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Derek Carr effective, efficient in preseason debut as New Orleans Saints quarterback

'Love being on this side of things in the Dome'

Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL Preseason.
Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL Preseason.

Twelve plays, 80 yards and 5:24 of game time was all Dennis Allen needed to see to know Derek Carr didn't need any more work in the New Orleans' preseason opener, a 26-24 Saints victory on Sunday over Kansas City in the Caesars Superdome.

On that game-opening drive, Carr completed six passes to four receivers – in eight attempts – for 70 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to Keith Kirkwood, as the Saints' starting offense smoothly navigated its way down the field. New Orleans converted the one third-down attempt it faced on the drive, and on first-and-10 from the Chiefs' 22-yard line, used four plays to score, including the red zone pass.

"It felt good," Carr said. "It was nice to get a couple of situations in there, third down, get some red zone and all that stuff. They don't tell us how much we're going to play and all, so, to be able to get a couple of situations in there and throughout the game talk through things with (offensive coordinator) Pete (Carmichael) in certain situations and things like that, in a game-time scenario, it was good.

"It was a lot of fun. Love being on this side of things in the Dome. I can get used to this place, it's a lot of fun."

"I just thought he was in control, poised, threw it to the open guy," Allen said. "Kind of the way you would want your quarterback to operate the offense. Did a nice job stepping up in the pocket a couple of times. I thought overall, it was a good experience."

Top to bottom, Carr said, Sunday was enjoyable experience even though the 10-year veteran, who spent his first nine seasons with the Raiders, was more like a rookie in his official Superdome debut.

"When I woke up this morning, everything was new to me," Carr said. "Where's the pregame meal? I followed (center) Erik McCoy in. I was like, 'Bro, I don't know where to go to park. Can I follow you?'

"As soon as I got in here, Reg (Saints assistant athletic trainer) Reggie Stone) was showing me everything there is in the locker room. Like, all right, where's the shower? Where's the snacks? Everything was new, so for me to get out there more importantly and play football in the stadium, this time when it wasn't loud, where you can operate and do those kinds of things, it was important to me to do that.

"It doesn't matter how old I am, how many years I've played in the NFL. Dealing with a new group, all new receivers and for everyone to get in there, I think it's a mark of this team that any chance we can get to go out there and Coach will let us, we just want to compete and play."

The Saints scored on their first two offensive possessions, and the defense produced stops on Kansas City's first two – a fourth-and-one walling at the Chiefs' 48-yard line, and a forced punt after allowing seven yards on three plays.

The only blemish during Carr's line drive was a false start penalty attributed to left tackle Trevor Penning.

"I look at that and I always put false starts on myself," Carr said. "Was there something in the communication process that I didn't do right? Everyone always wants to look at the jersey number that they put it on, but I have a lot to do with that, too. I've got to look at that. If there's a way I can help us be better, that's all I'm looking to do."

Otherwise, the ball distribution was reminiscent of the seasons when the Saints had one of the NFL's most potent offenses.

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"Hopefully, our skill guys just continue to understand, one guy may have 10 catches in a game, you may have two," Carr said. "And that may happen for two weeks, and then boom, you're going to have 12.

"We have to be able to play that way and play selflessly. I believe that we have a group that will do that. Because everybody's catching the ball – bam, bam, bam, the first play is to Chris (Olave), then you go to A.T. (Perry), find Juwan (Johnson), then find Mike (Thomas). Everyone is touching it and then all of a sudden, Keith gets a touchdown.

"So everyone did the cardio and Keith got the reward. Hopefully, our guys understand that that's just how we're going to have to play if we want to do the things that we want to do."

Sunday also was the first time Carr's family was able to support him as New Orleans' starting quarterback in the Superdome. Their excitement probably matched his.

"For them, putting on Black and Gold for the first time, it was probably a little weird because when I put that uniform on and I looked in the mirror, (quarterback) Jake (Haener) walked up and he's like, 'That looks weird.' I said, 'I know, bro,'" Carr said, smiling.

"I've been in the same place for nine years. It may look weird but it felt right. I told D.A. that earlier this week, I just feel refreshed, I feel rejuvenated. To put that uniform on and come out and be a Saint, it felt really good. I know my wife was excited about today.

"My three boys – my little girl, she doesn't care, she was yelling, 'Touchdown Raiders!' the other day and I was like, you've got to fix that – my three boys, they were so fired up. I got to see them before the game and it was really cool for me, they were on the field. Those are memories they'll have forever. They're going to know more about this game than I will."

Likely, one of the lasting memories for Carr will be that McCoy led him to the facility. He said he heard the story about quarterback Drew Brees nearly being late for his Superdome debut because he got lost. So he followed McCoy from the team hotel.

"Oh yeah," Carr said. "He waited for me, he was down there, I pulled out, I waved to him, I followed him all the way to my parking spot.

"They did tell me that story (about Brees), that's why I specifically made sure I had someone to follow. Who better to follow than your center?"

Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL Preseason.

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