Football is back. After an offseason where player activity has made more news than player signings, the New Orleans Saints getting back on the playing field meant more -- after one of harshest punishments ever given to an NFL franchise in the wake of "bounty gate."
In the NFL Hall of Fame game, New Orleans finally got back to football and away from the offseason drama. The Arizona Cardinals helped the Saints open the NFL preseason.
New Orleans received the opening kickoff and Drew Brees went to work. In a ten play drive that covered 77 yards in just over four minutes, the Saints first string offense looked in midseason form.
Mark Ingram scored on a one-yard plunge to give New Orleans an early 7-0 lead. Brees’ night was done after the score with him going four of five for 41 yards.
Brees' counterpart, Kevin Kolb of the St. Louis Cardinals, didn’t have quite the night the record-setting Saints quarterback did. Kolb was constantly harassed by the Saints defense as the Cardinals porous offensive line failed to give very much protection.
Kolb didn’t help make his case to be the starting quarterback when his first pass of the night was intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins. Kolb didn’t see Jenkins jump a short passing route as he made the first of several terrible defensive coverage reads of the night for Arizona.
While Brees only played one offensive series, Kolb kept playing as the Cardinals offense struggled. Kolb’s night ended after he was knocked down in his own end zone after an incomplete pass, injuring his ribs.
Kolb didn’t make it through three full series before he was injured. He was replaced by John Skelton, who is also fighting for the starting quarterback job.
Late in the first quarter, Skelton got the Arizona offense going, in a drive that went 89 yards in 14 plays that lasted over seven minutes to tie the game at 7-7.
After Brees left for the evening, he was replaced by back-up quarterback Chase Daniel. While the Cardinals quarterbacks were under duress most of the night, Daniel put up solid numbers as he played most of the first half and midway into the third quarter.
Daniel finished the night completing 15 of 20 passes for 203 yards. After the Cardinals tied the game, Daniels got the Saints offense rolling once more, driving to the Arizona four yard line.
New Orleans was unable to cross the goal line instead opting for a 23-yard field goal from 42-year-old John Kasay, also fighting for his job, to retake the lead at 10-7. The Saints field goal scoring drive lasted just over four minutes and covered 36 yards in 10 plays.
The Saints got a chance to run their two minute offense in the second quarter and Daniel ran it nearly to perfection. Daniel drove New Orleans 94 yards in seven plays in under a minute and half.
Daniel capped the drive with a Travaris Cadet catching the four yard touchdown pass. New Orleans led at halftime 17-7.
Arizona started the third quarter with a quick three-play series before punting back to New Orleans. In his final series of the night, Daniel drove the Saints to the Cardinals three yard line looking to put the game away.
On second down from the three yard line, Daniel forced a pass in the middle of the field; to a receiver he stared down the entire way. The pass was intercepted, killing the drive. Blake Gideon for the Cardinals made the interception of Daniel pass.
Arizona would add a field goal midway through the third quarter to make it a 17-10 game. New Orleans would take the lead into the fourth quarter and look well in control until the game neared the four-minute mark.
Ryan Lindley had replaced Richard Bartel who had replaced Skelton. Lindley led the Cardinals to their field goal and drove Arizona down the Saints seven yard line.
Early in the fourth quarter, New Orleans lined up for a long field goal by Kasay, but it was blocked by Justin Bethel. The Saints were driving again when the hit of the night happened.
Sean Canfield had replaced Chase Daniel and was leading New Orleans down the field. Canfield completed a 23-yard pass to Andy Tanner down to the Cardinals 30-yard line.
Tanner was then leveled by Eddie Elder, dislodging the ball, causing a fumble that was recovered by the Cardinals. Arizona had twice kept New Orleans from putting the game away and giving the Cardinals a final chance tie the game.
Only needing a touchdown to tie, Lindley forced a pass that was intercepted by Lawrence Wilson to basically end the game. New Orleans forced Arizona to use all their timeouts to get the ball back, but the Cardinals didn’t have enough time to get the game tying touchdown.
New Orleans was able to defeat Arizona 17-10 in the team’s first preseason game. The Saints will play the New England Patriots on Thursday at Gillette Stadium.
In Steve Spagnuolo’s debut as New Orleans defensive coordinator the Saints made two interceptions, three sacks, five tackles for a loss and seven quarterback hits. While there were some coverage breakdowns, not a bad start for this new look Saints defense.
I was impressed with Travaris Cadet (8 catches, 80 yards), Andy Tanner (4 catches, 75 yards), and Joe Barnyard (5 carries, 18 yards) on offense. On defense, Martez Wilson (1.5 sacks) and Lawrence Wilson (interception) were able to catch my eye.
New Orleans was 4 for 13 on third down. Doesn’t mean much in the first game, but is worth watching as the preseason moves on.
The Saints find running back after running back. There are not enough carries for every running back to make this team but the running backs that get cut will have a good chance of making another team.