August 28, 2011

Saints Double Up Raiders, 40-20 in third preseason game

The Saints wrapped up a week in California with a solid outing against the Raiders.  Both teams were missing key players but that didn't stop the Saints from racking up 514 yards of offense and 40 points in their second straight preseason drubbing of the Raiders in Oakland.

K Garrett Hartley was injured in the third quarter of the game, forcing Chase Daniel to go for two on second half field goals.  Payton reported Hartley's hip injury as the only new injury.  "I don't think it's serious, a pull," Payton said after the game.

The Saints' first team got done what the wanted on offense, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives, both of 80 yards, and following it with a field goal.   Brees was pass-happy, aggressively attacking the Raiders with 23 pass plays to 12 runs when Brees was in the game.

QB Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton picked on rookie CB Demarcus Van Dyke all night long, and started right away by targeting Devery Henderson deep down the left sideline.  Brees' first pass was caught brilliantly by Henderson, behind Van Dyke, when the rookie never turned to look for the ball and overran the speedster from LSU.  That 37 yard pass was followed three plays later by a 17-yard reception to Robert Meachem against Van Dyke.

Three plays later, on fourth and two, Colston double-stepped and cut in front of Van Dyke for an easy short-yardage completion, and same thing again on the next play.  At the Oakland 5, the Saints moved closer with a run by short-yardage expert Mark Ingram, but then lost five yards on a false start by Jimmy Graham.  The Saints recovered the yardage with - you guessed it - a quick slant to Colston against Van Dyke.  Ingram punched it in on 3rd and 1 for the 7-0 lead.

The Raiders' starters found success as well, mostly thanks to Derek Hagan and Michael Bush the poor tackling of the Saints' starters.  Hagan caught a 12 yard pass against Patrick Robinson, and Bush ripped off runs of 12 and 11 yards to move to the Saint 35.  Hagan caught a quick slant, and on the bare dirt of the Oakland Athletics' infield, CB Tracy Porter slid and missed him in the flat.  Safety Jonathon Amaya, who will be forever linked as part of the bounty of the Reggie Bush trade, was out of position and Hagan pranced into the end zone to tie the game at 7.

The Saints struck back with big Brees gains to Jimmy Graham and Meachem of 23 yards each.  Darren Sproles picked up nine yards on a tough run up the middle, Pierre Thomas picked up six and then the final yard on a sky-high leap over the line for the touchdown.

TE Jimmy Graham was a frequent target of Brees early on, leading Saints receivers with five catches for 73 yards. In the second quarter, on a high, incomplete pass into the end zone, S Tyvon Branch comically bounced off of Graham's power forward frame and hit the ground.  Graham, who stretched up high when he took the hit, ran towards the sidelines, grimacing with apparent rib pain.

The defense forced a punt on the Raiders' second drive, aided by a holding penalty on Raiders C Stefen Wisniewski.

Drew Brees and Olin Kreutz were pulled late in the second half and with many starters still in, Chase Daniel took over with 2:30 left in the first half but couldn't turn his chance to run the two-minute drill into points. Daniel fired incomplete on three passes, but he did hit Robert Meachem for 21 yards down the right sideline.  Daniel looked hesitant to pull the trigger, his passes arriving late in the receiver's pattern.  Later in the game, Daniel would be late on a pass to Montez Billings, who ran a corner route in the end zone and was wide open, but Daniel's pass carried him out of bounds.

Daniel's pass to Meachem for 21 yards arrived a fraction of a second before Meachem was lit up by Tyvon Branch out of bounds.  Late-arriving passes often hang receivers out to dry like that, so Daniel will have to improve his timing.  Daniel would be sacked on 3rd and 10 to snuff out that final drive of the first half.

Amaya collected an interception when FS Malcolm Jenkins went over the top of TE Brandon Myers to tip an endzone pass into the air.  Amaya caught the deflection and snuffed out starting QB Jason Campbell's final drive.  Overall it was an up and down night for Amaya, who was out of place and slow in coverage on multiple occasions. It was an opportunity for Amaya to contribute with the starting defense, and safe to say, the Saints are fortunate to have Harper and Jenkins in the backfield.

Backup QB Kyle Boller took the field for the Raiders in the second half, and kicked off the Taiwan Jones show.  Oakland rookie Jones was the highlight for the Raiders in the second half, rushing for 81 yards on 13 carries and showing rare escapability and quickness.  Playing well into the fourth quarter, Jones the Saints backup defenders look bad and he should challenge for playing time in a crowded Raider backfield.

Three rushes by Jones collected 23 yards for Boller, then a 31-yard catch and run by Hagan moved the Raiders down to the Saint 26.  On that catch by Hagan, Boller was pile-drived by DT Shaun Rogers, who tossed his blocker aside and slammed Boller under the weight of his 350+ pounds.  Kudos to Boller for surviving that hit and coming back in on the next series.

Taiwan Jones covered the final yards on two runs, breaking free when Jabari Greer crashed down too deep, Jones stepped in front of him.  Amaya was probably held in the secondary as Jones raced down the right sideline, but it was a great run by the rookie from Eastern Washington.  The crew of Gene Steratore was operating with substitute linesmen, trapped on the east coast by Hurricane Irene, and called a few tolerant game.

Daniel fired incomplete twice and Mark Ingram was dropped for a four yard loss, and the Saints punted from deep in their own territory.  The Raiders moved into position for a field goal and took the lead on a 39-yard Sebastian Janikowski kick, 20-17.

Chase Daniel's third drive began with 8:26 left in the third quarter, when fifth string runningback Joique Bell made a strong case to be a part of the team.  Bell took a short pass 32 yards downfield, blasting over and through tacklers before being dragged down at the 32.  Back upfield, rookie LB Bruce Davis hit Daniel in the facemask and dropped him hard, drawing a 15-yard roughing penalty.  Daniel, who early had banged his throwing hand against a defender, got up tough.

Bell then ripped off a 15-yard run around the left end, knocked out three yards short of the goal line.  Daniel rolled right and fired to TE Tory Humphrey for the touchdown, reclaiming the lead the for the final time 24-20 following Hartley's extra point.  Hartley appeared to injure his right hip on the extra point kick.

Former Saint RB Michael Bennett, signed in 2006 then traded in the offseason after the drafting of Reggie Bush, took a short pass 12 yards from Boller.  But the Raiders would punt, and the Saints would take possession back at their own 13.  Under center, Daniel led the Saints downfield for another score, primarily aided by a 60-yard catch and run by Joique Bell to the Oakland 15.  An offensive holding penalty on Adrian Arrington and two incomplete passes set up 3rd and 15.

Joique Bell, added off the street in the middle of last season, made a definite statement to be the fifth runningback on the team, and possibly fourth on the depth chart until Chris Ivory's Lisfranc injury is recovered.

First round pick Mark Ingram expected to start or contribute heavily, would play in snaps throughout the game, and nearly scored on the next play on a screen.  Ingram fell short two yards short of the goal line near the end of the third quarter.  RB Joique Bell would leap over the line three plays later on 3rd and 1 for the touchdown and 32-20 lead.  With Hartley injured, the Saints went for two, and Daniel hit Adrian Arrington on the quick out for the conversion.

Raiders QB Trent Edwards entered the game in the fourth quarter and immediately hit Taiwan Jones for an 18 yard gain on a short dumpoff.  Three plays later a bad snap would be recovered by alert DE Junior Galette.  On the next play, Chase Daniel hit a wide open Arrington, who jogged into the end zone from 39 yards out.  Joique Bell ran up the middle for the two point conversion and the final score of the game.

After punts on his first two drives, Daniel lead the Saints reserves to three straight touchdown drives, finishing the night 9/18 for 191 yards and three touchdowns.  His performance is tempered by poor play at times from the Raiders reserves.

Stout DT Swanson Miller and his dreadlocks sacked Trent Edwards twice from right defensive tackle,  snuffing out the Raider's final series.  On the second sack, Miller broke free on a stunt and chased down Edwards from behind, showing good mobility for a big man.  Miller may have wrapped up the job as the fourth defensive tackle.  DT Mitch King played a lot of snaps throughout the game, and was commended by Payton after the game for playing with "great effort and energy."  Behind Sedrick Ellis, Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin, Miller, King and Tom Johnson have been competing for snaps.

LB Jonathan Casillas had another strong second half, though Scott Shanle and Will Herring may have locked up starting jobs at outside linebacker.  Casillas ended Trent Edwards' second drive by blasting past Taiwan Jones and dropping Edwards for a ten yard sack.

Canfield and Edwards finished the remainder of the game, which featured Bell running through more Raider backup defenders.  Bell finished with 142 total yards on just 8 touches.  Patrick Cobbs entered the game with Canfield in the fourth, and carried four times for 2, 26, 10 and 10 yards.  Canfield kneeled off the final two minutes of the game.

Rookie LB Martez Wilson made some good plays in the second half and showed an instinct for getting into the backfield.  First round pick DE Cameron Jordan also played a significant amount of time. Both high-round defenders recorded two solo tackles.

The game featured a punting battle in the second half by two of the game's best, Thomas Morstead of the Saints and Shane Lechler of the Raiders.  Morstead averaged 41.3 yards on three punts, his last of 38 yards and downed at the Raider 7.

G Brian De La Puente started for Carl Nicks at left guard. S Jonathon Amaya started for Roman Harper at strong safety. Wide receivers Joe Morgan (kene) and Lance Moore (groin) didn't play.  Neither did rookie cornerback Johnny Patrick or contending starter linebacker Clint Ingram.

After the game, Sean Payton apologized to Raiders coach Hue Jackson for the two point conversions, explaining that his kicker was hurt. Jackson apparently accepted the apology with ease.

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