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New Orleans Saints preseason opener spoiled by turnovers, penalties

Six turnovers, 10 penalties pivotal in 17-14 loss to Baltimore

Game action photos from the Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints week 1 game during the 2021 NFL Preseason.

Baltimore – Sean Payton's face was a roadmap, his face was a navigation system and neither depicted a man who was on an enjoyable postgame ride.

As the New Orleans Saints coach recapped a 17-14 loss to Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium in the Saints' preseason opener, he correctly noted that there were positives that were evident – six yards per play, 5 of 11 on third down, 272 passing yards.

But the debits – six turnovers (three interceptions, three lost fumbles) and the penalties (10) – were more than enough to offset the credits.

Payton said the Saints were fortunate to have had a halftime lead (14-9) despite the myriad mistakes. Quarterback Taysom Hill said it was hard to get past looking at the turnovers. And while no fault could be found in New Orleans' effort, the sloppiness of play was undeniable.

The Saints had three turnovers (two lost fumbles and an interception) in the first quarter, and four in the first half. New Orleans lost two fumbles in the red zone, and quarterback Jameis Winston said he simply needed to "throw a better ball" on a deep pass attempt for Lil'Jordan Humphrey. That pass possibly would have been a 60-yard touchdown pass and a 21-6 lead, but instead became an interception that led to a Ravens field goal as the first-half clock expired.

Defensively, New Orleans was stout throughout. Linebacker Kaden Elliss had eight tackles, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss on a fourth down. Linebacker Zack Baun similarly was impressive in the first half with five tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defensed. Rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo stood out on defense and added a special team tackle.

And the Saints forced and recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass while holding the Ravens to 350 yards on 80 plays.

But while Hill (8 of 12 for 81 yards), Winston (7 of 12 for 96 and a touchdown), Ian Book (9 of 16 for 126 yards) and running back Tony Jones Jr. (seven carries for 82 yards and a touchdown, five catches for 38 yards) fueled the offense, each committed a turnover.

Hill, Winston and Book threw interceptions, and Jones lost a fumble.

The cleanup process will be vast. Four penalties, Payton said, were neutral zone infractions caused by hard counts; the Saints will have to be more disciplined because they'll see/hear more of that in upcoming games. And ball security drills, which Jones noted that the team routinely practices, possibly will be emphasized even more before the next preseason game, on Monday, Aug. 23 against Jacksonville in the Caesars Superdome.

The first preseason game wasn't expected to be completed without flaws. The Saints had more than enough of them, and now will seek to employ the corrections to grow from them.

Game action photos from the Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints week 1 game during the 2021 NFL Preseason.

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