NEW ORLEANS - NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Sam LaPorta had career highs of nine catches for 140 yards, including an early touchdown and a crucial first-down snag in the final minutes, and the Detroit Lions defeated the reeling New Orleans Saints 33-28 on Sunday to post their best record through 12 games since 1962.
The Saints lost quarterback Derek Carr in the fourth quarter to back, shoulder and head injuries. Carr was hurt on a penalized hit by Bruce Irvin, who drove the weight of his body into the quarterback.
Jared Goff passed for 213 yards and two TDs for the Lions (9-3), who raced to a three-touchdown lead and then held off a valiant comeback bid by the Saints. New Orleans (5-7) fell one game behind first-place Atlanta in the league’s weakest division, the NFC South.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 03: Jameson Williams #9 of the Detroit Lions dives to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome on December 03, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Gr
After falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter, the Saints pulled as close as 24-21 late in the third. The Saints also had the ball at midfield with a chance to take the lead in the final three minutes, but turned the ball over on downs when Jameis Winston threw behind Chris Olave.
Detroit was able to run out the clock from there, thanks to first-down catches by LaPorta and Josh Reynolds.
The Saints turned the ball over twice and both were costly.
Carr was intercepted on the Saints’ first offensive play of the game. He also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter when left guard James Hurst inadvertently knocked the ball from Carr’s hands as the quarterback gathered the snap on the New Orleans 25 and turned as if to hand off. The Lions converted both takeaways into touchdowns.
Tracy Walker recovered Carr’s fumble, setting up Jameson Williams’ 19-yard touchdown run on a reverse to make it 33-21.
The Saints got back within one score with 7:30 to go when Alvin Kamara, who had 109 yards and two TDs from scrimmage, scored his 53rd career TD rushing to set a new franchise mark.
The Lions roared out of the gate, tying a franchise record with 21 first-quarter points.
David Montgomery’s short run made it 7-0, capping a drive highlighted by Jahmyr Gibbs’ 32-yard run to the New Orleans 2.
Next came Lions defensive back Brian Branch’s interception on a pass tipped by tight end Juwan Johnson, setting up Goff’s 13-yard scoring pass to LaPorta.
Goff’s 29-yard completion to LaPorta set up his 25-yard scoring strike to Amon-Ra St. Brown, who also passed Calvin Johnson for most yards receiving by a Lion in his first three seasons.
Long-suffering Lions fans traveled en masse for a chance to see their team post its best record through 12 games in six decades. Detroit started 10-2 in 1962.
The "Honolulu blue" of the Lions’ color scheme was prevalent across the Superdome stands and there were moments when chants of "Lets go Lions!" reverberated throughout the stadium.
Detroit, which hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2016 season, has a comfortable lead in the NFC North.
The game was delayed in the first half when Kamara was tackled into a member of the chain crew, taking out the sideline assistant’s legs. The injured official was carted of the field and the chain crew operated with one fewer person for the remainder of the game.
Lions: C Frank Ragnow left in the first half with a knee injury. DT Alim McNeill also appeared hurt after a play in the third quarter, but was able to jog to the sideline.
Saints: OL Andrus Peat was treated for a hand injury but returned. DT Malcolm Roach also was treated for an injury in the fourth quarter.
Lions: Visit Chicago next Sunday.
Saints: Host Carolina next Sunday.