NEW ORLEANS – Head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions have found a way all season to bounce back from a loss. They did so once again in a big way Sunday afternoon, but it certainly wasn't easy.
Detroit came out on a mission to put their Thanksgiving loss to Green Bay squarely in the rearview as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead, scoring 21 points in the first quarter of a contest for the first time since 2011 vs. Minnesota.
Credit New Orleans for mounting a second-half comeback and making a game of it, but the Lions made the big plays late to secure a gritty win on the road.
Detroit opened the game running the ball right at the Saints' defense six times for 59 yards including a two-yard David Montgomery touchdown on their first possession. Jahmyr Gibbs had a 36-yard run to set Montgomery up at the two-yard line.
Rookie nickel cornerback Brian Branch intercepted Saints quarterback David Carr on New Orleans' first offensive play of the game, snagging the deflected pass at the Saints' 32-yard line and returning it to the 17. Lions quarterback Jared Goff found tight end Sam LaPorta for a 13-yard touchdown three plays later.
Following a Saints three and out on their second possession, Goff and the offense took just three plays to go 54 yards capped off by an Amon-Ra St. Brown 25-yard touchdown to give the Lions a 21-0 lead not even midway through the first quarter.
The Saints cut the lead to 21-7 early in the second quarter on a six-yard Jimmy Graham touchdown grab. New Orleans converted three third downs on the scoring drive, including a 3rd and 16.
Detroit went to the half with a 24-7 lead after a Riley Patterson 24-yard field goal.
New Orleans scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half on short touchdown runs by Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill to trim the Lions' lead to 24-21 late in the third quarter.
Patterson extended the lead to 27-21 with a short field goal as time expired in the third quarter to set up a critical final 15 minutes for both teams.
The fourth quarter started with a Saints fumble on a botched snap. Lions second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams scored two plays later on a 19-yard double-reverse run to extend Detroit's lead to 33-21.
The Saints marched 75 yards in 12 plays and scored on a Kamara one-yard touchdown run to trim the lead to 33-28 with seven minutes and 30 seconds left.
The Saints got the ball back with a chance to take the lead late but a 4th and 6 at the Lions' 40-yard line fell incomplete.
LaPorta had a huge third-down catch at the two-minute warning and Goff's 12-yard completion to wide receiver Josh Reynolds on 3rd and 9 with the Saints out of timeouts with under two minutes to play ended the game.
Quarterback comparison: Goff made some critical completions down the stretch and finished 16-of-25 passing for 213 yards with a couple touchdowns, no interceptions and a 117.6 rating.
Carr finished 17-of-22 passing for 226 yards with a touchdown, one interception and 105.5 rating before leaving the game in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. Winston was 2-for-5 for 41 yards. Hill didn't complete either of his two pass attempts.
Big moment: The Lions had just extended their lead to 27-21 as the third quarter ended and the Saints got the ball at their own 25-yard line looking to drive the ball and take their first lead of the game, but their first play of the possession was a botched snap recovered by the Lions at the Saints' 26-yard line.
Williams scored on a 19-yard double reverse run two plays later to extend Detroit's lead to 33-21.
Key stat: LaPorta had a monster day, catching all nine of his targets for 140 yards and a touchdown. He was Goff's go-to target all afternoon.
Injury report: Center Frank Ragnow injured his left knee with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter. He needed help from trainers to get off the field and was taken to the locker room. He did not return. Right guard Graham Glasgow moved to center and rookie Colby Sorsdal came in to play right guard.
Up next: at Chicago, Dec. 10, 1 p.m.