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O'HARA: What we learned from Week 4

Quarterbacks come in all sizes, ages, skill levels, reputations and the circumstances they play under from week to week.

They all can be dangerous on any given week – and they never should be taken for granted.

That's what we learned again – as we had in previous losses to the Bears and Packers -- in the Detroit Lions' 35-29 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Drew Brees, the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer, was supposed to be a fading star who's a liability to the Saints' offense because of his diminished arm strength.

And Brees was a liability – for one throw. His first pass of the game was deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by the Lions. In three plays the Lions had their second touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

The Saints, with a roster depleted by injuries to six starters – and a quarterback with diluted skills – were finished. Or so it looked.


What seemed to be overlooked in the glow of the Lions taking a 14-0 lead was that Brees and his offense had been on the field for exactly one play. That 14-point margin made it seem like the Lions were dominating the game on both sides of the ball.

But one play doesn't make a game, and it certainly did not make Sunday's. What we also learned – again – was that there was a lot more football left to be played. The Lions had scored their two touchdowns in the first 4:37 of the game.

There was almost a full game left – more than 55 minutes.

That was plenty of time for the Saints to make a comeback, and they did not waste any time making one. They scored on their next possession – and the next four after that to take a 35-14 lead before the Lions' offense came out of its trance.

The Lions scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to account for the final six-point margin of defeat.

Brees' performance was pedestrian by the lofty standards that have made him the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes.

It wasn't dominating. It was efficient and resourceful. With star wide receiver Michael Thomas out for the third straight game, Brees used the resources at his disposal. That was a running game that piled up 164 yards and three TDs on 42 carries, and receivers who stepped up their game to fill the void. One of them who did that was Tre'Quan Smith, who had four receptions, two of them for touchdowns.

The final stats for Brees – 19 completions in 25 attempts for 246 yards and the two TDs – won't rank high on his all-time list of big games.

In fact, it wasn't the best performance this year by a quarterback who led a comeback to beat the Lions.

It started in Week 1, with three TD passes in the fourth quarter by 26-year-old Mitchell Trubisky to lead the Bears back from a 23-6 deficit to a 27-23 win. Trubisky completed eight of 10 passes for 89 yards and the three TDs in the fourth quarter.

Trubisky, drafted second overall in 2017 by the Bears, has since been benched in favor of Nick Foles.

In Week 2 it was the Packers' Aaron Rodgers, who turns 39 in December, who took his turn leading a comeback. Rodgers is still close to the top of his game. His performance was similar to what Brees put on against the Lions.

It was more masterful than dominating – 18 completions in 30 attempts for 240 yards and two TDs – in leading the Packers back from a 14-3 deficit to a 42-21 win.

The Lions got a reprieve in Week 3 by intercepting three passes off second-year quarterback Kyler Murray in a 26-23 win on the road over the Cardinals.

That put the Lions in position to get to .500 in a Week 4 matchup against the Saints and Brees, supposedly the weak link.

What we learned was that a team is only as strong as its weakest link, and Brees still can be strong enough.

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