Aug 25, 2008

Saints Shut out Bengals. 13-0

The Saints defense stepped up to Coach Payton's challenge in the third preseason game and shut out the Bengals 13-0.

While the defense was solid (4 sacks and 1 interception), it's hard to get too excited about the performance. The 13-0 score had just as much to do with Cincinnati's poor play as it did the Saints defense. The Bengals were without WRs Chad Johnson and T. J. Houshmandzadeh and their main weapon was dump-off passes to RB Chris Perry.

The Saints put more pressure on Carson Palmer and other Bengal QBs than they had in previous games. They blitzed more and even left Palmer blooded with a broken nose and busted lip.

Onto the Pros and Cons from Saturday's game:

Drew Brees - Brees has been awesome in the preseason. He led the team two scoring drives in the first half (42-yard Martin Gramatica FG and 1-yard TD pass to TE Ronnie Ghent). While he would have liked to have led the team to more points, he finished 14/22 for 199 yards and the TD pass. Not a bad night.

Blitz packages - The Saints blitzed safety Kevin Kaesviharn a few times and he finished with 1.5 sacks. Along with the sacks though, the Saints pressured the Bengals into bad throws or dump-off passes. A definite improvement over last week.

Mike McKenzie/Tracy Porter - McKenzie made his return to the Saints starting lineup and didn't disappoint. He nearly made a diving interception in the first half and showed why he's still the Saints best defensive back. Porter started on the other side and was solid and finished the game with 3 tackles. He also got a chance to return punts for the first time and did well in that area too with a long return of 7 yards.

Kicking game - The kicking battle continues to be a dead heat. Both kickers made their FG attempts (42 yards by Gramatica and a 45 yarder by Taylor Mehlhaff). Mehlhaff finally showed his big leg and booted a kickoff 5-yards deep in the endzone, but later in the game, he shanked one that only made it to the 10-yard line. He has yet to show consistency on his kicks, which is why I currently give the edge to Gramatica.

Scoring opportunities - The Saints should have won this game 23-0 or 27-0, but they failed to capitalize on their scoring chances. Devery Henderson dropped a TD pass that hit him in the chest (in his defense, two Bengals quickly hit him as the ball arrived, but it was a catch that he could have held onto). Pierre Thomas fumbled inside the 20-yard line after his longest run of the night. The Saints also went for it on 4th down instead of kicking a FG. Failing to get points on these opportunities could hurt in the regular season.

Minor Injuries - Marques Colston (bruised ribs). Reggie Bush (quad contusion). Josh Savage (hyper extended right elbow). Kevin Dudley (sprained ankle). Luckily none of these injuries are serious, but these little nicks will add up come the regular season. Colston and Bush will likely rest during the last preseason game, but Dudley and Savage are fighting for a roster spot, and these injuries may hurt their chances.

Skyler Green - Green needed a big night returning kicks to help his chances of making the Saints or another team's roster, but he had his worse outing of the preseason. He fielded a punt off a bounce and ended up losing yards. He officially had 2 punt returns for -4 yards. Not the type of numbers he needs to put up. He also fair caught a punt later in the game around the 5-yard line, when it looked like there was room to return the kick. He did have one kick return for 23 yards, but with Porter showing promise returning punts, Green could be among the first cuts on Tuesday.

Next preseason game: Aug. 28 vs. Miami

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