After two days of good work against a very good AFC team, the Saints capped off a productive week with the Chargers Sunday in Carson, Calif.
While the game was not necessarily a reflection of that is to come in the 2019 regular season, these are two good teams whose players and coaches respect each other.
That starts with head coaches Sean Payton and Anthony Lynn, who worked together under Bill Parcells in Dallas previously. The respect that the fine coaches have for each other is evident in how the teams get work in without the usual skirmishes such exercises between teams typically produce.
As we always caution, do not put too much emphasis or pay too much attention to preseason games. They can be false, sometimes very false predictors.
A year ago, Taysom Hill turned the ball over four times in a preseason game, all in one half. It was a disaster zone. Everyone in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome left that evening feeling he could never be an NFL quarterback, much less a real contender to eventually take over for Drew Brees in New Orleans.
In Carson on Sunday, Hill stole the show, putting all of his vast physical abilities on full display.
Hill finished 11-of-15 for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed five times for 53 yards. He made great decisions. He showed great poise. He only missed one open receiver, otherwise displaying uncanny accuracy.
It was a different day, a different location and a different result than the preseason game in question a year ago. The truth of Hill likely lies somewhere in between the two, though his immense skills cannot be ignored.
Given the lack of productivity of Teddy Bridgewater against the Chargers, the talk will begin anew and will grow louder about who the backup to Drew Brees and perhaps the eventual successor to Brees in New Orleans will be.
Here are my Quick Takes from the 19-17 Saints victory over the Chargers:
**Neither Brees or Philip Rivers saw the field for their respective teams.
**Tyrod Taylor got the start for the Chargers while Teddy Bridgewater started again for the Saints.
New Orleans went on to turn the ball over three times, an unacceptable figure.
**Kaden Elliss started at linebacker for the Saints.
**On fourth-and-one on the game’s opening series, Los Angeles opted to go for it from its own 46-yard line. Justin Jackson was stuffed by Damario Davis and Klein on fourth-and-one on the opening series for a two-yard loss to give the Saints the ball at the Charger 44-yard line.
**Andrus Peat started at left guard while Marshall Newhouse started at left tackle.
**Bridgewater held the ball too long on a third down play, something he did a couple of times in the preseason opener, then he decided to try to make a play under duress and was nearly picked off.
**On the next play, the Saints went for it and in shotgun, Bridgewater was not expected a snap from Erik McCoy. It hit him right in the correct spot but he was not ready for it, dropped it and the Chargers took over on downs.
**Trey Hendrickson had an outstanding pass rush on Taylor on the next series, forcing him out of the pocket. Hendrickson was impressive in the preseason opener against Minnesota and by all accounts, has been impressive throughout training camp.
**Bridgewater, under pressure, stepped up in the pocket nicely, spotted a wide- open Emmanuel Butler, but sailed the throw well over his head, necessitating a punt by New Orleans.
*Vonn Bell made a brilliant play on a deep pass attempt from Taylor to Travis Benjamin, who had a couple of steps on Eli Apple. Bell rotated perfectly to arrive just in time to bat the ball away.
**On the next play, David Onyemata got a hand up, deflected a Taylor pass and it was intercepted by Klein.
**Bridgewater continued his shaky play by missing a wide-open Alvin Kamara for what would have been an easy first down, if not more.
**Wil Lutz came on and booted a 33-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 3:13 to play in the opening quarter.
**Hendrickson forced another hold with a good pass rush.
**Marcus Davenport and Eli Apple split a sack early in the second quarter off of a successful corner blitz.
**Tre’Quan Smith had a false start in the first quarter but caught a 16-yard pass from Bridgewater early in the second quarter.
**New Orleans reached the Los Angeles eight-yard line but Bridgewater was intercepted when a short pass to Dwayne Washington, which came out a little hot, bounced off the hands of Washington and into the hands of Jaylen Watkins. It was not a very good pass but it could have been caught.
**Kardell Jones took over at quarterback in the second quarter for Los Angeles and he was very impressive.
**Ken Crawley had a costly pass interference call and Wes Horton had a costly roughing the passer call.
**That led to a 24- yard touchdown pass from Jones to Andre Patton to give the Chargers a 7-3 lead. That completed a 10 play, 98-yard drive which took 5:16 off the clock. On the play, Patton whipped P.J. Williams.
**Jones led the Chargers down the field once again. The drive was aided by a helmet-to-helmet hit and penalty against Chris Banjo. The Saints finally stiffened and forced Michael Badgley to kick a 32-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 1:22 to play in the half. The drive covered nine plays and 58 yards and took 3:05 off the clock.
**Hill took over on the final series of the first half.
**On Hill’s first play, Hill was sacked and on the play, tackle Chris Clark of McDonogh 35 had the back of his knee fallen on and he was carted off the field.
**Butler, who has been a training camp star, dropped a perfect throw from Hill for what would have been a first down, forcing a punt.
**On the next play, Troymaine Pope returned a Thomas Morstead punt 81 yards for a score. The gunners over-pursued and there were a couple of missed tackles.
The result was that the Chargers took a 17-3 lead into halftime. The second quarter was a poor performance in virtually all facets for New Orleans.
**Bridgewater was shaky, going just 5-of-12 for 40 yards with an interception. New Orleans had just 75 yards in the first half.
**Hill was at his best with his vast skills on a long drive in the third quarter. First, he raced 17-yards, showing his great speed and using a terrific stiff-arm for a first down. The drive covered 60 yards in five plays with Hill connecting with a wide- open Austin Carr on a 27-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 17-10.
**Hill and Carr arrived simultaneously as week one waiver wire pickups by the Saints in 2017.
**Hill then drove the Saints to the Los Angeles five-yard line, poised to tie the game, featuring his terrific running once again. Then, Devine Ozigbo fumbled the ball away. Given the way Washington has run the ball effectively, that one play could damage Ozigbo’s chances of making the team, though he would gain redemption later.
**Deonte Harris returned a punt 26 yards, a brilliant run, late in the third quarter. Harris can undoubtedly be a good return man in the NFL. He has a real shot to make the team.
**Hill then engineered another long touchdown drive, hitting Ozigbo with a five-yard touchdown pass. Hill was 6-of-6 for 50 yards and a touchdown on the drive. The drive covered 67 yards in 11 plays, taking 5:27 off the clock.
**The Saints went for two but Anthony Lanier II did not buy a play-fake, stayed home on the Hill bootleg right and sacked him to allow Los Angeles to maintain a 17-16 lead with 6:46 to play in the game.
**Undaunted, Hill responded on the next offensive possession with a nine play, 50-yard drive ending with a 28-yard field goal by Wil Lutz, now 6-of-6 in field goals in the preseason, as the Saints took a 19-17 lead.
**Vince Biegel went down in the final minute but he was able to rise and limp off the field.
**Colton Jumper than picked off Easton Stick to seal the deal with 32 seconds left. Jumper actually returned it for a touchdown but the return was nullified by a block below the waist.
Here are players for the Black & Gold who certainly caught my eye:
- Special Teams:
It was amazing to hear so many Saints fans chanting “Who Dat” in Carson, CA, a long way from home, for a preseason game. Is there any more passionate fan base in the NFL?
The Saints are 1-1 now and it has been a mixed bag. Bridgewater was good one week not so good the next. The Saints were not good in the first half but were good in the second half. Hill has been impressive. Will he get a shot to play earlier, with starters and against the starters on opposing teams in the next two weeks? Will Brees see the field at all?
Consider that the Saints play the Jets at The Meadowlands next Saturday. The defensive coordinator of the Jets is Gregg Williams. We all know his relationship with Sean Payton. We all know his penchant to blitz, regardless of whether it is preseason or the regular season. Is it worth the risk to play Brees at all?
If not, we will see more of Bridgewater and Hill and that is a good thing.
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