NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns to help the Saints beat the Lions 45-28 in Saturday's wild-card game at the Superdome.
The Lions hardly looked like a playoff neophyte, however.
Matthew Stafford threw for a pair of touchdowns to stake the Lions to a 14-10 halftime lead in their first postseason appearance since 1999.
Then when Brees and the Saints appeared on the verge of blowing the game open, Stafford hit Calvin Johnson three times, including a 42-yarder, before running it himself on a 1-yard bootleg to keep Detroit in the game.
Johnson finished with 12 catches for 211 yards.
Stafford's final touchdown, a 12-yarder to Johnson, cut it to 38-28 with 4:40 left. But New Orleans went right down the field, capped by Pierre Thomas' 1-yard run with 3:36 left.
The Saints, rolling into the postseason on an eight-game win streak, took their first lead of the night on Brees' 41-yard pass to Devery Henderson early in the second half. Then the record-setting quarterback completed 7 of 8 passes for 94 yards on another scoring drive, which he kept going by leaping over the line for a first down when New Orleans went for it on fourth and inches from its 38.
Three plays later, Brees, who completed 33 of 43 passes, hit Marques Colston for 40 yards quickly followed by a 3-yard scoring pass to Jimmy Graham.
Stafford went to tight end Will Heller for a 10-yard touchdown on Detroit's opening possession then connected with Johnson on a 13-yard score. Darren Sproles tied the score at 7 early in the second quarter with a 2-yard run.
New Orleans' high-powered offense, which lost an NFL-low five fumbles during the regular season, coughed it up twice during the first half.
Colston was stripped of the ball at the Detroit 13 on the Saints' first possession. Brees later had the ball knocked away just before his right arm went forward trying to get off a pass.
The Saints caught a break on Brees' fumble. An inadvertent whistle halted the play, costing linebacker Justin Durant a chance to take off with a clear path to the end zone. The Lions failed to move the ball after both turnovers.