NEW ORLEANS — Derek Carr threw a touchdown pass in his New Orleans preseason debut and rookie Blake Grupe kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Saints to a 26-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in the opening exhibition game for both clubs.
Chiefs star QB Patrick Mahomes started but took just five snaps before Kansas City’s first drive ended with a failed fourth-and-1 play on a direct snap to reserve tight end Blake Bell.
Carr looked comfortable taking his first live snaps in his new offense, completing six of eight passes for 70 yards on the game’s opening drive.
Aftrer twice rolling away from pressure on first-down completions to tight end Juwan Johnson and running back Alvin Kamara, Carr closed out the 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 4-yard pass to Keith Kirkwood as the receiver crossed the back of the end zone.
With backups in the game for both teams, the Saints rallied late.
After rookie Jake Haener’s 2-yard scoring pass to running back Ellis Merriweather pulled the Saints within 24-23 with 1:20 to go, New Orleans' 2-point conversion attempt for the lead went awry on a botched shotgun snap.
But Saints defensive end Kyle Phillips tipped Chris Oladokun’s third-down pass and caught the deflection on the Kansas City 22 to set up the winning kick.
Jameis Winston relieved Carr and drove New Orleans 48 yards in just four plays for 14-0 lead on a 29-yard pass over the top of the Chiefs' secondary to rookie receiver A.T. Perry. A sixth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest, Perry was New Orleans' leading receiver with six catches for 70 yards.
Blaine Gabbert played most of the first half for Kansas City and pulled the Chiefs within 17-7 on a 1-yard fade to Richie James in the corner of the end zone. Saints defensive backs Alontae Taylor and Bradley Roby appeared to have a miscommunication on the play, leaving James uncovered.
James' TD came a few plays after he'd beaten Taylor on a 43-yard catch deep into Saints territory.
Kansas City third-stringer Shane Buechele threw for 155 yards and a pair of scores, the first on a 15-yard pass over the middle to Justyn Ross.
Buechele put the Chiefs in front 21-17 when he escaped two near sacks, stepped forward and found Kekoa Crawford in the middle of the end zone.
Chiefs receiver Nikko Remigio, a rookie out of Fresno State, caught four passes for 71 yards.
The Chiefs had three sacks, with Drue Tranquill, Chamarri Conner and Danny Shelton each getting one. Linebacker Zach Baun and Ty Summers each had sacks for the Saints.
Kahlef Hailassie, a rookie out of Western Kentucky, made a leaping grab to intercept Saints rookie Jake Haener along the sideline. Saints backup safety Ugo Amadi intercepted Buechele on a ball tipped by Taylor.
Saints: Rookie RB Kendre Miller limped off the field in the third quarter and walked to the locker room after being examined on the sideline. Miller was a third-round draft choice out of TCU who, if healthy, is expected to be in the mix for snaps during Kamara's three-game suspension to start the season.
Chiefs: At Arizona on Saturday.
Saints: Visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 20.