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New Orleans Saints endure adversity-filled weekend, come away with 22-17 preseason victory over Chargers

'There's been a lot. I thought it was a hell of a week, just in terms of productivity'

Inglewood, Calif. – The New Orleans Saints played and won a preseason game Sunday, a 22-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.

But the game somewhat was placed in the shadow during a nerve-wracking day that included Southern California bracing for flood-producing rain as a result of Hurricane Hilary, and a nearby earthquake that caused SoFi Stadium to sway for several seconds during pregame warmups.

During his pregame meeting with officials – with a steady, sometimes heavy rain already pouring – Coach Dennis Allen said his phone alerted to the earthquake, and he also was informed that because SoFi is considered an outdoor stadium, there was the possibility that there could be a lightning delay.

"I'm like, what the hell?" Allen said. "There's been a lot. I thought it was a hell of a week, just in terms of the productivity. (But) I'm ready to get back home, get back to the Dome next week (for the preseason finale)."

Atop Sunday's weather warnings, tight end Jimmy Graham was among several players who didn't dress for the game. But Graham was sidelined partially due to his recovery from a medical episode he suffered on Friday that produced disorientation, possibly caused by a seizure.

"Jimmy's with us," Allen said. "He's healthy. He'll have some more testing. He's a little shook up but overall, he's OK."

Once the game started, New Orleans conjured enough normalcy to improve to 2-0 with the win, which followed joint practices against the Chargers on Thursday and Friday in Costa Mesa.

Quarterback Jameis Winston (13 for 21 for 169 yards) leading New Orleans to a touchdown and two Blake Grupe field goals in the first half, and rookie quarterback Jake Haener (11 for 17 for 118 yards) helping lead the Saints to three Wil Lutz field goals in the last two quarters. And the Saints capitalized on three forced turnovers – a Bryan Bresee fumble recovery and interceptions by Isaac Yiadom and Lonnie Johnson Jr. – and overcame 14 penalties (for 141 yards) to hold off the Chargers.

"Thought we did some good things, it was nice to see (rookie running back) Kendre (Miller) a couple of plays there," Allen said. "He had a nice run for the touchdown, ran a nice route."

Miller's 7-yard touchdown run with 12:59 left in the first quarter opened the scoring, and was preceded by his 27-yard reception from Winston on a wheel route down the left sideline. He also had a standout play in pass protection, picking up a blitzer and allowing Winston to make his throw.

"He's getting better at all that stuff," Allen said. "Each day he continues to get a little bit better. You can see the talent level."

Bresee's fumble recovery, off a sack and forced fumble by defensive end Payton Turner, gave New Orleans a short field to work with. And while New Orleans allowed a couple of fourth-down conversions, including a fourth-and-23 with 1:58 left, the Saints had three fourth-down stops (including Johnson's interception, which erased the fourth-and-23 conversion) and held on 12 of 15 third-down attempts.

"The three takeaways was a positive," Allen said. "I didn't like the penalties, way too many, so that's something we've got to get cleaned up.

"We won the game and I'm pleased about that, but there's a ton of crap that needs to be cleaned up."

Receiver Shaq Davis led the Saints with 63 yards on three catches, and defensive end Niko Lalos produced three of New Orleans' five sacks, four of the five tackles for loss and three of the team's eight quarterback hits.

Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL Preseason.

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