Quick Takes: Saints finish preseason 2-2 with close loss to Ravens
NEW ORLEANS – It does not count. Good thing for the New Orleans Saints
In a first quarter featuring a pair of turnovers and a second quarter with a blocked field goal attempt, the Saints did not look the part of a team ready to begin playing for real in just over a week.
Of course, the guys who played Thursday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome are mostly not the guys who will line up for New Orleans against the Minnesota Vikings a week from Monday.
What did we really learn? That if the Saints have to play with a host of reserves, they are in deep trouble. I’m sure that clarifies things for you.
If you were looking for a star of the game, a guy who may have impacted coaches’ minds about making the final roster, it came from undersized linebacker Adam Bighill. While he is not in the same area code as Sam Mills, one cannot help but think of Mills watching Bighill play. He does not look the part but he certainly plays big.
Here are my Quick Takes from the Saints’ 14-13 defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens:
**On the first two plays from scrimmage, Saints linebackers got at least one hand on passes from Ryan Mallett. First, it was Adam Bighill before Michael Mauti followed with the same result. Bighill played with his pants on fire, pursuing hard from sideline to sideline. There is a lot to like about his effort and his play.
**Max Unger opened at center while Ryan Ramczyk opened at left tackle for the Saints up front on offense.
**Mitchell Loewen, who has shown well in the preseason, beat his man with a good spin move to force a hold with great pressure on Mallett. Loewen then nearly blocked the ensuing punt. He fits perhaps the oldest axiom for players in that he plays with a high motor.
**Chase Daniel was picked off by Carl Davis on an inside short pass attempt for Daniel Lasco. That is one situation where a shorter quarterback is at a clear disadvantage, seeing the forest through the trees. Davis held his ground at the line-of-scrimmage, read Daniel and made a very nice play.
**That led to a one-yard touchdown pass from Mallett to Chris Moore on fourth down to make it 7-0 with 7:34 to play in the opening quarter.
**Daniel Lasco hit the hole running on a 16-yard jaunt in the first quarter. Lasco looks to be the fourth running back on the roster, particularly with his ability in special teams coverage, giving him an edge over Darius Victor, along with Travaris Cadet.
**Vonn Bell fired hard to nail Taquan Mizzell for a five-yard loss on a swing pass late in the first quarter.
**Obum Gwachum later deflected pass by Thaddeus Lewis.
**Lasco then fumbled when hit by Marlon Humphrey with Patrick Onwuasor recovering at the New Orleans 16-yard line as the first quarter came to a close. Dejectedly, Lasco went and kneeled by himself following the turnover.
**The Saints got it right back as Al-Quadin Muhammad, who has enjoyed an outstanding preseason, sacked Thaddeus Lewis, causing a fumble which David Onyemata recovered. Muhammad has been very good.
**A holding call on Josh Hill negated a nice run by Travaris Cadet in the second quarter.
**Wil Lutz then had a 49-yard field goal blocked with pressure up the middle. The ball did not seem to get elevated, a problem for Lutz early last season which he seemed to correct. The snap from new long-snapper Jon Dorenbos was perfect and the hold by Daniel was solid.
**John Hughes, III got a sack of Lewis in the second quarter but it was negated by a defensive holding call against Vonn Bell.
**Michael Mauti played with emotion and played very effectively, making his case for the 53-man roster.
**Bobby Rainey capped a 12 play, 66-yard drive, taking 7:23 off the clock with a two-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 Baltimore with 3:21 to play in the first half.
**DeVante Harris struggled in coverage and missed a tackle in space, the kind of plays you cannot have when trying to make the final roster.
**Jake Lampman made a couple of nice catches late in the second quarter.
**Daniel appeared to favoring an ankle on the final drive of the first half.
**Coby Fleener was in the game late in the second quarter and made a first-down reception.
**Daniel finished the half with a nice 16-yard touchdown pass as the Saints cut the deficit to 14-7 at halftime. The drive went 94 yards in 14 plays, taking 3:06 off the clock. It was an important drive after a poor half by the team and one that the Saints needed to see to remind everyone that Daniel is competent enough if called upon.
**Daniel finished the half 11-of-19 for 103 yards with the touchdown and the interception.
**Ryan Nassib started the second half at quarterback for the Saints. Garrett Grayson did not enter until there were just over nine minutes remaining in the game.
**Hometown hero Arthur Maulet of Bonnabel High School made a great play covering punt, forced a fumble by Keenen Raynolds and recovered it at the Baltimore 23-yard line midway through the third quarter.
**That set up a 28-yard field goal by Lutz to make it 14-10 Baltimore with 6:06 to play in the third quarter. Lutz later added a 48-yard field goal
**LSU’s Travin Dural likely played his way onto the practice squad with a very solid game, though he had a key drop in the fourth quarter of a perfectly thrown ball by Grayson. The same is true of Darius Victor and Maulet.
**Thomas Morstead punted beautifully to the Baltimore one-yard line in the fourth quarter, a 54-yard effort that died right at the one-yard mark.
**Grayson made a perfect throw to Cadet for 26 yards to the Baltimore 36-yard line with 31 seconds left.
**Then, Khalif Barnes false started, a killer in retrospect, costing the Saints and Lutz five yards. Grayson then made a poor throw, behind Lasco, which would have given the Saints much better field goal position. Lutz then missed a 59-yard field goal and the Ravens were victorious
The talk and conjecture will continue for another week. Then, the talk will subside as the Saints finally get a chance to show that they have turned the corner from being a losing, mediocre organization to becoming a winner once again. There are some encouraging pieces in place. Can it all come together in time?
For the Saints to have a winning season, they almost have to get off to a good start, based on the lousy starts of the last few seasons. Winning at Minnesota is a virtual must.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…