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Preseason Game #3: Saints v. Bengals

Use this gameday thread for discussions of tonight's Saints-Bengals preseason game.

Part I: Even though I was there, my friend Bud Light made sure I forgot what happened.

Nine months ago -- almost to the day -- the Saints and Bengals met in New Orleans, a week 9 contest that saw Drew Brees throw for over 500 yards in a 31-16 loss. While the game would represent high-water marks for Brees in several statistical categories -- his 37 completions and 510 yards set career highs; his 52 attempts tied this effort for his career mark  -- his 3 interceptions tied a dubious season-high, and were indicative of the team's maddening inability to capitalize on opportunities to control the game. The most frustrating of these opportunities was foiled by a second quarter interception by Madieu Williams in the Bengals' end zone. At the time, the teams were tied at 7, with the Saints driving for a go ahead score. Following a 44-yard completion from Brees to Devery Henderson that placed the Saints at the Bengals' 8, the Saints appeared poised to seize the game's momentum. But instead of a Saints score, Williams' interception, and the subsequent 25-yard return, gave the Bengals possession of the ball at their own 21, and put the momentum squarely in their corner. The Bengals would take their own 10-7 lead soon after.

The Saints entered the fourth quarter trailing 10-7, but faced with a 2nd & 2 from the Bengals' 6. Their next two plays were both Deuce McAllister runs, with a net gain of zero yards. While John Carney's 24-yard field goal would tie the score, it would also represent the last meaningful score that the Saints would bank all day. Over the next three drives, the Bengals would score 14 points, while the Saints would run three plays, gaining 7 yards and 0 points.

The loss to the Bengals was the Saints' second consecutive loss, coming on the heels of a 38-31 loss in Pittsburgh.

Following the game, Sean Payton pithily summarized the state of his team:

Our guys are playing with a tremendous amount of energy, but they're making too many mistakes.

Indeed, the loss to the Bengals may have been the team's lowest point of the season: the consecutive losses comprised the Saints' only losing streak of the season. But the game also may have represented a turning point.

Following the Bengals game, the Saints would go on a 4-1 run before essentially conceding their week 17 game against Carolina. The Saints would win those four games by an average of 20.75 points, including a 42-17 thrashing of playoff-bound Dallas. Moreover, the Saints would turn the ball over exactly once before week 17 -- a Brees interception during the team's next loss, a 10-6 defeat at the hands of Washington. Clearly, while the Bengals game was a low-point of the season, the team took the results and used them as impetus for their closing kick.

Part II: What I'm watching.

  • Wide Receivers: It was announced yesterday that Marques Colston will sit out the game, to rest a nagging right leg injury. This means that Terrance Copper, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, David Patten and Kenny Chesney will probably see time with the starters. Well, maybe not Chesney. But I expect the other four to have good games against an inexperienced secondary.
  • Secondary: Which members of the secondary will start to step up and seize starting roles? C'mon, Jason David, let's start getting it done.
  • Offensive line: With Jammal Brown and Jeff Faine out with injury, the Saints' backups will see extensive time today. How will they protect ....
  • Quarterbacks: Drew Brees will see considerable time, and will be relieved by Jamie Martin. Matt Baker will see plenty of time in the second half. Will he play well enough to nudge ahead of Jason Fife and Tyler Palko?
  • J.T. O' Sullivan played briefly for the Saints, while Skyler Green, Andrew Whitworth and Kenderick Allen are LSU alums. Brian Simmons and Kevin Kaesviharn both spent several seasons with the Bengals; Antonio Pittman and Will Smith both attended nearby Ohio State.

Part III: A word from the enemy.

I was able to collaborate with Kirkendall, who runs the excellent Bengals blog Cincy Jungle. Here is a summary of what he will be watching today. I also sent him a short summary; be sure to click over and read that. While you're there, be sure to say hi to the friendly Bengals fans. His words follow:

Will the pass defense, you know, play defense?
The sickening feeling of having Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and J.T. O'Sullivan combine for 497 yards passing during the Bengals preseason opener, isn't uncommon. The Bengals pass defense sometimes turns mediocrity to good; good to great; great to legendary.

A change of fortune added Leon Hall, Marvin White and Nedu Ndukwe from the NFL draft. Deltha O'Neal's recommitment to football and clean bill of health hopefully helps resolve the deficiencies the team suffered last year as one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. But this team is in a desperate need to slow down the opposition's pass offense. This question will be valid throughout much of the season.

Who's our #3 receiver?
The story of Chris Henry is a well known one. After finding himself arrested multiple times, the NFL Commissioner finally suspended Henry for eight games this season. This leaves the door open for the team's number three receiver -- which is a vital position in this offense that doesn't use the tight end in the passing game.

The competition is between Tab Perry, Antonio Chatman, Skyler Green, Bennie Brazell, Glenn Holt and Reggie McNeal.

Can rotation of defensive tackles sustain success?
The Bengals choose to redefine their defensive tackles this offseason. With sophomore Domata Peko -- he's the Michigan State guy that returned a fumble for touchdown against Michigan sending the game into overtime -- and veteran John Thornton, the Bengals signed free agents Kendrick Allen and Michael Myers – no relation to the Haddonfield variety. The team finalized the position with draftee Matt Toeaina – who intercepted a batted down pass against Detroit returning it 81 yards for the touchdown.

If they rotate and perform Saturday like they did against the Lions, then that will be show some form of sustained success – something missing at defensive tackle for a long time.

Part IV: The Saints Soothsayer Gameday Challenge

Here is the breakdown of the predictions that I have received so far. Any predictions left on the previous thread before kickoff will be counted, though can't be included in this table.

Score MVP Wildcard (value)
Saints Fan 9 17 Smith Smith - 2 Sacks (1)
southernsaint 14 Pittman Moore - KR open (4)
Sunil 24 Baker Colston - Receiving TD