New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is seen on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
DETROIT — Many had circled the Saints’ trip to Detroit on Sunday as a victory because it was the first game coming out of New Orleans’ bye for this season.
The Saints had gone 5-0 since coach Sean Payton in 2009 grabbed a page from NFL colleague Andy Reid’s book and allowed players to take the full bye week off. Granted, only one of those contests had been on the road, where the Saints are a frightening 1-9 in their last 10 regular-season away games; but many felt it was a good bet New Orleans would find a way to win with extra rest and time to prepare.
They didn’t, and Sunday’s 24-23 defeat at Detroit (5-2) brought a quiet end to that oft-cited streak, dropping the Saints’ record this season to 2-4.
“The tough thing about it is the work and the preparation leading into the game is everything we wanted,” said Payton, whose team has also lost at Dallas (6-1), Atlanta (2-5) and Cleveland (3-3) while winning at home against Minnesota (2-5) and Tampa Bay (1-5).
Before the game was over, All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham played in only 30 of the Saints’ 74 offensive snaps because of a shoulder injury and was unable to catch a pass on either of his two targets. Second-year running back Khiry Robinson lost a fumble.
But the Saints got 214 of their 342 pass receiving yards from Marques Colston (six catches for 111 yards) and Kenny Stills, who had five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. They got another touchdown catch from first-year fullback Austin Johnson, and kicker Shayne Graham was 3-for-3 on field goals.
On defense, the Saints had their first multiple takeaway game since Oct. 27, 2013, after interceptions by safety Kenny Vaccaro and cornerback Keenan Lewis. Pass-rusher Junior Galette, linebacker Parys Haralson and cornerback Corey White each had one quarterback takedown behind the line of scrimmage to give the Saints a season-high three sacks, and the Saints seized a 23-10 lead with 5:24 to go.
Then, New Orleans surrendered a 73-yard touchdown reception by Golden Tate on what seemed to be a low-risk third-and-14 situation. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw his seventh interception of the season on the ensuing offensive drive, and Detroit took over at New Orleans’ 14. The Lions soon scored a touchdown that helped give them a 24-23 lead, and the Saints lost the ball on downs on their final offensive drive.
Thus ended one streak. And another may soon suffer the same fate.
The 5-2 Green Bay Packers this upcoming Sunday night are set to visit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Saints have won each of their last 19 games with Payton has coached them there (including the playoffs). That excludes home games played in the 2012 season, when Payton was suspended in the wake of the bounty scandal and the Saints were 4-4 in New Orleans.
The Packers have won four consecutive games. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 18 touchdowns and a sole interception. Rodgers’ top target, wideout Jordy Nelson, led the NFL with 712 receiving yards and had six touchdowns (twice as many as anyone on the Saints has scored).
In Green Bay’s way at the Superdome will be a host that struggled to beat a bad Minnesota team 20-9 and then needed overtime as well as a favorable coin flip to finish off an even worse Tampa Bay squad 37-31.
“We … have to go out there and … win in our preparation during the week and come out against Green Bay and execute,” veteran Saints right guard Jahri Evans said in the visitor’s locker room after the Lions game.
If not, it’ll be time to bid adieu to Payton’s winning streak at the Superdome just seven days after the Saints’ five-game winning streak coming out of the bye was snapped.