Da Boot Sports
Article courtesy of Crescent City Sports
By: Ken Trahan
It is better to give than to receive.
The New Orleans Saints embraced the axiom to its zenith Saturday night.
It was the first real impression of a team that is and will look substantially different than the team we last saw losing to Tampa Bay to conclude the 2020 season.
On a sunny, hot evening at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, the 2021 New Orleans Saints, or a reasonable representation of who that team will be, debuted.
Reality set in when Taysom Hill took the first snap and the realization that Drew Brees was not on the roster for the first time in 5,704 days.
Reality then set in as the Saints had five possessions in the first quarter, resulting in four turnovers and no points.
Then, the Saints committed three more turnovers in the second half, an astounding six for the game.
Then, there were three encroachment penalties on three different defensive linemen in the first half alone.
The end result was a 17-14 loss.
Of course, several key players did not play, including Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas (of course), Tre’Quan Smith, Ryan Ramczyk, Terron Armstead, Demario Davis, Cam Jordan, Malcolm Jenkins, Marcus Williams and PJ Williams, among others.
All in all, it was a mixed bag of the good and lots of bad.
Here are my Quick Takes on the 17-14 loss at Baltimore:
**Michael Thomas was on the sideline with his teammates, wearing a boot on his left foot. He was even catching passes from Jameis Winston on the sideline.
**Ty Montgomery opened as the kickoff return specialist. Deonte Harris is likely to be suspended to start the open of the regular season
**It was no surprise that Taysom Hill took the first snap at quarterback. Hill started the four games in 2020 which Brees did not start. Just because Hill took the first snap is not an indication that he will be the starter week one against Green Bay on Sept. 12.
**On the first play from scrimmage, Hill hit Lil’Jordan Humphrey perfectly on a short out-route and Humphrey dropped the ball.
**Hill responded well, hitting Marquez Callaway for 10 yards on a third-down play to move the chains before throwing a strike to Callaway for 28 yards to the Baltimore 35-yard line.
**Hill then defeated a blitz, with Latavius Murray missing a block but Hill bought time moving right and drilled a 23-yard completion to Callaway for a first-and-goal at the Baltimore nine-yard line.
**Murray then ruined the drive with a fumble when he was hit by Malik Harrison with DeShon Elliott recovering at the Baltimore eight-yard line.
**Hill was 4-of-5 for 62 yards on the drive.
**Zack Baun, who has looked good in training camp, then made two plays in succession, one for a one-yard loss on a pass completion and one on a run for just a yard.
**David Onyemata got a sack of Trace McSorley on third down, forcing a punt.
**The next offensive series resulted in another turnover. After Hill threw wide on a check-down to Murray, Geno Stone picked off Hill on third down. On the play, Montgomery was running a crossing route and was open but he stopped running. Hill threw to the spot he was heading to, leading the receiver but the pick resulted from Montgomery stopping.
**Then, on fourth-and-one at the New Orleans 40-yard line, Kaden Elliss stuffed JK Dobbins for a loss of a yard, getting a big stop.
**Eastop Winston handled the first punt return.
**Hill engineered a drive that reached the Baltimore 37-yard line, including an 11-yard completion to Murray, but former Livonia and LSU star Patrick Queen wrecked the drive, hitting Devonta Freeman for a three-yard loss on a screen pass before sacking Hill to force a punt.
**Jameis Winston entered late in the first quarter on the fourth possession of the game.
**On his first play, a handoff to Freeman, the new veteran back coughed it up and Justin Madubuike, who made the hit, recovered at the New Orleans 35-yard line.
**The first quarter ended on a sack by David Onyemata.
**New Orleans held Baltimore to a total of two yards in the first quarter.
**Justin Tucker drilled a 56-yard field goal to give Baltimore a 3-0 lead with 14:16 to play in the first half, scoring off the fumble by Freeman.
**Tony Jones Jr. ran 28 yards, to the right side, for a first down on the first Saints offensive series of the second quarter and he followed that with a 17-yard run and another first down.
**Winston hit Humphrey for 16 yards, a good throw, for a first down.
**Then, Jones finished what he started, racing left on an 18-yard touchdown run, diving for the pylon, to give the Saints a 7-3 lead with 11:38 to play in the first half. On the play, Adam Trautman got a very good seal block, allowing Jones to get the edge.
**On the drive which covered 80 yards in seven plays, taking 2:38 off the clock, Jones rushed three times for 63 yards and a score.
**Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon went down injured on the next series but he was able to return later in the quarter.
**The Ravens got their initial first down with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.
**Baltimore got its first drive of the game, going 52 yards in 13 plays, taking 6:07 off the clock with Jake Verity connecting on a 42-yard field goal to make it 7-6 with 5:31 to play in the half. A pair of penalties by the Ravens stalled the drive.
**Dwayne Washington was next to return a kickoff for New Orleans while Chris Hogan was next to line up to return a punt.
**Winston, given a good pocket, drilled a 26-yard completion over the middle to Montgomery for a first down. On the play, Jones did a good job picking up the blitz.
**Then, Winston, well protected again, hit Juwan Johnson on a 33-yard completion to the Baltimore 20-yard line.
**Winston finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Humphrey to make it 14-6 with 1:02 to play in the half.
**The drive covered 80 yards in seven plays, taking 1:59 off the clock. Winston completed 5-of-6 passes for 79 yards on the drive with the score.
**Then, Bryce Thompson picked off a deep pass by McSorley at the New Orleans 40-yard line.
**On the next play, Winston pump faked and tried to go deep for Humphrey. The throw was a tick late and hung up and Stone came up with his second interception of the game.
**That led to a 53-yard field goal by Verity on the final play of the half and New Orleans led 14-9 at halftime.
**The Ravens started three possessions in New Orleans territory in the first half and came away with just six points.
**The Saints had 230 yards to 121 for the Ravens in the half.
**Hill was 8-for-12 for 81 yards with an interception while Winston was 7-of-12 for 96 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the half.
**Nolan Cooney kicked off to start the second half.
**Onyemata played into the third quarter.
**Ian Book started the second half for the Saints.
**Jones then fumbled it away, killing another drive, at the Baltimore 11-yard line. Book had gone 5-of-8 for 65 yards on the drive.
**Baltimore had a nice drive, an 11-play drive, reaching the New Orleans 15-yard line but Tyler Huntley was hit by Eric Burrell, fumbled, and Elliss recovered to kill the drive and keep the lead early in the fourth quarter. Burrell delivered a big hit on a completion later in the quarter as well.
**Blake Gillikin blasted a 59-yard punt with outstanding hang time as well and Paulson Adebo made an outstanding, shoestring tackle for no return.
**The Ravens then drove 79 yards in 12 plays with Huntley scoring on a seven-yard counter play. After pass interference in the end zone by Prince Amukamara on the two-point conversion attempt, the ball was placed at the one-yard line and Ty’Son Williams ran it in to make it 17-14 with 6:35 to play in the game.
**On the final drive of the game, Book got the Saints to the Baltimore 35-yard line on a 38-yard completion to Juwan Johnson but with pressure in his face, he underthrew Kawaan Baker and Shaun Wade picked it off to seal the win for the Ravens.
In the final analysis, it was amazing that the Saints were even in the game, considering they turned it over six times. New Orleans was equal opportunity in its turnovers, with six different players, including Hill, Winston, Book, Murray, Freeman and Jones each committing one.
Those who were very impressive for the Saints included Adebo, Baun, Burrell, Callaway, Davenport, Elliss, Jones, Onyemata, Johnson and Jones.
As for the quarterback battle, Winston had two scoring drives but there was no clear winner. The interception of Hill was not his fault while the pick of Winston was an underthrow and a tad late. Both had good drives and good moments. It would not be a surprise to see Winston get the first reps next week.
Book did a solid job in his debut, looking good on bootleg plays while making solid decisions, outside of one poor one. He showed the mobility to buy time and get away from pass rushes.
The next audition comes a week from Monday when the Saints host the Jaguars in Ceasars Superdome.
You can bet Sean Payton will have ball drills and drill it into his players to secure the football better. Make that much better.