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John DeShazier: New Orleans Saints preseason finale filled with youthful indiscretion

Plenty of material for coaches to look at

!Miami Gardens, Fla. – As getaways go, it wasn't totally clean.

Maybe, there wasn't much reason to expect it to be, given that the New Orleans Saints' final preseason game, Thursday night against Miami at Sun Life Stadium, mainly was to feature young players fighting for a few remaining roster spots, with neither team expected to show much creativity on offense or defense.

But in New Orleans ' 24-21 loss, its lone defeat this preseason, Saints Coach Sean Payton saw several examples of execution and judgment that he likely wasn't hoping to see. But, too, some that he was.

"Overall, penalties and turnovers hurt us," he said. "A lot of guys gave good effort. This will be an interesting tape to watch."

In just the first half, after which New Orleans trailed 13-7, the Saints committed 10 penalties for 75 yards and lost two fumbles. Mostly, though, the defense covered for the mistakes.

With its back against the goal line for much of the first half, the defense produced, in order: a 1-yard loss on three plays, after Miami took possession on the Saints' 14-yard line in the first quarter; a goal-line stand, after the Dolphins took possession on the Saints' 8-yard line in the second quarter; an interception by cornerback Korey Lindsey at the Saints' 1, after Miami had driven to the New Orleans 8; and a stop at the Saints' 22 that forced Miami to kick another field goal, with 42 seconds left in the half.

"I thought we handled some short fields," Payton said. "I thought there were some positives."

Absent that stinginess, the first half for the Saints was filled with youthful indiscretion. The defense committed two neutral zone infractions and was penalized for being offside on Miami's first two drives.

Offensively, New Orleans produced 161 yards and converted four of seven third-down attempts in the first two quarters. The touchdown came via Mark Ingram's 8-yard run, his second scoring run in as many preseason games.

Ingram was one of several starters and frontline players who received playing time in the finale. Others included receiver Marques Colston, who played for the first time this preseason and caught an 18-yard pass from quarterback Luke McCown, running back Pierre Thomas (two carries, 4 yards) and cornerback Patrick Robinson, who received his most extensive playing time of the preseason.

But the game mostly was a final audition for several young players. Payton said earlier this week that players have claimed roster spots in part because of how they performed in the final preseason game.

Running back Khiry Robinson may be among that number for the Saints, but he also mixed some positive and negative.

In the first half he had a 6-yard carry and four receptions for 39 yards. Through three quarters, he'd raised his numbers to 10 carries for 46 yards and six catches for 50. Robinson finished with 22 carries for 115 yards. He benefited from the fact that Travaris Cadet, whom he likely has been battling for a roster spot, was not in uniform Thursday night. Cadet didn't make the trip to Miami.

But Robinson also fumbled twice; one was recovered in the end zone for a Saints touchdown by center Tim Lelito in the third quarter, and the second was recovered by the Dolphins in the fourth quarter.

"I thought he played hard," Payton said. "He's just got to work on his ball security."

New Orleans led 7-0, courtesy of Ingram's touchdown run, after it completed a 14-play, 75-yard drive on its opening possession. McCown completed passes to Colston, Kenny Stills, Nick Toon and Ben Watson on the drive.

From there, offensive movement was stagnant until the fourth quarter. Miami scored 16 consecutive points and led by nine entering the fourth, but the Saints punched across a couple of touchdowns to take the lead.

Lelito recovered Robinson's fumble in the end zone for one score, and Ryan Griffin tossed a short touchdown pass to fullback Austin Johnson for the next.

On the injury front, Toon, one of New Orleans' highly-touted young receivers who has secured a spot in the rotation, left the field with an injury after hauling in a 49-yard pass from Ryan Griffin in the second quarter.

Toon left under his own power, but headed to the locker room. But the end result almost epitomized the half for New Orleans; the play was nullified by a chop block.

Rather than a first down and possession at Miami's 5-yard line, the Saints instead were pushed back to their 31 and four plays later, were forced to punt.

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