Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
NEW ORLEANS ― Two seasons ago, New Orleans went to Oakland in the third week of preseason and dominated the Raiders, leaving the West coast with a 35-point win.
This time, the Saints used the Game 3 affair to blast Oakland 40-20.
So is this a prediction of a second Super Bowl, a two-dat?
Sunday’s performance, though, was the closest thing we’ve seen yet of a team many are calling a Super Bowl contender.
The Saints have shown enough improvement in the first three games for everybody to know that they should contend for at least the NFC South title.
The offense was smooth against Oakland, running and passing easily on the first three series for 17 points on 35 plays, moving for 223 yards.
Quarterback Drew Brees, so up-and-down this preseason with more interceptions in practice than we’re used to, looked like a former Super Bowl MVP, finishing 15 of 23 for 189 yards.
Six different players caught passes from Brees and 10 players had receptions overall. And the running game, with both starters and backups, averaged 4.5 yards per play on 28 carries.
Receiver Adrian Arrington finally showed up and running back Joique Bell showed why many are touting him as a the team’s fourth running back.
But were there problems? Sure.
The defense didn’t tackle as well as they would have liked and there were some blown coverages.
Coach Sean Payton said he liked the energy and effort the team showed on defense, but linebacker Jonathan Vilma is the guy to trust and he felt the missed tackles stood out.
“That part did bother me a little bit, especially in that first series,” Vilma said.
Oakland put up scores on their first series of each half and the running defense didn’t appear to be solid.
That, though, seems like it’s splitting hairs at this point and you have to throw everything into the pot when dissecting at this point, so that means missing Aubrayo Franklin, Tom Johnson and Roman Harper played a part in that.
The only possibly pothole that turned up in Oakland is the potential early-season loss of kicker Garrett Hartley, who left the game with a tweaked right hip.
What you have to look at is this – the Saints improved from the debacle in Houston, throwing a much more solid performance on the field against Oakland.
The Saints aren’t a finished product; they’re not ready for Green Bay.
They’re on the right path, though, and in the preseason, that’s all you can ask for.