Throughout the recently-completed NFL off-season, all reports from the New Orleans Saints training facility have been that the team — specifically their 1st team starting players on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football — appeared to be very focused and seemingly well-prepared to play the upcoming 2019 regular season right away if they could.
Last night at MetLife Stadium in New York City, the starters saw their most significant playing time of the preseason against the New York Jets, and the observations of the past few months were not only confirmed, it was glaringly evident to anyone that had been watching to see if it was actually the case or not that the team is ready to “play it for real.”
Particularly impressive was the Saints’ superstar trio on offense consisting of QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas, all of whom had a major hand in the team’s outstanding opening series to begin the game. In particular, the future Hall of Famer Brees carved up the young and aggressive but still vulnerable Jets defense on his first and only drive of the entire preseason.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 24, 2019
As a result, the tone was set for the remainder of the contest from that point, and New Orleans defeated New York by a score of 28-13, improving their win-loss record to (2-1) overall in the preseason.
The 40-year old and 19-year NFL veteran Brees completed 4-out of-6 passes for 68 yards, including a perfectly-placed 19-yard touchdown toss to a well-covered Thomas in the right corner of the end zone that gave the Black and Gold an early 7-0 lead.
Thomas made two critical catches on the drive for 39 yards, while Kamara utilized both his superior speed and athleticism while hauling in two passes for 29 yards and carried the ball twice for an additional four yards on the ground.
— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) August 24, 2019
But not to be outdone, the Saints’ 1st team defense then had their own impressive start to the game on the Jets’ opening drive, when starting #1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore stripped the ball right out of the hands of New York RB Ty Montgomery to give possession of the ball back to the Saints offense at the Jets 31-yard line.
Back-up #2 QB Teddy Bridgewater subsequently took over duties from Brees on that 2nd possession and ended up playing the remainder of the 1st half; as he finished 15-of-26 passing for 143 yards, but was unable to get the Black and Gold into the end zone.
Bridgewater eventually drove the Saints to within the 20-yard line, but successive back-to-back penalties pushed them backwards and they were forced to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Wil Lutz to jump out to an early 10-0 lead in the 1st quarter.
The defense was able to limit 2nd year veteran and starting Jets QB Sam Darnold to 5-of-10 passing for 46 yards, while the stout run defense led by Cam Jordan held New York to a meager seven yards rushing on five carries – although it’s important to note that starting Jets RB Le’Veon Bell suited up but did not play or see any game action.
Later in the 1st half, with the Saints back-ups in on defense, Darnold threw a 2-yard TD pass to Montgomery to narrow the margin to 10-7 early in the 2nd quarter. On that particular drive, Darnold went 3-out-of-4 for 51 yards passing, including a 51-yard completion to WR Robby Anderson. Darnold finished his night under center by completing 8-of-13 passes for 97 yards and a TD before he was replaced by Jets #2 QB Trevor Siemian.
— AMock Sports (@AMockSports) August 25, 2019
The Saints offense would answer back later in the period. as Lutz connected on a 40-yard field goal to put the Saints up by a score of 13-7. Unfortunately, however, Lutz had his perfect preseason come to an untimely end when he missed a 43-yard kick that hooked off past the left upright of the goal post, just prior to halftime.
In the 3rd quarter, Siemian led New York down the field as jets kicker Taylor Bertolet drilled a 48-yard kick to close the score to within three points at 13-10. Bertolet would then end up converting a well-struck kick from 56-yards out later in the period to tie the score at 13-13 apiece.
But that’s when Saints 3rd string QB and last week’s preseason hero Taysom Hill once again made his presence felt for a 2nd straight week; and after he initially struggled early and threw two incompletions to begin his night under center was also sacked on the Saints’ first drive of the 3rd quarter, was able to eventually settle down and led New Orleans on a meticulous drive downfield,
This was a beauty from Taysom Hill between two defenders 🔥#NOvsNYJ
— PFF (@PFF) August 25, 2019
But penalties once again killed their opportunity to get into the end zone, and they yet again were forced to settle on a Lutz field goal this time from 38-yards out, to make the score 16-13.
Hill finished the night with a steady-if-not-spectacular 8-out-of-13 passing for 127 yards. He also carried the ball twice for 15 more additional yards on the ground
But perhaps the “highlight of the night” belonged to undrafted rookie free agent Deonte Harris — who likely secured himself a spot on the team’s Final 53-man Roster — when he fielded a punt return and ran it back 78 yards “to the house” for a thrilling touchdown run up the right sideline to extend the Saints’ lead to 23-13 in the 4th quarter.
Our kind of jets 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Deonte Harris takes it all the way back! pic.twitter.com/iZJtJ8TZEx
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 25, 2019
On the following series, a holding call against the Jets O-Line in the end zone gave the Saints defense two more points on a safety, which made the score 25-13. Lutz would ultimately add another field goal from 34 yards out. to make the final score of the contest 28-13.
All in all, it was a good night for the team, in spite of the fact that they committed a total of 16 penalties in the contest, which they undoubtedly will be looking to get “cleaned up” in next Thursday Night’s preseason finale at home against the Miami Dolphins.
But clearly the biggest takeaway from last night’s results were that the 1st team players on both sides of the ball looked razor-sharp and more than ready for the start of the upcoming 2019 Regular Season that begins in two more weeks; when the Black and Gold will host the visiting Houston Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on ESPN Monday Night Football on September 9th.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius