Saints Starters Shine Against Super Bowl Champs
The Patriots might have won this preseason game, 26-24, but we all saw the Saints' starters take them to task in the first half.
Backups couldn't finish off the Pats, but Brees' bunch came out with the type of cohesiveness that gets fans buzzing. Head Coach Sean Payton wasn't pleased with the ending, but it didn't take away from the start.
"I was pleased, early on, emotionally, how our guys came out," Payton said.
Offensively, Brees registered a perfect QB rating (158.3), while sufficiently outdoing "Mr. Perfect," Tom Brady. He looked like vintage Brees.
Brady only completed two of his five passes for 15 yards. The Saints' leader was 8/10 for 159 yards, while connecting on a pair of TD's to Ben Watson and Brandin Cooks. The throw to Watson had some zip, and Cooks' catch came in stride deep down the field. Still think Brees' long ball is going to the wayside?
Cooks was a clear bright spot on offense, snaring two catches for big plays and racking up a total of 124 yards on five touches. If he stays healthy, Cooks could prove you don't have to be 6'4" to be a number one receiver in the NFL. His head coach isn't surprised at all.
"He's made a ton of strides...we're seeing his growth, like, right now," Payton said.
Two players looking to stand out, WR's Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones, did so...but in the wrong way. Coleman's praises have been sung from the mountaintops all offseason, but he let a sure TD slip out of his hands in the first half. Jones caught a case of the dropsies in the fourth quarter as well, and his TD could have put New Orleans in position to win. With Sean Payton giving you a chance, those are passes that need to be caught.
The running backs got a lot of work catching out of the backfield, with Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson combining for five catches and 73 yards. The running game never really got off the ground (55 total rushing yards), but it never had to.
Brees, McCown and company provided 350+ passing yards, but rookie Garrett Grayson looked the shakiest under center. Some jitters and nerves took over at home in the Dome, but he should get used to it over time. After the Saints moved up to draft him, it would be highly unlikely for Grayson to lose the backup battle and get relegated to the practice squad. In the meantime, McCown chucked a deep ball to Cooks and found a TE (Josh Hill) in the endzone, just like Brees.
Rob Ryan's defense put the lights out on the Patriots in the first quarter, when the starters were on the field.
With predominantly backups in the secondary, Tom Brady struggled to get comfortable. The Patriots barely picked up a first down the entire quarter and were forced into a couple three and outs. Rookie Linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha was active early and often, registering five tackles and a pair of tackles for loss. He also got to lay his first real lick on a QB in the NFL, but it was after a throw (no flag on the play).
Jimmy Garoppolo got after the Saints' backups (28/33, 268 yds, 1 TD) on the Patriots way to victory, but even Pierre Warren got in on the action with an INT during that stretch. Coach Payton's eye did notice a serious point of concern that hit the starters and backups after the loss.
"I don't know that we hit the quarterback all night," Payton said. "That's concerning."
Even in a loss, the result in Week 2 of preseason was much better than the first. No major injuries to add to the growing list, the starters performed at impressive levels against the Super Bowl Champions...they just didn't finish the job.
NOTE: Former Ragin' Cajun LB Justin Anderson collected a tackle on special teams for the Saints. Anderson was picked up by New Orleans less than a week ago.