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Saints Light Up Black Hole

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            <span style="">Oakland, Calif.</span> – The New Orleans Saints invaded the Oakland Coliseum and erupted out to a 31-0 first half lead behind three touchdowns from their starting offense, a short field goal and a stingy defense that not only caused two fumbles, recorded three sacks but also posted five consecutive three-and-outs. The Saints' second-string offense racked up a late first half touchdown, set up by a 71-yard reception by WR Robert Meachem.  

When the dust settled after the first half, the statistical analysis was as lopsided in the Saints' favor as the score. New Orleans out-gained the Raiders by 284 yards, held the football for 20:27 in time of possession and held the home team to a mere 60 yards in total offense and three first downs to the Saints' 19.

The Saints extended the lead to 38-0 with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter on an 11-yard run by rookie RB Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill, his third touchdown of the preseason and his second score of the afternoon and set a club-record for most points scored in a preseason game (breaking a 42-year team record) when third string QB Anthony Hargrove/Joey Harrington.aspx">Joey Harrington hit WR Lynell Hamilton/Skyler Green.aspx">Skyler Green for an 11-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that give the Saints a 45-0 lead. Oakland spoiled the Saints' shutout bid with 6:06 left in the fourth quarter via a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia to WR Jonathan Holland, a second-year man from Louisiana Tech.

The Saints stormed to a 21-0 lead after just 16 minutes and seven seconds, courtesy of pinpoint passing and hard running by the Saints that resulted in two touchdowns through the air (to WR Devery Henderson and Lance Moore) and a grinding four-yard run by FB Heath Evans.

The Saints' starting offense began the game in impressive fashion as they drove 80 yards in 10 plays. QB Drew Brees was four-of-four passing on the drive for 50 yards, with two completions each to WR Lance Moore (nine and seven yards), and two strikes to TE Jeremy Shockey (21 and 23 yards). RB Mike Bell had four carries on the drive for 11 yards, including conversions of a second-and-one and a third-and-one deep in Raiders territory. FB Heath Evans, with his second carry as a Saint, bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out for the Saints' opening touchdown of the game, putting the Saints up 7-0 following extra point by John Carney out of a Mark Brunell hold.

The Saints' defense forced their seventh turnover of the preseason and their first of the game when S Roman Harper fought off a block and surprised QB Jamarcus Russell with a sack and a forced fumble that LB Jonathan Vilma recovered at the Saints' 33.

The Saints' offense kept rolling on the second possession of the game as the Saints drove 67 yards in eight plays, capped off with a 40-yard pass from Brees to WR Devery Henderson. On the scoring play, which occurred on a third-and-ten from the Oakland 40, Brees stepped up in the pocket and spotted Henderson streaking across the field and fired a pass to the wide-open receiver. The Saints' lead was extended to 14-0 after only 10 minutes had expired in the game. After the Saints' first two drives, Brees had completed nine-of-10 passes for 123 yards and the touchdown pass.

The Saints' defense then forced a three-and-out on the Raiders' second possession of the game, with FS Usama Young very nearly intercepting a Russell third down pass near midfield. The Raiders Ricky Schmidt hit a booming 55-yard punt that Lance Moore field and returned to the Saints' 22.

Brees was sacked on first down by DT Desmond Bryant and the Saints faced a second-and-17, but RB Lynell Hamilton took a draw 15 yards on second down and then picked up 11 more yards on a third-and-two for the first down to the Saints' 41. Two consecutive incompletions put the Saints in another third-and-long, but Brees found a sliding Henderson on the dirt infield for a 16-yard gain and the first down. Brees then found Henderson again for 13 more yards to the Raiders 30. A chorus of boos from the sparse crowd reigned down on the Raiders as the Saints finished the first quarter with a seven yards completion from Brees to Hamilton to the Oakland 23. The Saints were five-of-five on third downs in the first quarter and out gained the Raiders 202 yards to 44 and held the ball for 11:57 in time of possession.

Hamilton began the second quarter with a three yard gain on first down to the Raiders' 20. Brees then hit WR Marques Colston for a 15-yard reception to the five and then came right back with a strike to Moore for a touchdown that put the Saints ahead 21-0 after Carney's third extra point of the game. Brees finished the day early with 14 completions on 17 attempts for 179 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 149.8.

The Saints then forced another three-and-out and Saints Head Coach Sean Payton apparently was pleased with what he had witnessed from his starting offense, as he inserted the second-string offensive, guided by QB Mark Brunell. The Raiders' starting defense stayed in the game and forced the Saints the punt for the first time in the game with 10:59 left in the second quarter. P Thomas Morstead hit a high-hanging 32 yards punt that was fair caught at the Saints' 27.

CB Jabari Greer made a nice play in the second quarter when it appeared that Russell, scrambling to high right in the midst of heavy pressure from the Saints' front, tossed a wobbly pass to WR Louis Murphy. Green reached in and knocked the ball away from Murphy for an incompletion and the Saints again pitched a three-and-out, their third straight drive without allowing a first down.

Brunell kicked the Saints' offense back into gear, utilizing RB Lynell Hamilton's hard-charging running style and pass attempts to Moore, who twice drew pass interference calls on CB Stanford Routt. The Saints were flagged for their first penalty of the afternoon with just over six minutes remaining in the second quarter when G Jamar Nesbit was flagged for a holding call that pushed the Saints back 10 yards. Brunell appeared to hit pay dirt with a 17-yard strike to WR Rod Harper, but the Saints were flagged with an illegal formation penalty. The Saints made it three penalties in a row when LT Garrett Hartley/Michael Brown.aspx">Michael Brown was flagged for not being lined up properly. The Saints elected to utilize the opportunity to allow Carney to hammer home a 35-yard field goal that upped the score to 24-0 in the Saints' favor with 5:09 left in the first half.

Saints DT Remi Ayodele smacked RB Darren McFadden and stripped him of the ball near the Saints' 25, with DE Paul Spicer scooping up the loose ball and rumbling 19 yards to the Oakland 6 yard-line with 4:22 left in the second quarter. The Raiders challenged that McFadden was down when he lost the ball, but after the video rule the call on the field stood and the Saints had their best starting position of the day.

But Brunell was intercepted by S Hirman Eugene when he attempted to find Moore in the end zone. Eugene returned the ball33 yards to their own 30. The Saints halted the Raiders to their fourth straight three and out when LB Troy Evans sacked Russell for 12-yard sack on a third-and-four.

New Orleans took over at their own 26 with 2:42 left in the first half. RB Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill began the drive with a four-yard gain behind the Saints' offensive line. Brunell then hooked up on a short completion to WR Robert Meachem that the third-year receiver turned into a 71-yard completion to the Oakland 1 as the clock hit the two-minute warning. Hill tried the middle but was stopped by LB Sam Williams at the line of scrimmage. Hill picked up his second touchdown of the preseason on the next play with a one-yard dive that widened the Saints' lead to 31-0.

DE Bobby McCray registered the Saints' third sack of the game with :23 left in the second quarter when he tracked down Russell for a nine-yard loss on a third down. New Orleans took over with :10 at midfield and nearly pulled off a Hail Mary on the second to last play of the half when WR Rod Harper missed a deflected ball by mere inches. On the next play Brunell's pass was picked off in the end zone by CB Chris Johnson and returned to midfield before WR Adrian Arrington knocked him down.

Saints RB Lynell Hamilton led all rushers with nine carries for 63 yards (7.0 avg.), as the Saints cranked out 92 yards on the ground in the first half on 19 carries, compared to one yard on the ground on four carries for the Raiders. TE Jeremy Shockey and WR Lance Moore each had four receptions in just over a quarter of play, with Henderson checking in with three receptions and Meachem (71 yards) owning the most receiving yards. Linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Troy Evans were each credited with a team-high three stops in the first half.

Notes: The following Saints players did not play: RB Pierre Thomas, RB Reggie Bush, S Malcolm Jenkins/Chip Vaughn.aspx">Chip Vaughn, T Anthony Davis, T Jammal Brown, TE Darnell Dinkins, WR D'Juan Woods and DE Charles Grant. For the Raiders the following players did not play: RB Justin Fargas, S Mike Mitchell, LB Kirk Morrison, T Khalif Barnes, C John Wade, DE Matt Shaughnessy and WR Chaz Schilens … S Usama Young left the game in the first half favoring his shoulder … WR Courtney Roby delivered a timely open field hit on return specialist Johnnie Lee Higgins in the third quarter … Oakland turned in a 51-yard completion from Russell to WR Louis Murphy in the third quarter that ended when Saints S Pierson Prioleau stripped him of the ball and S Chris Reis swooped in and scooped it up and returned the ball to the Saints' 36 … it was the team's third forced fumble of the game and ninth of the preseason through three games … the Saints converted a fourth-and-two in the third quarter near midfield via a six yard connection between Brunell and WR Rod Harper … Roby took an end around for an eight yard gain in the third quarter … RB Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill barreled his way to an 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that extended the Saints' lead to 38-0… QB Jeff Garcia entered the game with 4:40 left in the third quarter … S Pierson Prioleau applied a timely open field hit on TE Tony Stewart that jarred the ball loose and caused an incompletion in the third quarter … CB Malcolm Jenkins nailed Garcia on a blitz in the third quarter an instant after he released an incomplete pass … LB Marvin Mitchell had consecutive tackles in the third quarter … LB Troy Evans lowered his shoulder into a scrambling Garcia on the final play of the third quarter … DE/DT Anthony Hargrove pressured Garcia into a third down incompletion on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Saints maintained that intentional grounding should have been called because Garcia was still in the pocket and his pass did not reach the line of scrimmage … Oakland elected to go for it on fourth-and-12 from the Saints' 22 but Garcia's pass intended for Louis Murphy was broken up in the end zone by CB Leigh Torrence … QB Anthony Hargrove/Joey Harrington.aspx">Joey Harrington entered the game for the Saints at the 14:49 mark of the fourth quarter … RB Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill made an impressive set of moves on a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter and lowered his shoulder at the conclusion of the run before being shoved out of bounds…Hill had three straight carries to begin the Saints' first drive in the fourth quarter …the Saints went for it on fourth-and-six and converted it with a picture perfect 20 yard completion from Harrington to TE Buck Ortega, who alertly stayed in bounds to keep the clock running … Harrington hit RB Herb Donaldson for a third-down screen pass that was converted into a first down … the Saints went for it on fourth-and-eight from the Raiders' 11 and Harrington found WR Lynell Hamilton/Skyler Green.aspx">Skyler Green in the corner of the end zone for his first touchdown of the preseason….Oakland started at their own 40 after a nice kickoff return in the fourth quarter. Roby made a diving tackle on the return man … Oakland ended the Saints' shutout bid with 6:06 left in the fourth quarter when WR Jonathan Holland scored on a 43-yard reception from Jeff Garcia that made the score 45-7 in the Saints' favor… every member of the Saints' roster that was dressed appeared in the game…LB Jonathan Casillas popped RB Gary Russell shy of the first down markers after a short completion in the fourth quarter, giving the Saints the ball back with 2:41 left in the game.

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