Saints Make Progress, Dominating at Times
The New Orleans Saints have played progressively better in each of their four preseason games, attaining dominant form in their latest showing.
If this momentum carries into the regular season, the rest of the National Football Conference could spend the rest of 2007 chasing New Orleans . Then again, the Saints were without a victory during their 2006 preseason games and went on to win often when it counted, which might be why the veteran receiver David Patten, winner of three Super Bowl rings, played down his and the Saints' excellent performance after Thursday night's 30-7 trouncing of Kansas City.
“It's a meaningless preseason game,” said Patten, who caught 6 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. “Even though we played well, all our records will be the same in a few weeks. We have to stay humble and work hard.”
Still, the Saints had a lot to be encouraged by, starting with the play of the Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who has been exceptional since his dismal showing in a Hall of Fame game loss to Pittsburgh on Aug. 5.
He completed 1 pass for 6 yards against the Steelers but has since completed 90 percent of his passes. Against the Chiefs, he was 17 of 19 for 182 yards. That made him 35 of 39 for 355 yards during the Saints' past three games. And his top two receivers, Marques Colston (sore knee) and Devery Henderson (hamstring), have not played in either of the past two games.
After the Chiefs game, Brees said, “The expectations are pretty high that I have for myself, that the head coach has for me and my quarterback coach, and obviously the guys around me, so I just try to get better each week, try to be as efficient as I can.”
With the first units playing most of the first half, the disparity in total yardage was wide in the Saints favor, with New Orleans gaining 266 to Kansas City 's 69.
The Saints finished with 479 total yards.
“We had a lot of energy,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “I'm very pleased coming in on the road and playing as crisp as we did. We flew around on defense. And Brees and that offense was sharp. We've got to get better in the red zone. A couple of those things I can correct.”
As lopsided as the score was, it could have been worse. Twice, the Saints went for a touchdown on fourth-and-short near the goal line — once with the first team in — and failed to score.
But Payton was not his normal creative self either time. Instead, he ran basic running plays, essentially challenging his offensive linemen to push the pile back when they needed to. They couldn't, but it was one of the few shortcomings in the game for New Orleans .
The Saints looked good on field goals, with the new kicker Olindo Mare hitting all three he attempted, the longest from 44 yards.
There were also some surprises. Late in the game, it appeared Payton was trying to run out the clock and otherwise go easy on Coach Herm Edwards's Chiefs by giving the ball over and over again to the fifth-string running back, Pierre Thomas.
Thomas responded by rushing for 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11 carries, with one run as long as 32 yards. He was not expected to make the roster coming into training camp and still may not, but it will be tougher to cut him now.
“He made a real good impression on us,” Payton said, “not just in tonight's game but throughout the course of this camp.. He played well and he played hard.”
If Thomas does stick, it may mean the Saints will have to let go of either the veteran Aaron Stecker or the rookie fourth-round draft choice Antonio Pittman. The Saints could always try to place Thomas on their practice squad, but he would have to be cut and clear waivers first. And the odds that no other team will try to claim Thomas off the waiver wire have probably dropped.
Pittman, meanwhile, continued to exhibit ability running the ball, but also continued to struggle with his blocking. Payton had chewed him out after his missed blocks contributed to sacks a game earlier. When Jamie Martin threw the Saints' only interception against Kansas City , the pass was tipped by a defender Pittman was struggling to block.
The Saints have their final preseason game on Thursday night at home against Miami . The starters will most likely not play much with the regular season opener at Indianapolis one week later.
But it will be an important game for a number of reserves who survive the first major round of cuts, which must be completed by Tuesday, when every team's roster must drop to 75 from the current maximum of 85. The Saints' roster was at 82 late last week. The final cuts, bringing the active roster to its regular-season maximum of 53, must take place no later than Saturday.
•Saints' Bush has Microfracture Knee Surgery
•Bush is Ready for Return
•Saints Expect Bush for Week 11
•Bush Misses Practice
•Impact Player: Reggie Bush
•49ers Defense to Keep an Eye on Reggie Bush
•Reggie Bush Wants to Silence Critics
•Bush Gunning for Big Gains
•Saints' Bush Driven to Excel
•Reggie Bush Signs New Deal with Saints
•Bush Ready for Productive 3rd Season
•Saints Want Bush to Emulate Westbrook
•Reggie Bush Vows to Focus on Football
home | biography | stats | quotes | links | news | sitemap