John J. Hendrix
You never know what you’re going to get with the first preseason game, but Friday night had a little bit of everything.
The New Orleans Saints kicked off their 2019 preseason campaign at home on Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in a victory, as the team lost 35-24 despite coming back.
For the Saints defense, all regular starters took the first snap minus Cameron Jordan. It didn’t really matter, as the Vikings were able to walk the distance of the field thanks to some excellent plays from Kirk Cousins. Minnesota looked to have a touchdown after Cousins found Adam Thielen on a go route with Eli Apple in coverage, but further review indicated he was down at the 1-yard line. The very next play saw the Vikings take it in to take a 7-0 lead.
New Orleans piloted a nice drive courtesy of Teddy Bridgewater, who got the start in place of Drew Brees, as he was nearly perfect. He was 6-of-6 for 43 yards prior to an end zone incompletion to Michael Thomas, and both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray were featured heavily on the opening drive. Wil Lutz came in to put the first points of the 2019 preseason on the board to cut the Vikings lead to 7-3.
The Saints defense was able to respond by forcing a three-and-out against backup quarterback Sean Mannion, and things went back to Bridgewater for another drive. Things started off strong, and the Saints were able to extend the drive some thanks to some defensive holding penalties on the Vikings. However, Bridgewater and company had a sloppy back half of the series that didn’t take them anywhere. Luckily, Wil Lutz was able to add a 52-yard field goal to make it 7-6 Vikings with 9:58 left in the first half.
The Vikings quickly countered, going 76 yards in 7 plays in just 3:51 to get another touchdown on the board and take a 14-6 lead. The Saints defenders had quite a few issues with footing, and it’s never a good sign when you see Trey Hendrickson hustling downfield to make a tackle after a 34-yard screen play.
The Saints looked to go down even more after trading a possession over to the Vikings, but an ill-advised Ameer Abdullah fumble that was recovered by Vince Biegel gave Bridgewater a chance to work in the two-minute drill. This time, they’d cash in as Bridgewater would pilot a 6-play, 64-yard drive to give the Saints their first touchdown of the preseason courtesy of a Bridgewater-Dan Arnold 18-yard hookup. The big play came from Cyril Grayson Jr., who Bridgewater found on the first play of the drive for a big pass play. Jacquizz Rodgers missed an easy chance to tie the game on the ensuing two-point attempt. Bridgewater finished the night going 14-of-19 for 134 yards and a touchdown (110.4 rating).
The New Orleans defense was able to close out the half, and the start of the third quarter saw Taysom Hill step in. Hill started things off fine, but Darn Arnold coughed up a wouldbe reception that led to a Nate Meadors pick-six that put the Vikings up 21-12. Hill would shake that off and come back with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that stalled out and gave Lutz another opportunity to convert an easy 26-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 21-15.
Minnesota would counter via a Kyle Sloter drive that went 72 yards in 6 plays, which also had a defensive pass interference call on Kayvon Webster that Sean Payton challenged. It didn’t go his way, and shortly thereafter, Sloter found Khari Blasingame for an easy score from two yards out to put the Vikings ahead by two scores at 27-15 (two-point attempt failed).
Cyril Grayson Jr. would get a crack at kick returning duties after Deonte Harris had a stellar showing in his debut. The Saints would make things interesting on the drive, but as it went most of the night, penalties pushed them back and ended up killing off good drives. Lutz was once again on target, this time from 42 yards out to cut the Vikings lead to 27-18.
The Saints would put together an impressive 5-play, 83-yard drive to cut the deficit to 27-25 after what looked to be a disaster after a bad Travin Dural drop. Devin Ozigbo looked good on the drive, and after a defensive pass interference call involving Travin Dural, Lil’Jordan Humphrey would score on a 33-yard catch and run thanks to a great individual effort. It was short-lived however, as Mike Boone would score on a 64-yard rushing play to put the Vikings up 34-25 with 7:09 to go.
Taysom Hill and company couldn’t counter on the ensuing possession, and the Vikings would drain the clock to preserve a 34-25 win. The Saints look ahead to next week’s primetime showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers, which will be nationally televised on CBS next Sunday (3:00 p.m. CT start time).