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New Orleans Saints offense and defense start slow, settle in during preseason game against Miami

Offense had 17 first downs in final three quarters, defense had six stops on nine third-down attempts

Check out the best photos on the field from the Saints preseason battle against the Dolphins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

There were performances to evaluate and, from the naked eye, no significant injuries to front-line players.

Alone, those factors made the New Orleans Saints preseason finale against Miami – 16-13 loss on Thursday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – a success.

As for the compilation of film, per the usual, there were some things to like and dislike as with any other performance.

OFFENSE: The unit started slow, ended on a bit of a run and had some moments in between. Teddy Bridgewater (9 of 13 for 83 yards and a touchdown) and Taysom Hill (13 of 17 for 100 yards) continued to show that – along with Drew Brees – the Saints have an admirable quarterback room. And the Saints ran very effectively (23 carries, 124 yards and a touchdown). But reserves or not, the slow start was an eyesore. In the first quarter, New Orleans managed 11 yards and three plays, with a holding penalty, and had control of the football for all of 124 seconds in the quarter. That didn't help the defense catch its breath (more on that later), but the offense rallied in the second quarter and made a push to win the game in the fourth. Seventeen first downs in the final three quarters, and 6-for-10 on third downs following the opening 15 minutes, was an efficient rally for New Orleans.

DEFENSE: We mentioned the defense wasn't able to catch its breath in the first quarter. We didn't mention that the defense didn't help its own case; Miami converted 4 of 5 third-down attempts in the first quarter, including third-and-8, third-and-5 and third-and-6. Those are down-and-distance situations in which you'd like to see the unit be more effective in getting off the field. Give the D credit for this, though: First, it held the Dolphins to just a field goal in the quarter and, second, in the final three quarters, it made third-down stops on six of nine attempts. That was a nice way to tidy up. It applied some pressure (a sack and three quarterback hits) but not enough to unnerve Dolphins quarterback Jake Rudock. The Saints were solid against the run (3.9 yards per carry allowed on 30 attempts).

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Saints cleaned up the punt return coverage, allowing just seven yards on two returns after giving up a long one in each of the previous two preseason games. Nothing spectacular in the return game, though Cyril Grayson Jr. probably should have been a lot more aggressive on a kickoff that he allowed to bounce, from around the 5-yard line into the end zone for a touchback. That showed some inexperience and, perhaps, a bit of discomfort, but it wasn't detrimental.