Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― The Saints came into Saturday night’s playoff game with only one question mark – could the defense hold up enough to give the offense a one series advantage.
Turns out they gave the offense a bigger advantage than that.
After giving up 199 yards and two touchdowns on Detroit’s opening three series of the game, New Orleans held the Lions to 213 the rest of the way, forcing two more punts and interception Matthew Stafford two times.
“We really didn’t make a whole lot of adjustments,” Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said. “We settled down. When their first 15, first 20 plays they’d been scouting all week against us wore off it was just back to playing football.”
Stafford still got his yards, ending the night 28 of 43 for 380 yards with three touchdowns.
Nearly a third of those yards went to receiver Calvin Johnson, who finished with 12 catches for 211 yards and two scores.
But it’s what the rest of Detroit’s offense did – or didn’t do – that made the difference.
“(Johnson’s) going to have his catches,” Saints defensive back Tracy Porter said. “You never want to give a receiver 100 yards. He had his 200-yard game but we minimized the other guys.”
The Lions gained only 32 yards on the ground and no receiver other than Johnson finished with more than 50 yards.
And while the Saints didn’t sack Stafford, in the second half they got to him enough to force him off his mark and throw errant passes.
“First half they were hitting us with a couple of receiver screens and the ball was coming out hot so we were beating guys, but we couldn’t just get there,” Saints defensive end Will Smith said. “The second half they kind of held the ball a little bit longer and were running deeper routes which gave us more time to actually affect Stafford.”