One down, mercifully, and only three more tuneups to go.
That’s what I liked most about the New Orleans Saints’ first preseason game, a mistake-riddled 34-22 loss to the New England Patriots at picturesque Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
My second-best take from that overpriced scrimmage involves Saints coach Sean Payton, who made it clear afterward that his team’s overall performance is not acceptable.
Not when the defense has been historically bad for three of the last four seasons. Not when your team has posted consecutive 7-9 campaigns and missed the playoffs the past two seasons.
Not when the coach just signed a five-year contract extension worth $45 million.
Nor should Payton be satisfied.
From Day 1 of training camp, he has emphasized winning. And while The Greenbrier Resort will never be confused for unpretentious Millsaps College in Jackson, site of Saints training camps from 2006 to 2008, Payton appears to be showing more tough love in West Virginny.
Saints camp is no longer viewed as a summer getaway.
He wants results — ASAP. The NFL is a results-oriented business. You snooze, you lose.
I’ll say this: Payton’s team may not be ready for the regular season but he looked to be in midseason form Thursday night.
“The object is to win the game, (not) to lose,’’ he concluded, doing his best Herm Edwards imitation.
And then Payton cited reasons why the Black and Gold lost.
▪ Four giveaways that resulted in two gift-wrapped touchdowns, one coming on the first play from scrimmage by second-year quarterback Garrett Grayson, whose errant pass ended in a 43-yard interception return by Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, a former Southern Miss standout. Backup quarterback Luke McCown also lost a ball that Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers scooped, and he scored from 17 yards out.
▪ No takeaways.
▪ Nine penalties for minus 93 yards.
▪ An anemic 2.6-yard rushing average on 30 carries compared to the Patriots’ 5-yard average. FYI: They miss left tackle Terron Armstead and offensive lineman Andrus Peat needs to find one position and stay there. I’m still not sold on guards Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete.
▪ A feeble 50-year field goal attempt by kicker Kai Forbath.
Oh, the Black and Gold produced some individual highlights:
▪ Rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas (four catches, 67 yards).
▪ Defensive end Kasim Edebali (two sacks).
▪ Undrafted rookie cornerback Ken Crawley had a few Kodak moments as did rookie running back Daniekl Lasco.
▪ Marcus Murphy nearly broke a punt return for a score.
But if you want coulda, woulda, shoulda, you came to the wrong place. Sure, Drew Brees only took three snaps. But the Patriots didn’t play Tom Brady (Jimmy Garappolo did), The Gronk and Julian Edelman.
The Saints have a lot of ground to cover before the season opener on Sept. 11, against the vastly improved Oakland Raiders at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Deep down, I’m pretty sure Sean Payton would agree.