<span style="">New Orleans- The New Orleans Saints' bid to conclude their first ever preseason undefeated was dashed by a like-minded crew from South Florida on Thursday evening, as the Dolphins (4-0) handed the Saints (3-1) a 10-7 loss.
"We were sloppy in a few phases and that bothered me," Head Coach Sean Payton said following the game.
Saints reserve wide receiver/return man Rod Harper returned a Brandon Fields punt 55-yards for a touchdown that slashed into the Dolphins' midway through the fourth quarter, but, in the end, the Saints' offense could not overcome eight timely sacks by the Dolphins. "Harper has created a good problem for us, I was encouraged by some of the plays, including the punt return, that he made for us tonight," Payton said.
The Dolphins scored first on a first quarter 41-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter and added to the lead with a second quarter six-yard run by RB Patrick Cobbs that extended their advantage to 10-0. That would prove to be all the Dolphins would need.
The Saints sat QB Drew Brees and a host of other anticipated starters on both sides of the football for their preseason finale. RB Lynell Hamilton was the star of the first half for the Saints with nine carries for 34 yards (3.8 avg.) and six receptions for 88 yards (14.7 avg.) for 122 yards of total offense on 15 touches. Brunell finished his limited playing time with three completions on five attempts and an interception. QB Anthony Hargrove/Joey Harrington.aspx">Joey Harrington was 13-of-19 for 115 yards but was sacked eight times for -36 yards. Miami's Chad Pennington was 8-of-11 for 57 yards, while backups Chad Henne was 11-of-16 for 89 yards and rookie Pat White was two-of-six passing for 13 yards.
Defensively the Saints were paced by 13 tackles from LB Robert Meachem/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Remi Ayodele/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who added two tackles for losses, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Rookie CB Malcolm Jenkins finished second with seven stops. On special teams, rookie punter Thomas Morstead enjoyed an impressive evening, clobbering seven punts for 333 yards (47.6 avg.) with a long of 63 yards and three punts downed inside the 20. Miami did not have a single yard in the punt return department, something that pleased his head coach.
"I thought Morstead was outstanding tonight," Payton said. "It was good to see him continue to develop. He did a lot of good things tonight."
Miami edged the Saints in total yard in the physical affair (285 yards to 234), but the Saints had their chances to score in the first half but were victimized by an interception in the zone and a missed 34-yard field goal.
The Saints accepted the opening kickoff and with backup QB Mark Brunell at the helm drove into Miami territory against their starting defense, but the Saints' opening drive ended at the Miami 42 after DE/OLB Jason Taylor batted down Brunell's fourth down pass intended for FB Heath Evans in the flat.
DE Bobby McCray started the Saints' first stand off by pressuring QB Chad Pennington into an incompletion on the Dolphins' first play from scrimmage. Pennington came right back, though, and hit WR Greg Camarillo for a 17-yard completion along the sideline on the next play and also converted a third-down conversion to the Saints' 28 with a seven-yard completion to WR Davone Bess a bit later. Saints CB Tracy Porter made a fine play when he took down Bess after a wide receiver screen and the Saints' secondary blanketed the Dolphins receivers and DT Sedrick Ellis dropped Pennington shy of the first down markers that forced Miami to settle for a mid-range field goal attempt that Dolphins' kicker Dan Carpenter hit from 41-yards out to end the drive, giving the Dolphins a 3-0 lead.
On the second series for the Saints, the second offensive line unit entered the game and went head-to-head with the Dolphins starting defense. The Saints began at their own 15 yard-line after a holding call on the kickoff pushed the Saints backward. After two Lynell Hamilton runs, Brunell carved a completion into the hands of TE Jason Kyle/Billy Miller.aspx">Billy Miller for a gain of six yards and a first down to the Saints' 28. Brunell then hit Hamilton on a perfectly timed screen pass for a gain of 43 yards to the Miami 27. After a Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill two-yard run, Brunell attempted to find WR Courtney Roby in the corner of the end zone, but Dolphins rookie CB Sean Smith reached up and made a one-handed interception and was able to keep both feet inbounds for the interception.
Former Saints running back Ricky Williams was greeted on the Superdome carpet with a smattering of boo's on his first carry (four yards), but was able to convert a third down with a 13-yard sweep around the left side on a third-and-two to the Dolphins' 42. Pennington then hit RB Ronnie Brown for a gain of five yards through the air, but Pennington was sacked by LB Robert Meachem/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Remi Ayodele/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Jo-Lonn Dunbar for a three-yard loss on second down. Pennington emptied the backfield on the third-and-eight and found Bess in single coverage over the middle for a gain of 14 yards to the Saints' 42.
After a first down incompletion, Pennington hit Williams on a check down route for three yards but the runner was summarily drilled to the turf on a crunching hit delivered by both LB Troy Evans and DE Tony Hargrove. The Saints stopped the Dolphins on a third down after a quick completion to WR Ted Gunn, Jr. for three yards that was stopped by McCray and Hargrove.
Saints QB Anthony Hargrove/Joey Harrington.aspx">Joey Harrington took over controls of the Saints' offense at the 20-yard line early in the second quarter and picked up an immediate first down with a 10-yard completion to TE Jason Kyle/Billy Miller.aspx">Billy Miller. Harrington was sacked by Jason Taylor and LB Charlie Andersen for a loss of 10-yards on first down from the 30, although a screen pass on second down to Hamilton picked up 13 yards. The Dolphins forced an incompletion on third down and rookie punter Thomas Morstead hit a high-hanging 35 yard punt that was downed at the Miami 32 via a fair catch by Bess.
Miami put reserve QB Chad Henne into the game early in the second quarter and he began his initial drive of the game at the Miami 32. Henne completed a third down pass good for a gain of 10 yards to Bess for a first down and into Saints' territory. Henne hit Williams for a 10-yard gain along the sideline for another first down a few plays later to the Saints' 29. With the entire Dolphins starting offensive unit still in place, with the exception of Pennington, Henne hit Ginn for a gain of 23 yards to the Saints' six. On the next play RB Patrick Cobbs found a hole and the end zone that gave the Dolphins a 10-0 lead with 6:53 left in the second quarter.
Roby returned Carpenter's kickoff 25 yards to the 30 to begin Harrington's second drive. An incompletion, a scramble for no gain and a five-yard sack quickly brought Morstead back into service and he responded with a 44-yard punt that was fair caught by Bess. After a short run of two yards, Henne found Cobbs out of the backfield for a gain of 15 yards and a first down. A second down run by Cobbs ended with Dunbar stripping the ball and recovering the ball at the Saints' 46. Miami challenged that Cobbs was down, which prompted a video review by referee Walt Coleman. The ruling on the field stood after the review and the Dolphins were charged with a timeout.
Hamilton blasted off the left side of the line for a gain of eight yards on first down, but a second down holding call on C Heath Evans/Nick Leckey.aspx">Nick Leckey marched the Saints backward 10 yards. A second down screen pass netted two yards, which brought up a third-and-long and Hamilton took a draw for a gain of four yards. The Saints elected to punt from midfield at the two-minute warning and with all three timeouts remaining. Morstead's punt landed inside the 10, but bounced into the end zone and the Dolphins took over at their own 20. McCray pressured Henne into an incompletion on first down and a second down short completion witnessed the Saints call their first timeout of the half with 1:38 left in the half and with the ball on the 26. A third down incompletion was brought about due to tight coverage by CB Leigh Torrence and pressure on Henne from Troy Evans. P Brandon Fields hit a 39-yard punt that WR Rod Harper returned three yards to the 38.
Harrington hit Hamilton for a four-yard gain, then on a 20-yard gain to the 38. The two hooked up again for a six-yard gain and Hamilton took a draw for five yards and a first down. Harper was called for a five-yard illegal shift penalty but Harrington came back with an eight-yard completion to Roby to the Miami 24. Harrington then scrambled out of the pocket for a gain of eight yards to the 16 and stepped out of bounds with :13 left and a single timeout. Harrington and WR Lynell Hamilton/Skyler Green.aspx">Skyler Green nearly connected on a completion in the end zone but the pass fell incomplete and the Saints sent out K Jon Carney to attempt a 34-yard field goal, but the field goal sailed wide right of the uprights.
Hargrove began the second half by tackling RB Lex Hilliard for no gain on first down and then Hargrove finished the Henne off on a 10-yard sack on second down after the Saints' secondary took away the quarterback's options. On a third-and-20 from their own four, Miami burned a timeout to collect themselves, but Torrence and CB Leigh Jenkins quickly shut the Dolphins screen pass down after an eight-yard gain. An impressive 55-yard punt by Fields was returned four yards by Harper and the Saints took over at their own 37 with 12:57 left in the third quarter.
Hill took over for Hamilton at running back for the Saints and picked up a quick five yards on first down. Miami was flagged for a holding infraction on second down and the Saints were awarded five yards on top of the one yard second down run. A first down run of two yards by Olaniyi Sobomehin was negated by a second down sack on Harrington for a loss of five yards. A third down scramble by Harrington could only muster two yards, but Morstead hit a high, hanging 49-yard punt that bounced softly at the four and was downed by Torrence.
Hilliard picked up four yards on an inside run and four more on quick completion to the left side and picked up a first down with an 11-yard inside run to the Dolphins' 24. Two plays later Cobbs found a crease in the Saints' defense and scooted 25 yards to the Miami 49. LB Robert Meachem/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Remi Ayodele/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Jo-Lonn Dunbar continued to impress with a diving tackle on a second down run by Hilliard that resulted in no gain and the Saints' Troy Evans forced a third down incompletion by Henne intended for tight end John Nalbone.
The Saints took over at their own 12 and put rookie RB Herb Donaldson to work, as he churned out gains of one, six and four yards in succession. Harrington was then sacked for a loss of one yard on first down, and Donaldson picked up four yards on a second down carry. Harrington found Donaldson for a short completion and Morstead again was called upon and promptly hit a 43-yard punt that wasn't caught, marking the third punt that was fair caught on the night, coupled with the one that was downed inside the Dolphins' five and the touchback.
LB Marvin Mitchell and Dunbar teamed up to put a big hit on FB Lousaka Polite after an eight-yard completion. Hilliard picked up a first down with a three-yard run. The Saints then surrendered a short three yard run and Dunbar forced an incompletion on second down with a nicely timed blitz and Hargrove pressured Henne on third down into incompletion and the Dolphins were forced to punt.
Harper field a low punt but was drilled by a Dolphins cover man for no gain on the punt return at the Saints' 23. Donaldson plied his way through a hole for a gain of four yards. Hill then took his turn on second down for four yards and Hill caught a short pass and engineered his way to a six-yard gain on third down for the first down. The Saints' drive once again bogged down near midfield and Morstead continued his fine evening with a 63-yard punt to the Miami three-yard line that was not returned.
QB Pat White, a rookie from West Virginia, came into the game with 13:25 left in the game and wasn't helped with a false start infraction on first down that inched the ball backwards closer to the goal line. LB Jonathan Casillas stopped Hilliard for gain of one yard, and then knocked White's second down pass backwards for an incompletion. The Saints backed the Dolphins into a third-and-ten from the 3 and then shut the door with impressive pressure on White that forced an incompletion and a Miami punt.
The Saints took over at their own 48 with 12:19 left in the game. Harrington was sacked for the seventh time when DE Lionel Dotson dropped him for a seven-yard loss on first down and Hill picked up seven yards on a second down run. Harrington hit WR Adrian Arrington for a 36-yard gain on third down, but Saints tackle Michael Brown was flagged for a holding call and the Saints once again were faced with a third-and-long. Morstead came on and hit a 49-yard punt that was fair caught at the Dolphins' 11 with 10:12 left in the contest.
The Saints' defense then pitched a three-and-out and Fields hit 37-yard punt that Harper fielded and took right back up the middle of the Dolphins for a 55-yard punt return. The margin was closed to 10-7 after John Carney's extra point with 8:11 left in the contest.
White, a second-round draft choice out of West Virginia, then directed the Dolphins from their own 25 on short throws and handoffs. He hit consecutive passes of six yards and seven yards to start the drive and picked up 14 yards on an off-tackle run by Cobbs to the Saints' 48. A short run was followed by an incompletion caused by pressure from the edge a coverage from Torrence brought up a third down and nine and White's pass sailed over his intended receiver and the Dolphins brought out their punting unit. Harper was forced to fair catch the punt at the Saints' nine with 5:35 left.
Harrington dropped back and hit Harper for a gain of 16 yards to the 25, then found Harper over the middle for a gain of 13 yards for another first down. The signal-caller out of Oregon found Sobomehin for a gain of one yard and the Saints spent their first timeout of the second half with the ball on the 39 and four minutes left in the game. Harrington, though, was sacked for the eighth time (four yards) and faced a third-and-13 and found Donaldson over the middle for a gain of 10 yards. A false start by Brown marched the team backwards and brought upon a fourth-and-eight from the Saints' 40. Harrington's pass, intended for Harper, was incomplete and the Dolphins took possession with 2:40 left. The Saints stopped the Dolphins on first down and called a timeout with 2:24 left, their second of the half. Hilliard found a hole in the middle and picked up eight yards on second down, which brought up a third-and-one from the 31. Cobbs bulled his way forward for a gain of two yards and the first down and the Saints expended their final timeout of the game. Miami took a couple of kneel-downs and the preseason in New Orleans came to a halt.
Notes: The following players did not play for the Saints this evening: #9 Drew Brees, #12 Marques Colston, #21 Mike Bell, #23 Pierre Thomas, #25 Reggie Bush, #28 Usama Young, #37 Malcolm Jenkins Chip Vaughn, #70 Jammal Brown, #80 Darnell Dinkins, #88 Jeremy Shockey and #94 Charles Grant…TE Jason Kyle, Billy Miller (Achilles) left the game in the second quarter and was carted off the field…FB Olaniyi Sobomehin left the game with an injured shoulder…Payton said that both Miller and Sobomehin would be further evaluated on Friday by the team's medical department.