August 27, 2004

Saints, Bears Take Out Frustration: Craft injured; Bouman, O'Sullivan fail to separate in 17-13 win

The New Orleans Saints prevailed against the Chicago Bears in an ugly, penalty-ridden game that was frustrating for fans.

The first half of the game saw both teams play good defense, struggle on offense, and collect a penalty at almost every opportunity. The second half got a little more exciting, with the Saints cashing in on some big plays.

With Aaron Brooks out, Todd Bouman started and JT O'Sullivan played the second quarter. There is an unofficial open competition for the #2 quarterback spot, thanks mostly to Bouman's struggles. Tonight, neither looked comfortable in the pocket, neither were on target for the most part. Both made good throws and O'Sullivan especially showed off his mobility, but both quarterbacks had a handful of passes dropped that should have been interceptions. Late in the game, O'Sullivan made some big plays against soon-to-be-unemployed Bear reserves and led the Saints to their only two touchdown drives. Bouman, however, likely played well enough to solidify the job.

The Saints' first team offense scored their first touchdown of the preseason when Deuce McAllister (10 carries, 29 yards) broke containment for an eight-yard run at the end of the second quarter. The short drive was set up by a muffed punt recovered by rookie full Nate Shurman at the Bears 30. O'Sullivan had an eight yard scramble, a 10-yard pass to Joe Horn and McAllister finished off the drive with the help of a pair of Bears defensive penalties.

O'Sullivan in the fourth quarter engineered the Saints second touchdown. The 2002 fifth round draft choice made his bid to replace Todd Bouman as top backup with a 48-yard bomb to Devery Henderson to the Bears' 1. Then O'Sullivan took it the rest of his way on his own with a bootleg and an sideline dive to the pylon to take the lead 17-13 with five minutes to play. O'Sullivan finished 7/17 for 104 yard and two rushes for nine yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Todd Bouman's deepest drive took the Saints to within inches of the Bears' goal line in the fourth quarter, but Kijana Carter was denied twice on dives over the line and the Saints turned the ball over on downs. Bouman did lead the Saints down for a field goal on the third drive of the game, the only points under his watch. Bouman improved his statistics in the third quarter and finished 12-18 for 129 yards.

Kijana Carter finished the game with 78 yards on 10 carries, striking a big hit in his competition with Lamar Smith for the backup runningback job. Smith finished with 17 yards on three carries and one catch for nine yards.

The Bears first team passing offense struggled against the Saints first team defense, with Bears starting QB Rex Grossman looking very up and down. The Bears scored 10 points against the Saints' first team defense, and only a single field goal in the first half. Chicago's offense was almost entirely comprised of the shifty running of Thomas Jones and Adrian Peterson. Jones averaged 6.5 yards on 10 carries and Peterson really gashed the Saints in the third quarter, finishing with 40 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving and the Bears' only touchdown.

Penalties were the name of the game. They were thrown on almost every special teams play. The two teams combined for 30 accepted penalties for over 200 yards.

Highlights from the game:

* The Saints started the game in a 3-4 alignment and played in that for three series before abandoning in it for the base 4-3 defense.
* Rookie DE Will Smith tossed around Bears left tackle Qasim Mitchell, among others on the offensive line, like a rag doll. He is clearly the top pass rusher on the Saints defense. He missed Grossman in the backfield for a sack but forced an incompletion and was a general terror in his playing time, which included snaps in the Saints' first string pass rush schemes.
* On a second-quarter kickoff return, Bears returner Daryl Jones broke free across the field and raced down the left sideline, where he was tripped up by Fahkir Brown and then met by punter Mitch Berger. Berger blasted Jones out of bounds, one of the better hits of the night. Despite good field position at the Saints 28, three Bears penalties forced a punt seven plays later.
* The drops by Saints receivers haven't gone away completely. Donte Stallworth had a hard time adjusting to Saints quarterbacks' off-target throws, dropping a few catchable but difficult balls. Bouman and Stallworth nearly connected on a streak to the corner of the end zone, but the ball fell inches away from Stallworth's hands, who laid out for the attempt.
* DT Brian Young is also very impressive. At the beginning of the second half, Young was in Grossman's face as he released the ball for a screen pass. RB Adrian Peterson made a leaping one-handed catch and was about to break free down the right sideline when Young caught up with him 22 yards down field for the ankle tackle.
* Rookie linebacker Courtney Watson looked good, especially sticky in pass coverage although Bears receiver Bobby Wade escaped from him for a big gain in the first half. Watson continues to get caught out of position and swallowed up on running plays, however.
* Deuce McAllister hasn't looked particularly impressive this preseason but also has made the best of what he has been given. With LeCharles Bentley, Wayne Gandy, and Victor Riley all missing time, Deuce has been all but bottled up before he gets to the line of scrimmage this preseason. He did find a few seams tonight and broke free for the corner of the end zone for his and the first team offense's first score.
* Kijana Carter had the best run for the Saints on the night, likely of the preseason, with a 38-yard scamper in the third quarter. Carter and Lamar Smith got to play most of the second half with Aaron Stecker out with a neck stinger.
* While the Bears seemed to take the most of the referee's yellow flag onslaught, the Saints still looked sloppy with false starts and offsides calls. The Saints also received a delay of game on a field goal and many other special teams penalties.
* WR Jerome Pathon (3 for 59 yards) has easily been the best receiver of the preseason for the Saints. Pathon had a 25-yard catch and scamper in the game and a big third-down catch from Bouman at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
* FS Tebucky Jones laid some big hits, had a good pass defense and the first team defense's only sack on Rex Grossman. Colby Bockwoldt and Johnathan Sullivan teamed up for another sack and Monty Montgomery collected a sack of his own late in the game. Montgomery had some good plays and according to Jim Haslett, missed out on several more. The Voodoo veteran will likely play for his job against Miami in the preseason finale.

Injury report:

Jason Craft suffered an ankle injury defending a pass against David Terrell. Terrell, who caught the pass and angled in for a touchdown, was flagged for offensive pass interference on the play. Craft limped off the field in significant pain with the support of two trainers and was taken in for x-rays, which showed up negative. The diagnosis right now is a sprained ankle.

Minor injuries included: Deveron Harper injured his hamstring; Jay Bellamy had a concussion; Roger Knight had lip laceration; WR Talman Gardner had x-rays on his hand which showed up negative; TE Boo Williams suffered a concussion after catching a pass at the goal line.


QB JT O'Sullivan: "Definitely not pleased with the overall performance. We did enough to win. There's definitely things we got to work on on offense. Just like anyone who watched the game, there are things we've got to work on. We're not clicking on all cylinders."

Kijana Carter: "Thank God he gave me the opportunity today to showcase my talent and for the win. I hope I can help out Deuce when he needs it. I like being in New Orleans, it's kind of grown on me in the last year. Hopefully I've impressed them so I can repay them for what they did for me, for bringing me back this year in camp."

Jim Haslett: "The run defense, we screwed up ourselves. They did a nice job running the football, I'll say that for them. We did a good job on third downs. Too many penalties on special teams. We played well in the red zone. Probably one of our better games at this point."

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