Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL Preseason.
1. Tropical Storm and Earthquake Preseason Football: Well, just when you think you've seen it all, yes, a tropical system has not hit California since 1939. That streak ended Sunday when Hilary came ashore, dumping tons of rain on the region. However, at 2:24 Pacific time a moderate earthquake hit Southern California near the city of Ojai, roughly 60 miles from SoFi Stadium. Depending on who you talked to in the press box, some felt the stadium sway (I was in the concourse and did not feel anything), but that actually became the talk of the press box, superseding what was actually going on outside, which was the rain pelting down on the translucent canopy over the field. Since SoFi is an open-air stadium, the wind associated with Hilary was a constant presence, blowing across from left to right or north to south in Inglewood. Another aside, the humidity was felt big time on field level, a lot like we would feel in south Louisiana, nothing like what we've felt the four days we've been out here in preparation for the preseason game and also the rain that was falling the entire game outside would find its way through the open air vents on each end of the stadium, and sometimes through the roof. As far as attendance goes, with capacity at 70,402, most heeded the warnings to stay at home and avoid the roads. At kickoff there could not have been more than 10,000 to 15,000 in the nine-level, $5.5 billion SoFi Stadium, though there was a nice contingent of Saints fans scattered throughout.
2. Kendre Time: One player who had an impressive games for the Saints in their preseason game against the Chargers was running back Kendre Miller, a 2023 third round pick. It's been a bit of a rough go for Miller, who missed all offseason work until Saints training camp after injuring his right knee in the College Football Playoff in January while he was at TCU. Last week against the Chiefs in the Caesars Superdome, Miller found the going tough with little running room and ultimately left the game early with what was called a sprained knee, though Coach Dennis Allen mentioned to the media after last Tuesday's practice in New Orleans he thought there could be a chance Miller could play in the preseason game vs the Chargers. Miller appeared on the practice fields at Costa Mesa wearing a brace on his right knee, but practiced on Thursday and Friday against the Chargers. On Sunday, Miller was able to finally display his offensive arsenal to the Saints fans. After a turnover on defense set the Saints up in good field position (Chargers 34-yard line), quarterback Jameis Winston threw a perfect wheel route to Miller who sprinted up the left sideline and laid out parallel to the ground, coming up with a fantastic catch over linebacker Daiyan Henley. On the next play, Miller took the handoff from Winston and scampered seven yards into the south end zone for his first touchdown as a Saint. Miller was mobbed by basically all of his teammates as he got back to the bench. Later in the quarter, Miller would pick up blitzing linebacker Blake Lynch that allowed Winston to get a pass off, though incomplete, to tight end Lukas Krull. It's the little things like that which will impress the staff to open up the playbook when Miller is in the backfield.
3. Plays of the Day Galore: Take your pick on this category. There were tons of big plays during the 22-17 victory over the Chargers, offensively and defensively. I'll narrow it down to two: the first occurred prior to the Miller double mentioned above. In the second quarter and with the score still 0-0, the Chargers played a third-and-four from their own 46-yard line. Quarterback Easton Stick dropped back to pass, but the pocket closed quickly. Third-year defensive end Payton Turner turned inside and just powered through the Chargers' line. Just as Stick double-clutched, Turner hit him from the left side, forcing the ball free. As it rolled on the turf backward, rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee dived in from the left and pounced on top of it for the third turnover forced by the Saints defense this preseason. The Saints would score on Millers touchdown run three plays later. Offensively, I'm gonna give it to a pair of rookies. On the very first play of the third quarter, the Saints played a first-and-10 from their own 26-yard line. Quarterback Jake Haener stood in the pocket, well- protected. Haener was flushed out, and rolled to his right. He has displayed a strong arm throughout OTA's, minicamp and training camp, and this play was no exception. He would throw on the run, still moving to his right, deep down the right sideline to second-year receiver Jontra Kirklin, who had gotten behind Chargers cornerback Michael Jacquet by five full yards. Kirklin made the catch at midfield and raced 30 more yards down the field until Jacquet brought him down from behind, setting the Saints up well to start the second half. Unfortunately, the Saints were only able to convert a field goal after Krull dropped a potential touchdown pass from Haener and two other touchdowns were nullified by offensive pass interference penalties. The original play, however reinforced what we have seen throughout training camp. Haener has what it takes to make plays in this league, and it was great to see Kirklin, the former LSU Tiger, get involved right away with the connection from Haener.