by Larry Lage, AP Sports Writer
Drew Brees threw two touchdown passes to Tre’Quan Smith 2:19 apart in the second quarter, helping the short-handed New Orleans Saints overcome a 14-point deficit and beat the Detroit Lions 35-29 Sunday.
New Orleans (2-2) started the game without six injured starters after a short night of rest. The Saints had a player test falsely positive for the coronavirus Saturday, according to a person familiar with the situation, leading to another round of tests for players and staff overnight in the Motor City.
Early in the game at fan-free Ford Field, the Lions (1-3) looked as though they might take advantage of facing a tired team without three starters on both sides of the ball as they led 14-0 lead 4:37 after kickoff.
New Orleans, though, responded by scoring 35 straight points from late in the first period to midway through the third to take control.
Matthew Stafford ended the Saints’ run with a 1-yard TD pass to T.J. Hockenson late in the third quarter. The Lions pulled within six points with 3:36 left in the fourth on Adrian Peterson’s 5-yard run and Hockenson’s 2-point conversion catch.
The Saints sealed the win with Brees converting a third-and-5 from his 27 with a 19-yard pass to Smith and Alvin Kamara running for 5 yards on third-and-3 from midfield.
Detroit has gotten off to a strong start in every game this season, but only has one victory to show for it.
Stafford capped the opening drive with a 7-yard TD pass to rookie D’Andre Swift. And after Brees’ first pass was deflected and intercepted by Darryl Roberts on his first snap, Stafford threw a 15-yard pass to Kenny Golladay to give Detroit its third double-digit lead that wasn’t large enough.
The Lions lost a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead the opener against Chicago. In Week 2, they were ahead by 11 points against Green Bay before giving up 31 straight points and losing an 11th straight game.
Detroit bounced back to beat Arizona with a game-ending drive last week, but embattled coach Matt Patricia fell to 10-25-1 after his team collapsed again. Patricia may have a lot of questions to answer from ownership during the bye week to keep his job.
The 41-year-old Brees, without injured receiver Michael Thomas, spread the ball around as he found soft spots in zone coverage. He also had the benefit of a ground game that moved the ball easily against one of the NFL’s worst defenses against the run.
Brees was 19 of 25 for 246 yards with two TDs and an interception.
Kamara accounted for 83 yards on the ground and a seventh TD this season. Latavius Murray had 64 yards rushing and two scores.
Stafford was 17 of 31 for 206 yards with three TDs and an interception.
Saints: Thomas, who practiced during the week, missed a third straight game with an ankle injury. DE Marcus Davenport (elbow, toe), CB Marshon Lattimore (hamstring), CB Janoris Jenkins (shoulder), TE Jared Cook (groin) and LG Andrus Peat (ankle) were also inactive.
Lions: CB Desmond Trufant was active for the first time since Week 1, but went out in the third quarter after aggravating injured right hamstring and didn’t return. DT Nick Williams left with a shoulder injury.
Saints: Host the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday, Oct. 12.
Lions: Bye week.
(Photos by Duane Burleson & Hunter Dawkins/Associated Press)