The opening half of the New Orleans Saints' 2023 season was a defensive battle as the Tennessee Titans grabbed a 9-6 lead Sunday at the Caesars Superdome.
The Saints scored on two field goals by rookie kicker Blake Grupe, a 26-yarder and a 33-yarder. The second one was set up by a blocked punt by linebacker Zack Baun.
In quarterback Derek Carr's first start with the Saints he was 13 of 20 for 142 yards and an interception with 30 seconds to play in the half. Carr was under steady pressure by Tennessee defensive end Arden Key, who had 1.5 of the team's four sacks.
With Alvin Kamara suspended, running back Jamaal Williams got the start and had six carries for 17 yards. Star receiver Michael Thomas returned to the lineup and caught three passes for 46 yards.
The game got off to a rough start for the Saints when kickoff returner Rashid Shaheed had the ball stripped away on the opening kickoff by Amani Hooker, giving the Titans the ball on the 24-yard line. The Saints defense pushed the Titans back and forced them to settle for a 50-yard Nick Folk field goal. Folk added a 27-yarder and a 31-yarder with 1:40 to play in the second quarter.
Defensive end Cam Jordan and Carl Granderson shared a sack of Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter and Bryan Bresee and Pete Werner shared one to end the half. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore had a nice interception in the second quarter. The Saints held Tannehill to 5 of 14 passing for 83 yards - and the Titans to 0 for 5 on third down - but star running back Derrick Henry had 10 carries for 51 yards and two catches for 56 yards.
Reserve defensive end Payton Turner left in the second quarter with an injury.
The Titans will get the ball to start the second half.
Fans get ready for the Week 1 battle with a pregame party at Champions Square featuring the ringing of the bell by Saints Legend Jermon Bushrod.