When Dennis Allen lamented the New Orleans Saints' self-inflicted wounds at halftime of their preseason game against Green Bay on Friday night at Lambeau Field, the Saints' head coach essentially had a copy-and-paste moment from the first preseason game.
The same applied to the preseason opener against Houston.
But, too, Allen didn't have to sift too deeply to cull some good from Friday's game, a 20-10 loss in which the overwhelmingly majority of front-line players for both teams wore baseball caps instead of helmets and pads. Much of the quality, starter-on-starter work that might have been achieved in a preseason game was accumulated during the teams' two joint practices Tuesday and Wednesday.
There was a red zone stop on defense near the end of the first quarter, which prevented a touchdown and held the Packers to a field goal and 3-0 lead. And a 59-yard field goal as time expired in the first quarter by kicker Wil Lutz, who missed last season due to core muscle issues and totally appears to have returned to health this preseason. Allen also factored into the field goal attempt; he called timeout with two seconds left in the quarter to allow Lutz the attempt with a favorable wind.
Quarterback Ian Book, who started and played every offensive snap, survived a shaky start – two more turnovers, an interception and lost fumble, to replicate the two he committed against Houston – and rebounded with a 20-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Chris Olave, who patiently found a soft spot in the secondary and hauled in a perfect throw from Book, who bought time for Olave to pop free. Book completed 16 of 28 passes for 113 yards and ran for a game-high 49 yards on seven carries.
Linebacker Eric Wilson set up the touchdown pass by forcing a fumble that was recovered by defensive back P.J. Williams, a quick-change turnover that was much needed by the Saints because it came immediately after Book's interception. Rookie left tackle Trevor Penning started, played the better part of three quarters and more than held his own against the Packers in pass protection and run blocking, an encouraging development after he had a couple of rough snaps in pass pro against the Texans.
And punter Blake Gillikin unleashed a pair of boots – an 81-yarder that went for a touchback and a 65-yarder – that were as majestic as the distances suggest.
Those were among the moments and performances that Allen and his staff likely will be pleased and seek to build upon.
But when Allen referred to the Saints being their own worst enemy, he wasn't solely referring to the Book interception, which occurred as tight end Taysom Hill slipped down while running a route. Book's lost fumble came on a snap under center, same as the previous week.
A personal foul on third down – defensive tackle Malcolm Roach with the unnecessary roughness – kept Green Bay's offense on the field and significantly contributed to a Packer touchdown drive.
And Packers quarterback Danny Etling broke free for an untouched, 51-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give Green Bay a two-score lead and the final points.
Count those mishaps, along with nine penalties for 78 yards, among the areas that will be addressed and targeted for correction.
"Too many penalties," Allen said after the game. "Turned the ball over, and we let them run the ball on us (178 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries). Can't do that and expect to win. That was disappointing to see all the penalties, disappointing to see that we turned the ball over for the second consecutive week."
Among the positives, Allen noted the forced turnover that led to the Saints' touchdown.
"It was good to see Wil Lutz kick a 59-yarder," he added. "(But) we've got to go back to work, keep getting better."
New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Preseason Week 2 game against the Green Bay Packers.