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Saints Mount Beaucoups Offense In 36-21 Win Against Chargers

This game turned out to be everything we thought it would be–two powerhouse offenses slugging it out until the finish. But it was the electric offense of the Saints that stole the show.

Mounting up over 552 yards of total offense, New Orleans picked up right where it left off, effectively mixing up passes and runs to keep the Chargers off balance. And it was Drew Brees who set the tone. Playing into the 3rd quarter, he exploited the Chargers’ defense, completing 18 of 24 passes for 240 yards and 2 TDs. His first touchdown pass was a 46-yard strike to Devery Henderson, who miraculously hauled it in off a deflection of  Antoine Cason’s helmet tying the game up at 7. But that wouldn’t be the last bomb Brees threw this evening. In the 2nd quarter, he zipped a 15-yarder in to Robert Meachem (victimizing Cason yet again) to put the Saints ahead 14-7. They never looked back.

As expected, Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas both contributed with some impressive hard runs and screens during their limited playing time. Once again, Bush exhibited both speed and toughness when he powered a backhanded flip from Brees down the field for a 38-yard gain. He had seven catches for 70 yards.  Marques Colston had four catches for 55 yards. 

But it was the performance of undrafted rookie sensation, Chris Ivory, that dazzled the 70,000+ who were in attendance. From a simple swing pass, he totally embarrassed the Chargers’ defenders as he meandered his way down the field, breaking tackles and stiff-arming to take it in for a 76-yard score. He also rushed for 45 yards in this one.

I must tell you, this kid gets more impressive by the week. Once a long-shot to make the team’s roster, it would be hard at this point not to imagine him being a Saint by the time the regular season starts on September 9th. He has played solid in all three preseason games, and from what I heard of him prior to that, he wowed coaches and spectators all during training camp. He is a tough, exciting player who has, in my opinion, set himself comfortably apart from the other running backs competing for a roster spot.

The Chargers’ offense wasn’t bad either, just a bit inconsistent. At times, they took it right to the Saints’ secondary, capitalizing on miscues that are proving to be problematic for New Orleans. Rivers and company’s opening drive was perhaps their most impressive. Utilizing a perfect balance of passes and runs, the first-team offense struck quickly when the capable quarterback led them 82 yards for the game’s first score, a tough, grinding 6-yard touchdown punch by a stream-lined Jacob Hester (who, by the way, showed a lot of athleticism on the score). In the 12-play drive, Rivers was 5 of 6 for 44 yards, while Ryan Mathews gained 32 yards on five carries, breaking one for an impressive 16-yd run. Rivers’ other touchdown pass was a 9-yard toss to Malcolm Floyd. Leaving the game in the middle of the 3rd quarter, he finished with 16 of 27 for 167 yards. Antonio Gates had 5 catches for 66 yards.

The Saints defense had a solid performance overall despite a rocky start in which it gave up a touchdown.  Jabari Greer was true to form as he darted back and forth batting down passes and disrupting plays.  Characteristic of  its new improved reputation, the unit recorded two interceptions–one by Usama Young and the other by Leigh Torrence who ran it back 87 yards for a touchdown in the waning seconds to end the game on a high note.

What I saw in terms of Saint performances was that there are still some serious issues on special teams coverage, though it was somewhat better than in the previous two games.  Dropped passes were also a problem that killed otherwise productive drives.  And there were way too many penalties.  Players are going to have to stay focused and disciplined in order to avoid flags that only hurt the team.  I don’t know about this new rule concerning having to wait until the officials get into position before the ball can be snapped either.  Judging from this game alone, it just looks like a lot of confusion to me. Neither the coaches nor the players appear to be in favor of it.  It’s going to be interesting to see how it affects teams as the regular season cranks on.

Of special note,  MLB Jonathan Vilma went down with what’s being reported as a right groin injury early in the 3rd quarter.  Although he left the field under his own power, we don’t know the severity of the injury.  Vilma had been playing extremely well, making his presence felt all over the field.   Zack Strief also had to leave the game with an injury–I’ve heard ankle and knee so I’m exactly sure which.   We can only hope and pray that their injuries are not serious so they can be back in action soon.

Other Notes:  Patrick Ramsey was 10 of 18 for 191 yards and 1 TD–impressive!  Adrian Arrington also continued to shine by pulling down rather difficult catches, although I don’t get him back there returning kicks.  Courtney Roby and Montez Billings both showed moments of brilliance.  Garret Hartley was reliable once again, nailing FGs of 27 , 35 and 40 yards.

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