Austin Johnson continues to make his case for why he deserves a spot on this team.
The unheralded fullback has filled in admirably through the early portion of the season with Erik Lorig sidelined with an ankle injury. And he put an exclamation point on his résumé by catching a 13-yard touchdown pass in Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.
It was the first touchdown of his career. Still, Johnson was able to think only about how the game was lost and not his individual achievements.
“It felt like we deserved to win. We were right there, and we had it, and it kind of slipped out of our hands,” Johnson said. “We just got to get better next week.”
Johnson’s play came with Lorig, who is supposed to be the starting fullback, once again inactive despite returning to practice this week, and Jed Collins, New Orleans’ starting fullback from 2011-2013, playing for Detroit.
It’s unclear whether the Saints will continue to carry two fullbacks once Lorig is ready to return to action. Coach Sean Payton recently lauded Johnson’s effort this season and noted the team has carried two fullbacks in previous seasons.
Reggie Bush’s first performance against his former team likely did not go as hoped.
Sure, he won the game, but his individual performance failed to inspire.
The running back had four carries for 10 yards and caught five passes for 22 yards.
Bush did not speak with reporters after the game, but tight end Brandon Pettigrew spoke on his behalf.
“You always want to beat up on your old team and get the win if you can,” Pettigrew said. “I’m sure it meant a lot to him, and it was big to him.”
Asked if Bush was keyed up for the game, Pettigrew said that was likely the case.
“There was probably some personal things in it for him, but as a whole, we want to keep it going and get the win for us as a team,” he said.
It’s safe to say Saints center Jonathan Goodwin’s season has not gone as smoothly as he hoped it would.
Having already left wins at home against Minnesota on Sept. 21 and Tampa Bay on Oct. 5 with early injuries, Goodwin was carted off Sunday after suffering a leg injury with about 51 seconds left in the first half. He was banged up protecting Saints quarterback Drew Brees on a 16-yard completion to wide receiver Kenny Stills.
Second-year interior offensive lineman Tim Lelito came in for Goodwin, as he did when the Saints beat the Vikings and the Buccaneers.
The only game Goodwin has been able to finish out of the Saints’ past four was a Sept. 28 defeat at Dallas.
On the other side of the ball for the Saints, veteran nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley hurt his head on New Orleans’ first defensive snap of the second half, an 11-yard pass for the Lions. Bunkley soon walked to the locker room, was evaluated for a concussion and was ruled out.
Another player who was carted off in the third quarter was second-year defensive end Glenn Foster, who had a knee injury. He didn’t return.
Veteran running back Pierre Thomas headed into the locker room after being tackled on a third-and-5 reception from New Orleans’ 25 in the third quarter. The play was negated by a penalty.
Stills, cornerback Corey White and offensive lineman Zach Strief also dealt with undiclosed minor ailments throughout the game.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis was sidelined on the final drive with a leg injury.
Khiry Robinson fumbled for the time in his career on an offensive play Sunday afternoon. Robinson had previously fumbled only on a kickoff return. ... Wide receiver Marques Colston played in the 123rd game of his NFL career, putting him in sole possession of 25th place on the club’s all-time games played list. ... Stills had a 46-yard touchdown reception. All six of his career touchdown receptions have been for 34 or more yards. ... White recorded his first career sack in the fourth quarter.