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John DeShazier: New Orleans Saints first units put on strong showing

Posted Aug 16, 2013

'I thought we were emotionally and physically ready,' Coach Sean Payton said.

All the layers weren’t evenly baked, so portions of the New Orleans Saints’ serving on Friday night remained a little less than savory than others.

But the top layer was nothing less than outstanding.

The starting offensive and defensive units combined to produce a dominant showing during their portion of play in New Orleans’ 28-20 victory over Oakland in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The win raised the Saints’ preseason record to 2-0, following a 17-13 decision over Kansas City last Friday.

“We did some good things,” Coach Sean Payton said. “There were a lot of things you can build on. I thought we were emotionally and physically ready to play. That’s pleasing.

“I was pleased. We did some good things. We were mentally ready to play and because of that we were able to move the football and defensively, we did a good job.”

Unlike seven days prior, the Saints' offense and defense clicked from the start. Offensively, the first unit that managed a field goal against the Chiefs produced the electricity it has become known for, and scored on its first five possessions (two touchdowns and three field goals). Quarterback Drew Brees completed 14 of 18 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and Mark Ingram carried nine times for 30 yards and a touchdown.New Orleans Saints

“We knew we wanted to come out with great tempo and execute,” Brees said. “Defense did a great job of getting us the ball back. We sustained drives. (I) wish we could have punched a few more of those drives into the end zone and not settled for field goals. But it’s nice when you don’t punt in the first half.”

And defensively, after yielding a 14-play, 80-yard drive to open the game against the Chiefs, the Saints against the Raiders produced a fourth-down stop, forced four punts and blitzed and bulled their way to five first-half sacks of quarterback Matt Flynn. Inside linebacker Ramon Humber had nine tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry in the first half.

By the time the Raiders mustered any offense, and conjured an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive at the end of the second quarter, the Saints had scored 23 points and rolled up 241 yards of offense.

And the Saints' special teams coverage units that had performed substandard against the Chiefs, allowing 17.7 yards per punt return and 45.3 yards per kickoff return? Oakland finished with 12 yards on one punt return and 117 yards on five kickoff returns (23.4 per return).

“I thought we played hard as a team,” Payton said. “Not always smart. There’ll be a lot of things we can correct off this tape and we’ll do that.”

Likely, any fault-finding with Humber and David Hawthorne, who started at inside linebacker in place of Jonathan Vilma (knee surgery) and Curtis Lofton, will be minimal.

Humber helped set the defensive tone by stuffing Raiders running back Darren McFadden for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Saints’ 43-yard line on Oakland’s opening drive. He registered the Saints’ first sack on Oakland’s third drive, and continued to wreak havoc throughout the half.

Hawthorne chipped in with three tackles, behind Humber’s nine and Kenny Vaccaro’s four among the frontline defenders, as the two helped limit Oakland to 130 yards, six first downs and a 3-for-8 showing on third down in the first half.

“We both feel very comfortable,” Hawthorne said of his connection with Humber. “We’ve been out there problem-solving. The whole way through camp we’ve been out there communicating and gelling.

“I felt like we came out, the defense, and really laid it out.”

New Orleans Saints

Flynn, who completed 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards, was hounded for most of his tenure. The Raider offense shook free from the Saints on the final drive of the first half, and Oakland then benefitted from several Saints turnovers in the second half in order to close the gap.

Defensive end Ryan Robinson returned a fumble one yard for a touchdown and Oakland kicked a field goal off another turnover; Saints reserves committed turnovers on three consecutive possessions in the third quarter.

“We saw a lot of different things,” Payton said. “Really, a tale of two halves for us offensively. I know it’s a preseason game but we did everything in the second half to allow them to get back into it.”

It was a portion of the performance that wasn’t particularly satisfying for Payton or his team. But the top layer was just about everything that  the Saints could’ve hoped a top layer would be

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