NEW ORLEANS ― Alphonso Smith turned to his teammates in the Detroit secondary and pointed to himself over and over.
Seconds earlier, Saints receiver Robert Meachem blew by Smith, who bit on a pump fake by quarterback Drew Brees.
The 57-yard touchdown score by Meachem sent the more than 73,000 in attendance into delirium and sent the Saints into the divisional round of the playoffs at San Francisco with a 45-28 win over Detroit.
Brees passed the 400-yard mark with the pass, his third touchdown strike of the game and finished 33 of 43 for 466 yards and a 134.4 quarterback rating.
New Orleans won despite giving up more than 350 yards passing to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and more than 200 yards receiving to Calvin Johnson.
Saints receiver Marques Colston had 120 yards on seven catches while Meachem had 111 yards on four catches.
A week after setting multiple NFL record, the Saints set one more, surpassing the record for total yards in the postseason with 626 yards.
It didn’t start out like a blowout. In fact, it didn’t get out of hand until the fourth quarter.
The Lions owned the lead at halftime and were within three points going into the final 15 minutes.
Early, it appeared Detroit might be primed to pull the upset.
The Lions won the toss, chose to receive and promptly ignored the noise in the building to march 80 yards in eight plays. Matthew Stafford connected with tight end Will Heller for a 10-yard touchdown in front of Saints linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Detroit was up 7-0 early.
New Orleans looked prime for a quick answer, moving more than 40 yards in five plays when quarterback Drew Brees hit receiver Marques Colston over the middle.
But the Saints defense held, forcing a Detroit punt and New Orleans rolled down the field methodically. But instead of going through the air, it went by land, rushing for 50 yards on an 89 yard scoring drive capped a Darren Sproles 2-yard touchdown run.
Detroit, though, looked to be the team with playoff experience, answering right away. Receiver Calvin Johnson caught two passes for 31 yards on the drive, including a 13-yard touchdown pass in which he blew past Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Patrick Robinson. The Lions led 14-7 with 9:11 to go in the first half.
On the Saints’ next possession, a promising drive stalled when Brees was hit by Detroit’s John Wendling before throwing the ball, fumbling it away. The defense held, though, giving the ball back to New Orleans.
The Saints couldn’t get into the end zone, however, despite getting to the Lions’ 17 with 32 seconds to go. A pass to Colston in the end zone, originally called a catch, was ruled incomplete and three plays later, John Kasay trotted on for a 24-yard field goal.
At halftime, a game everyone believed to be a shootout was only 14-10 Detroit.
The Saints opened the second half exactly how they needed to on offense, scoring in just four plays. Brees hit receiver Devery Henderson deep in front of a diving Amari Spievey. Henderson all but walked into the end zone, giving New Orleans a 17-14 lead with 13:09 left in the third quarter.
It was New Orleans’ first lead of the game and the defense did its part, forcing a punt on the Lions’ first series of the second half.
A block in the back by Nate Bussey on the punt put New Orleans 92 yards away from the end zone. But with Detroit still in striking distance, Saints coach Sean Payton took his chance. On fourth-and-one at their own 38, Brees leapt above the line, stretching for a first down.
Four plays later, Brees hit tight end Jimmy Graham for a 3-yard touchdown and a 24-14 lead.
The double-digit advantage was short-lived as the Lions proved they weren’t too inexperienced for the night. Stafford connected with Johnson for passes of 15, 27 and 42 yards and then ran a naked boot leg to the front right pylon for a touchdown. The Saints lead was down to 24-21.
But as the case was for the entire night, the Saints offense answered. Detroit couldn’t stop them. Darren Sproles had the final 40 yards of the 80-yard touchdown drive, including a 17-yard scoring run with 9:53 to play to give New Orleans a 31-21 lead.
Then, for the first time all night, pressure forced Stafford to throw an errant pass, which Saints cornerback Jabari Greer intercepted.
Four plays later, Brees found a wide open Meachem for a 57-yard touchdown and a 16-point lead with less than eight minutes to play.
Detroit drove right back down the field, pulling to within 38-28 with 4:40 to play on Johnson’s 12-yard touchdown pass from Stafford.
New Orleans’ Jonathan Amaya recovered the ensuing onside kick. Two plays after, Brees hit Meachem for a 41-yard pass to the Detroit 1.
And then the Saints put the game away with a Pierre Thomas 1-yard touchdown plunge. The Saints tacked on another touchdown after another Greer interception.