DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions turned an early rout into a nail-biter on Sunday, and not in the way Dan Campbell wanted.
The Lions led the New Orleans Saints 21-0 in the first seven minutes, but had to hold on at the end.
In the last five minutes, the Saints had the ball in Lions territory, trailing 33-28, but turned the ball over on downs at the Detroit 40.
“We won that game in the first eight minutes,” Campbell said. “We didn’t know that was how it was going to go down, but that’s what gave us the lead that we were able to use to hold on and win.”
Detroit’s offense and defense combined for the quick start. The Lions turned an interception and two three-and-outs into three touchdowns.
That could have ended the game, but Detroit’s shaky defense gave up 28 points in the final 3 1/2 quarters to let the Saints back into the game.
Even with Derek Carr injured, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill gave the Saints a chance to stun the Lions at the end.
“We had to fight them off at the end, but the defense got us two takeaways that turned into 14 points,” Campbell said. “Then (Jared) Goff made two critical plays on third downs to finish it off.
“There’s nothing easy about these wins, but we found a way.”
Tight end Sam LaPorta had nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. The second-round pick out of Iowa has 64 catches for 679 yards and six touchdowns and has joined WR Amon-Ra St. Brown as Goff’s top playmakers in key situations.
Campbell had a good career as an NFL tight end, but struggles to talk about LaPorta’s performance.
“I know what it is like to do what he’s doing when it comes to run-blocking and pass protection, but I have no idea what it is like to go out there, run those routes and catch all those passes,” he said with a smile. “I was never close to that level. It’s not easy to play this position as a rookie, but he can do it all.”
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