The Saints played their last home game of the preseason game tonight and gave the fans something to enjoy. The final score was 34-27 but the game was all about the first half which ended in a 24-24 tie with the starters playing the entirety. There were some mistakes, poor defense, big plays, impressive offense... a little bit of everything. But the first half ended with what I viewed as a lot more positives than negatives. Make no mistake, the Texans are an excellent team that features one of the more explosive offensives in the league as well as last year's #2 defense. This was an impressive half against an impressive team that saw the Saints bounce back from a disasterous 14-0 deficit to rally before halftime. The team will have to trim their roster from 90 to 75 by Monday at 4pm ET. Make the jump for my thoughts bullet style on the game.
- Chris Ivory and Travaris Cadet both looked good again. Ivory was more impressive between the tackles (57 yards on 8 carries) while Cadet showed his worth with versatility (4 carries, 3 catches, 4 kick returns). Ivory did lose a fumble, something that's been a continual problem with him, early in the game. Many hinted that was the kiss of death for Ivory, but honestly, after watching him run in this game I just don't think there's any way the Saints can cut or trade him. I think Cadet has promise but he's a practice squad guy. Ivory is a legit NFL back. The Saints would be foolish to let him go. In this game, based on Ivory's speed and power, I saw him health wise as good as he was 2 years ago. Ball security or not, the guy is a beast.
- Perhaps the most notable and encouraging sign of the night: no one seemed to get hurt. Ivory left the game briefly but came back.
- Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore, Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Devery Henderson... what can you say? The offense was in synch and looked as sharp as ever. How scary is it that the Saints did that to the #2 defense in the NFL without Darren Sproles? Just goes to show: the Texans may be one of the better defenses, but the Saints are the best offense in NFL history. Big difference.
- Chase Daniel lead the 2nd team to 10 second half points and looked decent. He lacked accuracy on a number of passes but commanded the huddle well and showed some athleticism.
- The defense looked beyond atrocious on the first team drives. Casillas looked lost at MLB, and Johnny Patrick/Malcolm Jenkins both made colossal mistakes in the backfield to practically gift two touchdowns. It looked like it might get ugly. After that, though, the Saints defense played extremely well and really settled in. In fact, the only other touchdown scored after that was thanks to a Joe Morgan fumble inside the Saints' 10.
- Speaking of Morgan, that fumble is a microcosm of his training camp. He's been laden with inconsistency and just can't seem to get over the hump of the one step forward two steps back routine. He did come back to make some plays, namely a 20 yard reception with a nifty move and the game winning touchdown with just over 3 minutes left. I just don't know if he makes this team. He still has one game left to prove himself.
- The refs missed some calls but honestly it seemed like judgment stuff that any crew could miss. There were some rule specifics they struggled with but I don't really want to get into documenting them all. Overall it was ok. There was a bad pass interference call on Scott Shanle on a third down, I thought, and a blatant no-call on Bradie James (of LSU) covering Jimmy Graham in the end zone. I will say - sub refs or old refs - get used to the Saints getting jobbed all season long. Roger Goodell and most average fans hate the Saints right now. Expect no favors.
- Corey White, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Malcolm Jenkins all came up with massive plays forcing fumbles that the Saints would recover thanks to head's up football and good ball attacking skills.
- Cam Jordan gets the defensive player of the game for me. He had his moments rushing the passer which included a sack, and he was just fantastic against the run. Kudos to Patrick Robinson, too, who was draped all over Andre Johnson all night long. Johnson still made plays because he's just that good, but P-Rob was all over him and he never made it easy. Against most receivers he would've fared much better. The Saints have to feel great about the game he played overall.
- Garrett Hartley got the majority of the reps at kicker for some reason. He attempted 3 extra points and 3 field goals while John Kasay had just one extra point. I'm not really sure why they didn't spread it around more but clearly the Saints wanted to get a long good look at Hartley. Hartley was perfect from close in on all kicks, except for one 53 yarder late in the game which he knuckled short and wide left. If he made that kick the battle in my mind was completely over. That miss might open the door just slightly for Kasay to have just a little hope left. I still think Hartley has this locked up barring a big turn of events, but that 53 yard miss definitely wasn't ideal, and you could see on Hartley's face that he knew it.
- Akiem Hicks looked explosive late. I mentioned this on twitter, but I'm glad he's proven to have more potential than the Al Woods draft pick.
- Trindon Holliday of LSU is feast or famine back there for the Texans. His ball security was atrocious but he made up for it with Devin Hesteresque explosiveness. I actually felt bad for him on the fumbles but he's probably made up for it with all the plays he's made this preseason.
- Barrett Ruud got a decent amount of 2nd have run and honestly, overall, I was pretty impressed. The guy still runs fairly well and does a good job finding the ball. I left this game thinking he can definitely help the team as a backup.
- Greg Camarillo came in and quickly showed decent route running and hands. He's probably a long shot to make the squad but don't rule him out if Joe Morgan continues to be so up and down and the injuries at receiver dont resolve themselves soon.
- Junior Galette on special teams included a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and running down Trindon Holliday (in large part thanks to Thomas Morstead slowing him down) on a kickoff return. The dude is scary and he runs like the wind for a guy his size. I have a feeling he's all business this year.
- If there was any question about long injured defensive end Turk McBride making this team, that can stop. He was outstanding. There is a place for him on this squad.
- If you are curious who won't be on the roster come Monday at 4pm ET, well I'm here to give you a prediction. Here's my 15 cuts: Marques Clark, Kamaal McIlwain, Nick Hixson, Aaron Tevis, Paul Fenaroli, Brian Folkerts, Jake Byrne, Hutch Eckerson, Kevin Hardy, Donavan Robinson, Derek Moye, Derek Schouman, Alex Daniels, Aderious Simmons, Jerico Nelson. Who? Yeah, exactly. We'll see how many of these 15 guys I'm right about.