After the Hall of Fame game, the New Orleans Saints spent the week holding joint practices with the New England Patriots before their preseason game. Those joint practices might have allowed both teams’ defense to dominate during the game.
The game started with the Saints losing the coin toss and the Patriots deferring until the second half. New Orleans' offense would fail to make a first down and was forced to punt on their first possession of the game.
That would be the story most of the night for the Saints offense, as it failed to get on track for the majority of the game. Even Drew Brees had a rough outing, only completing one pass for four yards in two offensive series.
After the Saints punted, New England was forced to punt, but an offsides penalty on Martez Wilson kept the Patriots drive alive. New Orleans was able to end that extra drive after the penalty when Will Smith sacked Tom Brady and forced a fumble.
The fumble was recovered by Curtis Loftin at the New England 34 yard line. Brees was unable to get the ball into the end zone and the Saints were forced to kick a field goal. John Kasay converted on a 46-yard field goal to give New Orleans a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.
Brady would finish the night completing just four of seven passes for 30 yards with no touchdowns and, of course, a fumble.
Neither team did much offensively for the rest of the first half. There were more low lights than highlights for both teams.
Replacing Brees at quarterback was Chase Daniel, with just over five minutes left in the first quarter. Daniel would get picked off by Steve Gregory at the Patriots 12-yard line. Gregory would return the ball back to the New England 17-yard line.
Daniel’s night would be over after his interception, having completed four of six passes for 62 yards. After the INT, Brian Hoyer replaced Brady and was helped out by another Saints penalty on a punt to keep the drive after Daniel’s interception alive. Martez Wilson was flagged for running into Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko.
Hoyer was replaced by Ryan Mallett, who would be unable to take advantage of the second penalty by the Saints on fourth down that kept a New England drive alive.
Mallett would throw an interception of his own right before the two minute warning. The former Arkansas Razorback was picked off by former Alabama player Marquis Johnson at the New England 49 yard line.
Sean Canfield would take over for Daniel after the Johnson interception. He drove the Saints down to the Patriots 32 yard line.
Canfield floated a pass on first down that Patrick Chung intercepted at the Patriots 11-yard line. It was a tough night overall for Canfield, as he went completed six of ten passes for 45 yards.
Mallett got a final drive after the Canfield interception. He drove the Patriots to the New Orleans 34 yard line to set up a field goal before halftime.
Stephen Gostkowski missed a 53 yard field goal with one second remaining. Canfield took a knee to end the first half.
New England mucked up the second half kickoff return and started their first drive of the third quarter at their own three yard line. The Patriots reinserted Hoyer at quarterback and he lead the best offensive drive of the night for either team.
Hoyer lead the Patriots on a 14-play drive that would take just over five minutes. He capped the drive off with a three yard touchdown pass to Britt Davis to give New England a 7-3 lead.
The touchdown drive ended Hoyer’s night going 8 of 15 for 45 yards.
Most of the third quarter would see both teams punting more than gaining first downs. After the touchdown both teams punted four times while gaining just two first downs.
New Orleans gained those two first downs late in the third quarter starting a drive at their own 22-yard line. Luke McCown, after taking the reins from Canfield, lead the Saints to the New England 10-yard line on an eight-play, 78-yard drive.
The drive ended with Garrett Hartley making a 27-yard field goal to cut the Patriots lead to 7-6 early in the fourth quarter. The Saints had one final chance to take the lead at the midway point of the final quarter.
McCown took the Saints from their own 40 yard line to the Patriots 23 yard line in 10 plays in a 37-yard drive. Kasay missed a 41-yard field goal.
Mallett finished the game 8-of-19 passing for 89 yards. McCown would finish 9-of-16 passing for 86 yards.
The Saints fell 7-6 to the Patriots.
1. Saints’ Defense
In the last two preseason games, New Orleans has been very good on defense. Tonight against New England the defense was solid in pass coverage and tackled well. A one-drive letdown that let the Patriots score their touchdown was the only blemish.
The Saints held Arizona to 189 yards passing and New England to 153 yards passing. New Orleans has three interceptions and a fumble recovery in two games.
I am not trying to blow anything out of proportion after just two preseason games but I have been impressed by the Saints defense. New Orleans defense has been better in pass coverage and tackling in preseason two games, than in most games last season.
If the defense keeps improving, there will be no last second losses in the playoffs like last year.
2. Saints receivers
Courtney Roby, Joe Morgan and Andy Tanner have been standouts at receiver. Tanner with eight catches for 120 yard and Roby with nine catches for 139 yards have been bright spots.
Morgan might have just four catches for 42 yards but he provides a deep threat (as seen by the pass interference play that set up the Saints final field goal) that New Orleans lost when Robert Meachem left. Plus, Morgan might become a major part of the return game (giving Darren Sproles breaks).
All three might not make the team but it seems highly unlikely that all three will fail to make the final roster. They have been the major play makers in the first two preseason games.
3. Crowed backfield
New Orleans has six running backs and two full backs on their roster. In my mind, only Mark Ingram and Sproles are guaranteed to make the final roster.
That means Pierre Thomas, Joe Banyard, Chris Ivory, and Travaris Cadet are fighting for one or two roster spots. Jed Collins will have the inside track at full back with Korey Hall looking to steal a spot.
The three to four backs that get cut by the Saints should find their way onto another team’s roster. Ivory and Thomas have the inside track to make the Saints roster but they will have Cadet and Banyard looking over their shoulder.
In two games, the Saints have yet to break 100 yards rushing as team. Cadet has put the ball on the turf twice but has not lost a fumble.
4. Backup quarterback
Chase Daniel is clearly the backup quarterback, but if New Orleans decides to keep three quarterbacks, the third spot is up for grabs. Unless there is an injury the final quarterback spot is between Canfield and McCown.
Against the Cardinals, Canfield had a nice game and McCown never saw the field. McCown was the better quarterback against the Patriots.
Neither Canfield nor McCown looked great against New England, but McCown did put together drives for scoring chances. New Orleans has to decide if they are going with a veteran (McCown) or a younger quarterback.
Chase Daniel signed a one year deal and could leave next offseason. The Saints might be looking for their future number two quarterback this preseason.
5. Bad penalties
New Orleans had a couple of penalties that kept New England drives alive. It is not problem by any stretch at this point, but it is something to watch as the Saints break in younger defensive players.
The penalties on the punts were really boneheaded and could cost the team a win in a regular season game.