Saints march for 636 yards in win over Lions

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (L) congratulates running back Darren Sproles after...

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (L) congratulates running back Darren Sproles after Sproles scored a touchdown against the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter during their NFL NFC wildcard playoff football game in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 7, 2012. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:49 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS - When Drew Brees and the Saints go marching, man do they march.

Up and down the field they went Saturday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in a 45-28 victory over the upstart Detroit Lions that ended as the most prolific offensive display in NFL playoff history.

When the Brees wheel finally stopped spinning, the Saints quarterback had guided his team to a dizzying 636 yards of total offence that surely left the Lions wondering what had steamrolled them in the second half. The total eclipsed a 49-year-old playoff standard previously held by the San Diego Chargers and followed up on the record regular-season.

“We are just focussed on winning,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Really, we are not focussed on yards and records. The task at hand is to find a way to have one more point than the other.”

Or 17, as the case may be.

A team that averaged 41.2 points in an unbeaten home schedule during the regular-season topped that despite being held scoreless in the first quarter and down by four at half-time. With precision strikes to the eight different Saints receivers that caught passes, Brees is next to unstoppable on a fast, indoor track.

When the result was evident midway through the fourth quarter, the 79,000 plus in the Superdome were ready to raise the roof before spilling into the neighbouring French Quarter for a night of revelry.

After becoming just the second 13-win team not to clinch a first-round playoff bye, the Saints hit the road in the divisional round against the San Francisco 49ers and a defence that will offer much more resistance than the Lions.

The Saints opened as early 31/2-point favourites against the 49ers after avoiding the first-round upset that knocked them on their rears last year in Seattle.

“I feel like our offence and our team is built for whatever condition,” Brees said. “Obviously we play indoors here, but we feel like we are the type of team that can go anywhere, any time and feel the type of football we like to play.

“We’ll adjust accordingly. But I don’t see any reason why we can’t continue to go on and be productive.”

While his opposing quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had a memorable night of his own, completing 28-of-43 for 380 yards and three touchdowns, it was Brees that showed just who is the gold standard of NFL quarterbacks right now.

His 33 completions from 44 attempts ended with 466 yards, a post-season high for the 2009 Super Bowl champ and the second-most in NFL post-season history. Only Bernie Kosar, who tossed for 489 yards in a 1986 game against the Jets threw for more.

“The mindset for us was to go out and have fun and play football, not be so uptight,” said Saints receiver Robert Meachem, who had four catches for 11 yards and a touchdown. “In order to reach your goals, you have to be confident and we showed that tonight.”

That confidence never wavered despite spotting the Lions a 14-10 lead at halftime that wasn’t necessarily indicative of the way the game was going. New Orleans turned the ball over twice in the opening half, once on a rare Brees fumble and another by Colston.

But after getting the ball first in the second half, the Saints came out determined to take control with touchdowns on their first two possessions. The 35 points in the second half were the second most in playoff history and ended whatever Cinderella hopes held by the Lions, who were making their first playoff appearance since 1999.

So in control were the Saints on offence that not once did they have to punt, thanks to a running game that totalled 167 yards to give Brees a versatility the offence didn’t necessarily have when it won its Super Bowl.

“We’re not going to pull the reins back, it’s going to be pedal to the metal all the time,” Brees said of the relentless Saints mindset on offence. “I feel each day you get an ounce more confidence. When you are playing like we are, there’s no reason not to be.

“At times it looks so easy out there, but it’s not. We work very hard at it. We take great pride in being able to go out and play the way we did today. We are trying to make our mark with this offence and everybody feels a big part of it.”


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