NEW ORLEANS – Burning questions: What Matthew Stafford playing with an injury and his turnovers meant; where the Lions stand going into the bye; how injuries piled up and a bold fourth-down call in the Detroit Lions' 52-38 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a comeback that fell short Sunday.
Question: What is your short answer on the comeback from a 45-10 deficit to having a chance to tie the game with a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter?
Answer: Two answers. Almost a miracle. And they did it to themselves – from start to finish.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 6 game against the New Orleans Saints.
Q. Comeback: How much credit do the Lions get for coming back from a 35-point deficit with 8:34 left in the third quarter to getting the ball back with less than six minutes left with a chance to tie. It was 45-38 when the Lions had the ball at their one-yard line.
A. The Lions get credit for that. It shows, once again, that under head coach Jim Caldwell they don't give up.
But it also shows that when you play as poorly as the Lions did to get behind by 45-10, you deserve what you get. And the Lions did it to themselves with too many turnovers. They started early and continued late, and they were killers.
Stafford lost two fumbles and had three passes intercepted. They weren't all his fault, but they added up and counted on the scoreboard. They gave the Saints three defensive touchdowns.
Q. Stafford injury: He practiced all week but was listed as questionable for the game with an ankle injury. Was he at full strength, or did the injury make a difference?
A: Stafford did not look like he was 100-percent healthy. There was no one play that stood out that way, but the overall performance gave an indication that he was not at his best.
Even in the second half, when the Lions rallied to make the game look closer than it really was he wasn't as sharp as usual.
Q. How much did the injury have to do with the loss?
A. Nothing. The Lions weren't good enough on offense or defense to win. Neither side played winning football.
Stafford had some bad plays and not enough good ones until late in the game, but the loss was a total team debacle. Instead of rising to the occasion to protect an injured quarterback the offensive line had the same protection issues as ever.
And the defense wasn't any better. Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn't throw nearly as much as usual, but he was deadly when he did. Running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram alternated gashing the defense.
Q. Bye break, injuries: The loss makes the Lions 3-3 at the bye. What does that record mean?
A. It means that after winning their first two games they didn't maximize their chance to make an early statement. They lost two games at home to Atlanta and Carolina, and played poorly for most of the first three quarters Sunday in what was a winnable game against a mediocre Saints team.
And with the injuries that piled up Sunday, especially the head injury to safety Glover Quin, the Lions have to make some repairs on their offense, defense and key injured players like Quin and T.J. Lang to make a run when their season resumes.
Q. Turnover battle: The Saints won it, victimizing Stafford five times. How much did turnovers hurt the Lions?
A.They hurt a lot. Based on how the game ended, they might have been the difference.
The Saints got their first touchdown when Stafford was sacked in the end zone and fumbled. Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro recovered to make it 7-0. Stafford's second fumble – on another sack – set up a short TD drive for the Saints.
They also returned one interception for a touchdown in the first half. And when the Lions had the ball after cutting it to 45-38, a batted ball was caught in the end zone defensive end Cameron Jordan for the clinching touchdown.
The way the game ended, it was a fitting play. It started bad for the Lions and ended bad.
Q. Fourth and go: The Lions had fourth and goal at the five with 16 seconds left. Caldwell chose to go for it rather than kick a field goal that would have cut the lead to 35-13. Right call by Caldwell?
A. Bold call, for sure. Stafford's pass to tight end Darren Fells wound up less than a yard short of the goal line. It's the right call when it works, and it didn't work.
Q. Sticking with Stafford: Stafford played the entire game. Should he have been benched in favor of Jake Rudock when the Saints had a 48-10 lead?
A. Nobody could have criticized benching Stafford to protect him from taking more punishment. But Caldwell doesn't give up, and neither does his team. The Lions almost created a miracle. They couldn't have done that without Stafford.