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Hanson lined up for 55-yarder early in the fourth quarter that could have pulled the Lions even closer, but missed it wide left. That set up the Saints’ decisive seven-play, 55-yard scoring drive on which Brees found Graham four times for 46 yards before hitting Sproles for his score.

“I like the fact that we answered in the second half when the momentum shifted,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.

Although the Lions were without Ndamukong Suh because of his two-game suspension, and also without injured defensive backs Chris Houston (left knee) and Louis Delmas (left knee), Schwartz said that was no excuse for several defensive lapses, particularly in the first half.

“We played poorly on defense. We never gave ourselves a chance,” Schwartz said. “We didn’t get the job done in coverage. We didn’t get the job done rushing the passer.”

Still, Detroit got more pressure on Brees than the Saints’ recent opponents, sacking him twice, including rookie Nick Fairley’s first career sack. Brees had not been sacked in three previous games.

Stafford completed 31 of 44 passes, but was sacked three times and intercepted by Tracy Porter.

Nate Burleson had five catches for 93 yards, while Calvin Johnson had six catches for 69 yards. Kevin Smith had a 2-yard touchdown run in the first half.

Meachem caught three passes for 119 yards, and the Saints’ defense was bolstered by the return of linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who had missed three games with left knee injury that required surgery. He had a team-leading 10 tackles.

Notes: Lions T Jeff Backus set a new franchise record with his 172nd consecutive start, surpassing Hall of Fame CB Dick LeBeau. … Schwartz said Fairley was limited by pain in his left foot, which he’d injured during training camp, but X-rays were negative. … Brees is the second quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 or more yards in six straight seasons. Peyton Manning did it from 1999-2004. … Graham now has 1,046 yards this season, making him the first Saints tight end to have more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season.