<span style=""> </span> <span style=""><span style=""><span style="">Cincinnati, Ohio</span> – The New Orleans Saints responded to a 31-27 loss last week in a big way this evening, when they shutout the Cincinnati Bengals, 13-0.
A week after struggling to get off the field on third downs, the Saints' defense stepped up and allowed the Bengals to cross midfield only once (to the Saints' 49 yard-line) and stopped the Bengals on all but four of their third downs (4-of-14-29%) and limited the home team to only 165 yards of total offense. In addition, the Saints sacked Cincy passers four times for -33 yards and intercepted a pass late in the game that sealed the shutout bid.
The Saints' offense, conversely, racked up 458 yards of total offense. 15 different players caught passes on 27 attempts, and the Saints churned out 145 yards on the ground, as the team ran 74 total offensive plays at a clip of 6.2 yards per play for an average.
"I think having a strong showing in the preseason can provide the team with some confidence," said Head Coach Sean Payton after the victory. "These games are important because we are working together and getting better and the defense took the things that we as a coaching staff pointed out and we corrected."
Payton said he felt one of the keys to the game was the team's ability to get off the field by creating some third-and-long situations. "We got them in some third-and-longs and I felt like we were sharp and particularly effective in finishing our tackles. Overall, it was a solid effort that I am pleased with for the most part."
The Saints opened their third pre-season game of the 2008 season by marching 55 yards in nine plays and culminated the drive with a 42-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica, and then, using a 54-yard completion from Drew Brees to Robert Meachem, extended the lead to 10-0 midway through the first quarter. It would be the only scoring until late in the third quarter, when rookie K Taylor Melhaff drilled a 44-yard field goal that extended the Saints' lead to 13-0.
The Saints' defense, on the other hand, allowed only 94 yards of total offense on six possessions in the first half and forced punts on each of them, with their deepest penetration having been to the Saints' 49.
The Saints won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Return man Skyler Green started the game with a 23-yard return to the Saints' 21. On the first play from scrimmage, a blitzing linebacker nearly sacked Drew Brees, but the veteran QB coolly sidestepped the pursuing blitzer and shoveled a pass FB Mike Karney for an eight-yard gain.
Brees then hit WR Marques Colston for nine yards and then drilled TE Billy Miller for a gain of 18 yards and the Saints were in Bengals' territory. Reggie Bush picked up four yards on an inside run and then Brees and Colston connected for 16 yards to the Cincy 24. On a first down Brees narrowly missed hitting WR David Patten in the corner of the end zone. Brees and Colston again hooked up for a six-yard gain, but Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis challenged the ruling on the field of a completed pass. The officials ruled after the replay that Colston didn't have possession and the pass was incomplete, as was the subsequent play, also intended for Colston. Martin Gramatica then connected on the 42-yard field goal, which gave the Saints a 3-0 lead following a nine play, 55-yard drive that covered 3:26 in time of possession.
The Saints' defense started out quickly, as rookie CB Tracy Porter, making his first start, poked the football free from WR Antonio Chatman on an end around, which caused the Bengals to lose three yards. On second down the Bengals mustered a short gain on an inside handoff and CB Mike McKenzie nearly picked off QB Carson Palmer on third down, though it was declared that McKenzie dropped the ball as he landed. Nonetheless, the Saints' defense forced the three-and-out and forced the home team to punt.
The Saints then started their second drive at the Cincy 35 and RB Deuce McAllister picked up a yard behind left guard Jamar Nesbit. Robert Meachem was then flagged for an illegal procedure, but made up for on the next play on a 54-yard completion to the Cincy 15. On the next play McAllister picked up 7 yards on a screen and then a yard on an inside handoff. RB Aaron Stecker then squirted through the middle behind a Karney block for a gain of five yards and a first down. TE Ronnie Ghent, a former Bengals practice squad player, then scored on a one-yard pass from Brees that gave the Saints a 10-0 lead just 6:03 into the game.
After the first 8 minutes of play, the Saints had managed to gain 125 yards of offense compared to -1 yard for the Bengals. The Saints defense held the Bengals to one first down and 23 yards on their next possession, but snuffed out any chance they had for an extended drive when LB Scott Shanle bolted through the middle of the line of scrimmage on a blitz and forced Palmer's throw to fall incomplete.
Reggie Bush then made a few nifty moves on a 13-yard punt return and the Saints started their third drive at their own 22. Brees hit Patten for a gain of seven yards and Bush picked up two yards before Stecker hammered his way for five yards and a first down. The Saints continued to work on the running game and McAllister picked up two yards to the Saints' 39. Brees' pass to TE Billy Miller missed the mark on second down and the Saints were faced with a third-and-eight, but Brees coolly hung in the pocket in the face of a safety blitz and found WR Devery Henderson for an 11-yard gain to the midfield on the final play of the first quarter.
McAllister picked up two yards on the first play of the second quarter and then Stecker picked up one yard. A quick screen to David Patten only netted only one yard and the Saints were forced to punt for the first time in the game. Steve Weatherford hit a 32-yard punt that was fair caught at the Cincy 14.
Palmer hit Chatman for a nine-yard gain and then his new tight end, Ben Utecht, for an 11-yard gain. FS Kevin Kaesviharn helped stem the Cincy momentum with a perfectly timed blitz that dropped Palmer for a six-yard loss. After a short carry by RB Chris Perry, SS Roman Harper had perfect coverage on RB Perry, which caused an incompletion and again forced the Bengals to punt.
'It is important to get ready for the regular season and get the confidence going," said Kaesviharn. "We were flying around out there and swarming guys and making plays. It was fun to see. The things that we worked on and the coaches were on us all week to improve is the result we came up with tonight. It's encouraging."
New Orleans, leading 10-0, started their fourth drive at their own 30 and McAllister picked up a yard before being taken down with a hard tackle at his knees that he bounced up from. Bengals DE Jonathan Fanene was flagged for a holding call and the Saints picked up 10 free yards. They gave it right back, however, when LT Jammal Brown was flagged for holding on what would have been a 40-yard completion from Brees to Henderson that was negated. On a first-and-20, Stecker picked up four yards and then once again hung in the pocket in the face of a blitz and connected with WR Lance Moore for a 29-yard gain down the far sideline. Brees' next pass was incomplete before re-connecting with Stecker for a two-yard completion to the Cincy 39 and facing a third-and-nine. Brees and Miller nearly connected but tight coverage by the Bengals forced an incompletion and Weatherford hung a punt high into the air that was down at the Cincy 12.
DT Kendrick Clancy halted Perry for no gain on first down and on second down CB Mike McKenzie broke up a pass intended for WR Glenn Holt. LB Scott Shanle then tracked down Perry on a dump off pass after Palmer couldn't find anything open down field for a gain of only five yards and the Bengals were forced to punt for their fourth straight time. With just over six minutes to play in the first half, the Saints had out-gained the Bengals by 145 yards (192 to 47).
Those numbers jumped up by 35 yards in the Saints' advantage when Brees hit Lance Moore on a perfect aerial to the Bengals' 25. McAllister picked up a yard on the next play and Brees nearly suffered his first interception of the preseason when he tried to find David Patten in the end zone but the pass was broken up by CB Johnathan Joseph. On third down Brees and Henderson nearly teamed up for a would-be touchdown, but Henderson couldn't hang on after getting sandwiched by two big hits. The Saints went for it on fourth-and-ten, but couldn't gain more than a yard after a short completion in the face of a heavy blitz package and the Bengals took over at their own 23.
It would be Brees' last action of the evening and he left the game having completed 14-of-22 passes for 199 yards with the touchdown pass and a passer rating of 108.
DT Antwan Lake then sacked Palmer for a loss of eight yards on first down. Palmer and Utecht teamed up for a 10-yard completion on second down and the Bengals turned in a 19-yard completion between Palmer and Chatman on third down. Perry then tried a draw but was leveled by LB Jonathan Vilma at the 47-yard line. Palmer attempted to go deep downfield to WR Jerome Simpson but tight coverage by Porter caused Simpson to jump on Porter's back and Simpson was flagged for pass interference. The Bengals were faced with a third-and-nine from their own 45 after the two minute warning. The Saints turned up the heat on third down and CB Aaron Glenn locked down Simpson after a gain of six, which brought up a fourth-and-three and the Bengals elected to bring on their punt team. The Saints' defense stayed on the field, believing the Bengals might try a fake and the Bengals punted the ball away.
QB Mark Brunell was sacked on his first play from scrimmage for a six-yard loss. The Bengals called time outs after the sack and then after a Stecker five-yard rush and with the Saints backed up deep in their own territory. The Bengals used their third and final timeout after a seven-yard carry by Stecker with 1:16 on the clock. Weatherford hammered a 43-yard punt and tight coverage by RB Pierre Thomas and LB Troy Evans stopped return man Deltha O'Neal for a two-yard loss at the Cincy 35.
DE Bobby McCray and Kaesviharn sacked Palmer on a second down with a huge hit that caused an 11-yard loss, the Saints' third sack of the first half.
Rookie Taylor Mehlhaff began the second half with a thundering kickoff that wasn't returned. With Palmer's night over, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick took over the reigns of the Bengals' offense. The Saints' defense did yield an early first down on a 13-yard run by Perry, but the defense again held and forced a Cincinnati punt, which covered only 27 yards and the Saints started at their own 28.
RB Pierre Thomas picked up five yards with a nice run up the middle and then Brunell found Meachem for a four-yard gain. On third-and-one from the 37 Thomas bounced a run off the right side for a 14-yard gain to the 49. Brunell then scrambled out of the pocket and found Copper for a gain of 15 yards. Thomas then picked up nine yards behind the right side of the line, which was manned by RG Tim Duckworth and RT Zach Strief. On a third-and-one from the 25, Thomas picked up four yards and the first down.
Thomas then tried the right side again and picked 14 yards on a spinning move, but fumbled the ball as he hit the turf, though the Bengals were credited with the fumble recovery. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton spoke to the officials during the timeout and with the ball at the Cincy 5 yard line. Following the timeout break, the Saints challenged the ruling on the field, claiming that Thomas was down. The call by referee Walt Anderson stood, though, and the Bengals took over after the Saints' nine-play, 65 yard drive that pushed the Saints over the 300 yard mark of total offense.
After a short gain by RB Kenny Perry that picked up three yards, the Saints were flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct infraction when Perry was thrown to the turf by a gaggle of Saints' defenders after the whistle sounded. CB Jason David then came up in run support and tackled Perry for no gain and the Saints again halted the Bengals and forced a punt.
The Saints started their second drive of the third quarter at their own 32 with 6:38 left in the third quarter.
QB Tyler Palko then came into the game and quickly hit Thomas for a five-yard gain. The two hooked up again on the next play for a gain of 25 yards and Robert Meachem took an end around for a gain of 13 yards to the Cincy 24. Palko was then sacked for an eight-yard loss before two short completions to Thomas picked up five yards. Facing a fourth-and-13 from the 27, Mehlhaff drilled a 44-yard field goal right through the middle of the uprights, concluding a seven-play, 40-yard drive in 3:50. The field goal upped the Saints' lead to 13-0 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
Despite starting with some of their best field position of the night following a kickoff that gave the Bengals the ball at their own 34. The Saints pushed the Bengals back two yards and received two nice passes defensed from veteran CB Aaron Glenn that forced yet another Bengals punt after three offensive plays.
Palko came out and fired a quick pass to Meachem that picked up six yards to the Saints' 18 and rookie RB Lynell Hamilton then picked up a first down with a six-yard gain to the 24. Palko then hit Lance Moore, who made a diving catch over the middle for a gain of 14 yards and another first down. Palko's next pass fell incomplete and the Bengals received a scare when Deltha O'Neal took a shot to his left knee from one of his own teammates.
Hamilton then picked up seven yards on a draw play on the final play of the third quarter, which brought up a third-and-three from the 45. Hamilton took a pitch and bulled his way for four yards and the first down behind the left side of the Saints' line. Palko then attempted to find WR Terrance Copper down the left sideline for a deep pass, but S Corey Lynch intercepted the ball at the Cincy 17.
The Bengals inserted third-string signal-caller Jeff Rowe into the game and he had better luck than the previous Bengals quarterback when he completed a third-down pass for nine yards to Simpson and a first down. Rowe then came back and hit WR Maurice Purify for a 10-yard gain and a first down before Watson picked up two yards to the Cincy 44. Rowe continued to throw underneath and picked up another first down but the Bengals good fortunes were quickly thwarted when Bobby McCray sacked Rowe for an eight-yard loss that pushed the home team back across midfield and into their own territory.
On the next play McCray and DT Orien Harris blew up a screenplay by stopping it for a one-yard loss, which brought up a third-and-18. McCray steamed off the right end and pressured Rowe into throwing an incompletion, and forced a subsequent punt that Skyler Green fair caught at the Saints' 6 with 8:28 left in the game.
Hamilton tried to pick his way through traffic but was stopped after a gain of two yards. Palko then scrambled for nine yards and a first down, eluding a host of would-be tacklers and the Bengals' misfortunes continued when LB Ahmad Brooks was called for a late hit. Palko completed a pass to TE Buck Ortega that picked up 17-yards. Palko then hit Meachem for a gain of seven yards and a first down as the clock neared the five-minute mark but was sacked by DE Angelo Craig for a four-yard loss and the Bengals called their second timeout the second half. Hamilton then picked up six yards on a neat looking draw play on second down and Palko fired a 15-yard pass into the hands of rookie WR Todd Blythe to the Bengals' 24.
The Saints were then flagged for a holding penalty on LT Jermon Bushrod that cost the squad 10 yards but Palko hit Hamilton for a 16-yard gain to the Cincy 18. LB Brandon Johnson knocked down Palko's nest pass, intended for Ghent, and the Saints couldn't convert the third down as Palko and Ortega failed to connect. The Saints went for it on fourth down but were stopped when Palko was chased out of the pocket with 3:27 remaining in the game at the Cincy 18.
Rookie QB Jordan Palmer, the younger brother of starting QB Carson Palmer, entered the game for the Bengals and completed his first pass, a six-yard completion to Purify. On a third-and-two, Palmer scrambled for a gain of two and the first down as the clock hit the two-minute warning.
Schulters ended the Bengals' bid to get on the scoreboard when he intercepted Jordan Palmer at the Cincy 43.
Notes: Payton said after the game that WR Marques Colston took a shot to the ribs and RB Reggie Bush bruised his thigh, but that both players were okay and it was Payton's decision not to risk any further injury to them by re-inserting them into the lineup … Payton also stated that he elected to hold TE Jeremy Shockey out of action this evening simply as a precaution.