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Saints open playoffs with 45-28 win over Lions

By Brett Martel

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 8 2012 5:50 a.m. MST

Saints quarterback Drew Brees throws a pass to Jed Collins for a first down against the the Detroit Lions during first quarter action of an NFL playoff on Saturday, Jan. 7 2011 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Sun Herald, Amanda McCoy, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are pouring on the points, racking up the wins and rewriting the record books nearly every time they play.

Things sure are rollin' on the river.

Brees led an unstoppable offense by throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns, and New Orleans dominated the second half for a 45-28 NFC wild-card victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.

New Orleans broke the postseason mark for total yards with 626, beating the record set 49 years ago.

"We were pulling out all the stops," Brees said. "We play aggressive. We're not going to apologize for that. That gives guys in the huddle a lot of confidence. We're not going to pull the reins back. It's pedal to the metal."

Brees hit on 33 of 43 passes while throwing for the most yards in a regulation playoff game. He highlighted his night with three completions of at least 40 yards.

"We just focus on winning. We're not focused on yards and records," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I'm serious when I say that."

As usual, the quarterback had plenty of help from an offense that set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage this season (7,474), outgaining Detroit on the ground 167 yards to 32. The Saints (14-3) will travel to San Francisco (13-3) for next Saturday's second-round game.

Matthew Stafford threw for 380 yards and three TDs for the Lions (10-7), who simply could not keep pace in their first playoff appearance since the 1999 season. They have lost seven straight postseason games.

"It's a learning experience for the whole team. We'll get better. We'll be back," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "Obviously it hurts right now."

All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson had 12 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns in his playoff debut for Detroit, but that was not nearly enough as the Saints' defense responded in the fourth quarter with two interceptions by Jabari Greer.

"We did make the playoffs this year and that's a great accomplishment," Johnson said. "We have some things to work on and we will. We know what we have to do to make the next step."

The teams combined for 1,038 yards, tying an NFL playoff record set by Buffalo and Miami on Dec. 30, 1995. The Superdome will likely host a much different contest on Monday night, when defensive stalwarts LSU and Alabama meet for the BCS national title. Fans in the dome cheered wildly for the LSU band as it played before the game and at halftime, then enjoyed a second half that culminated in what they hope will be the first of two Big Easy celebrations in three nights.

Pierre Thomas finished with 66 yards and one touchdown rushing, while Darren Sproles added 51 yards, two scores and several other clutch plays.

Marques Colston overcame an early fumble with seven catches for 120 yards, including a 40-yarder to set up Jimmy Graham's short TD grab.

Robert Meachem had four catches for 111 yards, including a 56-yard score. Devery Henderson added a 41-yard touchdown reception.

New Orleans showed guts and got a little good fortune on a decisive 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. The Saints ran Sproles around the left end on fourth-and-2 at the Lions 40 and gained 3 yards. Soon after, Brees' pass as he was clobbered by Nick Fairley went right through the hands of defensive back Aaron Berry.

Berry would regret that drop two plays later as Sproles bolted 17 yards to make it 31-21.

Stafford tried to get some of that back quickly, throwing deep for Titus Young, but Greer ran under it and picked it off. Four plays later, Brees spotted Meachem behind blown coverage for his long score to make it 38-21.

The Lions became only the second visiting team all year to lead at halftime in the Superdome, where the Saints were unbeaten during the regular season.

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