans should be pleased with the coverage against Johnson. He caught just three passes and 64 of his 90 yards came when he was being covered by rookie Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins was covering Johnson only because Tracy Porter was on the sidelines momentarily with a minor injury.
Johnson was thrown to 13 times and was blanketed most of the day by double coverage.
Can the defense keep up the turnover pace it set in the first three preseason games?
In a word, yes.
Darren Sharper had two interceptions and Scott Shanle had one. Surprisingly, the Lions, who fumbled the ball 31 times last year, did not fumble once against the Saints.
Three Other Observations
1. The Saints special teams were awful. Twice the Lions started drives inside the Saints' 20-yard line because of big kick and punt returns. Poor offensive line play got a Saints' 34-yard field goal blocked at the end of the second quarter.
The special teams ruined a good performance by the defense.
2. Except for the missed tackle on Calvin Johnson's 64-yard reception, the Saints pass defense did an excellent job keeping everything in front of them.
Critics who just look at the scoreboard are going to give this defense less credit than they deserve for this game. When the Lions started on their own side of the field, they only scored 10 points.
3. Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod, subbing for the injured left tackle Jammal Brown, did an outstanding job in his first career start. He did not commit a penalty. Bushrod more than held his own while opening up running lanes and holding off the Lions' pass rush.
A Glance at Next Week
The Saints head to Philadelphia to play the Eagles next week. The Eagles blasted the Carolina Panthers, 38-10 much thanks to Jake Delhomme's five turnovers. Brees will not turn the ball over nearly that much.
Also, the Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb cracked a rib diving for a touchdown Sunday and his status for next week is currently unknown.