Sports

Saints starters ride bench as offense sputters in preseason finale

New Orleans Saints fullback Austin Johnson (35) dives over the pylon for a touchdown in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016.
New Orleans Saints fullback Austin Johnson (35) dives over the pylon for a touchdown in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. AP

The New Orleans Saints wanted to build some momentum on offense in the final preseason game.

Drew Brees and the starters got a little something going on the first two series.

But after that, the rest of the Saints' offense sputtered in a 23-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens that left New Orleans winless for the second straight preseason.

Plagued by problems in all three waves of the offensive line, the Saints' offense has struggled throughout the preseason. New Orleans failed to score more than 14 points in three games all three of them coming after the preseason opener against New England.

For that reason, Sean Payton broke with tradition and gave each of his starting units a series against a Baltimore Ravens team that largely played its backups right from the start.

Brees hasn't played in a preseason finale since 2006, his first year with the franchise.

But the Saints legend started this one, completing 3 of 6 passes for 50 yards and driving down to set up Kai Forbath's 36-yard field goal after the series stalled deep in Baltimore territory.

Brees, along with most of the rest of the offensive starters, left after that drive, but for at least one series more, the Saints offense kept piling up yards.

This time, a running game that has struggled at times showed some promise behind veteran running backs Tim Hightower and C.J. Spiller, who handled the ball on every snap but one, a 19-yard completion from Luke McCown to Brandon Coleman.

Then the Saints' offensive momentum came to a screeching halt. McCown found himself under constant pressure, pressure that finally got home when Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce sacked McCown on the goal line, dislodged the ball and fell on it for a touchdown.

A game dominated by players fighting for the final spots on the 53-man roster then headed to a stalemate, and an often-penalized New Orleans team had trouble getting anything going.

But second-year quarterback Garrett Grayson, who was sacked twice and under pressure all night, quietly turned in a solid performance, completing 11-of-16 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown to Austin Johnson late in the game for the Saints' only trip to the end zone.

  Comments