New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Craig Robertson (52) runs with the ball after he stripped it from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the first half on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

Fresh off their bye week, the New Orleans Saints needed a win over the Detroit Lions to top the .500 mark for the first time since 2013.

They got it, by a score of 52-38, but it wasn't as easy as it initially appeared it would be.

After a dominant first half and 31-10 lead that delighted the Superdome crowd, New Orleans watched as the game went from crazy to absolutely bonkers in the second half.

The game featured eight turnovers and four defensive touchdowns, including three Pick 6's. There was also a 74-year punt return for a TD.

The Saints are now 3-2 and on a three-game winning streak after losing the first two games of the season.

The Saints, who hadn't allowed a single turnover this season, gave up three in this game, including an interception return for a TD by Lions defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson in the fourth quarter that cut the Saints' lead to 7 points.

That was preceeded by a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth that cut the Saints lead to 14.

But the Saints defense had even more dominant moments, including five turnovers, three of which resulted in touchdowns: A sack-fumble in the endzone in the first quarter, a Pick 6 in the third and another Pick 6 with five minutes to go that mostly sealed the victory.

Overall, the defense sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford four times and deflected about a dozen passes.

Offensively, Drew Brees threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Mark Ingram also accounted for two scores. He ended the game with 114 yards on 25 carries. Ted Ginn Jr. led the Saints receivers with 4 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.

Willie Snead, returning to the field for this season after a suspension and an injury, made his only catch early in the second quarter for 11 yards.

It was a dominating first half for the Saints. And it started and ended with defense.

After an opening series that went 20 yards in five plays, a Thomas Morstead punt pinned Detroit near its own goal line. The defense then struck, sacking Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the end zone and forcing a fumble that Kenny Vaccaro recovered for 6.

In the only Saints hiccup of the half, the Lions' Golden Tate turned a short pass into a 45-yard score, breaking three tackles to tie it at 7.

But Brees followed with a 20-yard strike to Ted Ginn Jr. to put the Saints back on top, 14-7. and Wil Lutz hit a 41-yarder as the first quarter came to a close.

Early in the second quarter, the defense got another sack-fumble when Craig Robertson knocked the ball out of Stafford's hand and scooped it up.

Minutes later, that turnover lead to the first of two short Ingram TD runs in the second quarter to extend the Saints' lead.

After giving up a Lions field goal, the defense stood strong right before the half, denying Detroit on 4th and goal from the 5 to preserve the 31-10 lead.

The Saints padded their lead by 14 points in the third, with a 2-yard TD pass from Brees to Michael Hoomanawanui, followed by a 27-yard interception return for the score by Marshon Lattimore.

But that's when things came unraveled as the Lions offense found its footing and the ball bounced in all the wrong directions for the Saints. Detroit scored four touchdowns and at one point late in the fourth quarter trailed by only one touchdown.

That's when the Saints defense produced one more big play, a Cameron Jordan interception of a Stafford pass in his own end zone that put the Saints back up by two scores and sealed the victory.

New Orleans went into the game expecting some rapid fire from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, known to get rid of the ball quickly. That type of quarterback style has stumped the Saints.

The Saints, however, were optimistic that they’ve turned a corner on defense after strong performances against the Panthers and Dolphins.

After flirting with getting over .500 the past three seasons that all ended with 7-9 records, Sunday's opportunity to break that psychological barrier was extra tantalizing.

Like those past three seasons, this season started off slow, with an 0-2 start. But the team rebounded from the losses to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots with wins over the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins.