New Orleans run game still churned out the yards, just as they have done most of the season, pounding out 167 rushing yards split between Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and Darren Sproles.
While Ivory and Sproles put together very nice games — Ivory had 47 yards on 13 carries, Sproles 51 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns — it was Thomas who was clearly the most dynamic back of the contest.
His stat line may not be the most eye popping — 66 rushing yards on eight carries with one touchdown – but his effectiveness (8.25 yards per carry) and ability to turn nearly busted screen passes into big gains paid dividends.
Thomas caught six passes for 55 yards, all check down or screen passes, turning second and longs into third and shorts while juking, breaking, and by-passing Lions defenders with ease.
From there Brees, Sproles, or Ivory converted those short yardage plays into first downs, and the offensive machine that is the Saints kept marching to five consecutive touchdown drives in the second half — they never punted — not once.
It was a dominating performance by the Saints who overcame a rough first half, marred by two self induced fumbles, to play a nearly flawless second half — again no thanks to Drew Brees and Pierre Thomas.
With the win the Saints will now travel to face the second seeded San Francisco 49ers at home, lead by new head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Saints and the 49ers couldn’t be more different. San Francisco is a run first, pass second type of offense that often struggles to put up very many points.
Ball control and clock management is the name of their game.
They do however have a tremendous defense which is a large reason as to why they made playoffs, and also went 13-3 this year.
Of course that’s in stark contract to the Saints, who seem to put up points at will with their potent all-around offense.
Their defense is not considered to be elite, but they can rush the passer and don’t often give up more points than their offense can score.
Another side note to this game it that the Saints, a presumed “dome” team, will struggle at the 49ers windy outdoor stadium on real grass.
Whether that’s true or not is yet to be seen, but as far as the Saints are concerned they aren’t concerned about playing outdoors.