Lions rally for 24-23 win over Saints

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate (15) runs for a 73-yard reception for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Duane Burleson

DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Lions have won back-to-back games without Calvin Johnson, perhaps the most encouraging sign yet that coach Jim Caldwell is making significant progress in his first season at the helm.

The most recent victory wasn't easy. The Lions needed a spectacular catch-and-run by Golden Tate and an interception from Glover Quin to overtake the New Orleans Saints 24-23 on Sunday.

''I think you learn a little bit about your team as you go, I really do,'' said Caldwell, who replaced the fired Jim Schwartz in the offseason as Detroit's coach. ''This is the first one that we've had like this one, you know, to have to really come from behind and get it done with some big plays.

''You had a sense of it and you can see, when you're dealing with men that have character and have talent, you'll get performances like that.''

The Lions (5-2) trailed 23-10 before Matthew Stafford threw two scoring passes in the final 3:38 - with Quin's interception coming between them. Tate's 73-yard touchdown catch started the rally.

The Saints (2-4) have lost seven consecutive regular-season road games. They appeared to have this one in their grasp before making enough mistakes down the stretch to squander the lead.

''We did so many good things today, so many good things, defensively, offensively,'' New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said. ''We have to finish, especially today. It's not like this thing was back and forth. We had a 13-point lead with however much time was left.''

Here are a few things we learned from Detroit's dramatic victory:

FILLING IN: The Lions acquired Tate to be a productive No. 2 receiver, but with Johnson nursing an ankle injury, Detroit has needed even more from him. On Sunday, Tate caught 10 passes for 154 yards, both career highs.

With the situation looking just about hopeless for Detroit, Tate caught Stafford's pass around his own 35, turned up the field and outran two New Orleans defenders who looked as if they had good angles to make the tackle. That touchdown made it 23-17.

''We strongly believe in next man up, so guys just have to step up. Everyone made this team for a reason, so when our number is called, we have to show up and make plays that we're supposed to make,'' Tate said. ''We don't have to do anything spectacular like Calvin. We just have to play fundamentally sound ball, and I think we were prepared.''

FLAGGED: The Saints nearly stopped Detroit before the winning touchdown when Stafford's pass on fourth down fell incomplete, but Rafael Bush was called for pass interference, giving the Lions a new set of downs. Stafford eventually found Corey Fuller for a 5-yard touchdown and the win.

New Orleans was called for 12 penalties for 134 yards.

''I thought the penalties ended up hurting us,'' coach Sean Payton said. ''I wasn't happy with how that game was officiated. I'll leave it at that, and yet that wasn't the reason in the end.''

SHAKY KICKING: For the first time all season, the Lions made it through a game without a missed field goal. Matt Prater - in his second game with Detroit - converted his only attempt, banking in a 21-yarder off the left upright in the first half.

Shayne Graham made all three of his field goal attempts for New Orleans, but his 27-yarder at the end of the second quarter also bounced through off the left upright.

ROAD WOES: All four New Orleans losses this season have been on the road, and the Saints led three of those games late in the fourth quarter. They lost by three at Atlanta, by two at Cleveland, and by one at Detroit.

New Orleans is still very much in the NFC South race. The division doesn't have a team above .500.

MISSING THE MARK: During one stretch in the fourth quarter, Brees went 10 straight passes without a completion, the longest dry spell of his career, according to STATS. His previous longest was seven on Sept. 23, 2012, against Kansas City.

Brees was the first New Orleans quarterback to go at least 10 passes without a completion in a game since Aaron Brooks had a streak of 11 on Dec. 22, 2002, at Cincinnati.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.