NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees led the first-team offense on five straight scoring drives in the first half, complementing a Saints defense that stifled Oakland in the opening 30 minutes as New Orleans beat the Raiders 28-20.
Forget what the score line reads – the Saints gave fans a reason to believe all will be all right after a sub-par performance in the preseason opener.
Brees finished the game 14 of 18 for 202 yards, a touchdown and a 131.9 quarterback rating and staked the Saints to a 23-0 lead before the backups entered the game.
The defense, meanwhile, dominated for the first 27 minutes of the game, holding Oakland’s offense to 48 yards and one first down on 19 plays while sacking Matt Flynn five times.
Only when the Raiders went into the two-minute offense did the Saints’ main defensive players falter.
But the backups made the game closer.
Seneca Wallace, in a battle with Luke McCown to be the team’s backup, was part of a second-team offense that turned the ball over three times in three possessions.
The defensive players fared better. Much better. They held the Raiders to just two field goals and came through with a safety, keeping the game from heading into overtime.
It’s how the game started that could give fans hope.
Garrett Hartley’s 53-yard field goal rescued a drive that stalled when receiver Nick Toon and Brees couldn’t connect on a third-and-12 from Oakland’s 35. The offense was set up in good position only after Ramon Humber and David Hawthorne combined to stuff Raiders running back Darren McFadden on fourth-and-one from New Orleans’ 43.
New Orleans’ defense forced a three-and-out on the next series and it took Brees and the offense all of 45 seconds to go 58 yards for a 10-0 lead. Brees’ 56-yard pass to Toon put the ball at the 2-yard line and Mark Ingram finished the drive off with a two-yard touchdown run.
On the next Oakland series, Humber sacked Oakland quarterback Matt Flynn on first down. An incomplete pass on third down was followed by Cam Jordan plowing through left tackle Alex Barron to sack Flynn.
And New Orleans responded with another touchdown drive, this one a nine-play, 78-yard series that ended with Brees spending seven seconds without pressure before finding Kenny Stills for an 16-yard touchdown. The score gave the Saints a 17-0 lead before the first quarter was finished.
Back-to-back Hartley 31-yard field goals pushed New Orleans’ lead to 23-0 before Oakland gained its second first down of the game.
But then the Raiders quickened the pace and put New Orleans’ defense on its heels. Oakland quickly drove 82 yards in 11 plays, using just 2:32 off the clock to cut into New Orleans’ lead 23-7 on Matt Flynn’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore.
Then the backups came in and gave Payton something to think about. Specifically, at backup quarterback, where Seneca Wallace’s first three series in the second half resulted in three turnovers, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Ryan Robinson that cut the Saints’ lead to 23-14.
Two Oakland field goals cut New Orleans’ lead to 23-20 before Will Herring tackled Jamize Olawale in the end zone for a safety.
Hartley’s 28-yard field goal capped the scoring.