The New Orleans Saints easily and convincingly defeated the San Francisco 49ers 24-3 last night during their first taste of NFL preseason action.
On the whole this game was, like almost all preseason games, boring. After the initial excitement of being back inside the dome wore off in fifteen minutes, the realization that this game didn't count eventually sank in.
Drew Brees and the first team offense looked out of sync, failing to get anything going in their limited first quarter snaps. The scoring was sparked, however, by a Joe Morgan (who?) punt return for a score early in the second quarter. Of course Mark Ingram was next, with a sweet 14-yard run to the end zone.
On the flip side, the Saints defense definitely looked solid, bringing some consistent pressure which included six sacks. After the game Sean Payton acknowledged they blitzed more than they normally would in this type of game, which is incredibly reminiscent of a move Bill Bellichick made with his Patriots defense against the Saints in the first week of preseason last year.
And I'm sure you're all wondering what the dome looks like now with all it's renovations, bells and whistles. I'll cover it all in the usual bullet point format below. It's late, I'm tired and I discuss pretty much every single detail about this game below so any more of an introduction paragraph here would just be regurgitated from below and a waste of your time. Forgive me for any grammatical or spelling errors.
I will have 'The (New) View from Section 140 in Pictures' up probably tomorrow. It might be your first chance to see inside the renovated Super Dome and if so, you won't want to miss it.
- They have widened the top landing of the Poydras Street ramp that leads up to the Superdome, presumably to have vendors set up and sell their wares. But because the two ramps on either side leading up to it and the outer concourse are still the same width, I doubt that it will help the flow of traffic any. In fact, if that landing becomes a popular hangout now, it might cause more congestion. Great.
- The plaza level concourse inside the Superdome is much nicer. Everything has been refinished in white and beige tones, adding to a more open feeling. There are no more concrete walls between the concourse and the stadium seating behind the vendors. Instead there is glass, so you can see the field from wherever you are on the concourse. If you're standing on the concourse in one of the corners of the stadium, you can actually see all the way down the sideline. You don't ever feel like you're in a hallway anymore. This I definitely approve.
- For all the new improvements they've made to the facility, they still haven't done a damn thing about the food. My wife and I arrived at the game early and used the time before kickoff to eat our meal for the night. It was still the standard fare I was used to. Rotolo's Pizza, Jambalaya, nachos, chicken fingers. We decided to just stop at one of the larger generic concessions that are regularly peppered on the outer concourse wall. She got the usual: chicken fingers and waffle fries. I got adventurous and ordered what I believe was a new item: Wings Around the World (the onion rings seemed new also). As exciting as that may sound, it was simply fried chicken nuggets - smaller versions of the usual chicken fingers - with BBQ sauce (or your choice of Buffalo and Cajun sauces) drizzled on it. C'mon. This is New Orleans and these are our choices? It still amazes me that a city steeped in culinary tradition allows one of its most significant landmarks to completely abandon it all. I've said it once and I will say it a thousand times more: the Superdome needs to step up it's game in this department. I know they've probably got fancy food in one of the new areas of the stadium like the Bunker Club, but how does that help the average Joe who isn't sitting in sections 141-143? The Saints are winners and it's time they start pulling in winners from the kitchen. Let's get some Drago's chargrilled oysters up in there. How 'bout a sloppy ass roast beef po-boy from Parkway? Or some Commander's Palace turtle soup when the weather cools off. Wait, you know what would be wild? Food from any other ethnicity than the one that currently prevails and what I would only classify as American. Surely some local restaurants wouldn't mind stepping up to the plate and cashing in on serving to a massive Superdome crowd. I'm surprised we haven't seen restaurateurs like Emeril or John Besh or the Brennan's come in and class up the joint a bit. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the overwhelming food options found at other large gatherings like Jazzfest, French Quarter Fest and all the other amazing festivals we here in New Orleans that are too countless to name. Or maybe that's exactly why I see no reason that it shouldn't be the same.
- My new seats were a disappointment as well. I certainly didn't feel any closer, I definitely didn't feel any higher and, worst of all, because of the section restructuring, I am further from midfield than I was before. Once on the 33-yard line, I am now on the 26-yard line. You might not think 7 yards is a big deal, but it is. The seats themselves weren't much nicer, if at all, and there were no cup holders as I was lead to believe. The woman behind me did, however, say that these were temporary seats and that the real seats would be installed before the first regular season home game. We shall see.
- Just watching him in practice before the game I thought Darren Sproles looked quick and agile. He was making some very quick cuts alone in space after a catch.
- They started right in with the pre-game Who Dat chant already this season. Last night, Vilma was the one to throw his arm down and get the crowd started. I think the fans were a little off with the timing. We're still in preseason mode, too.
- Drew Brees looked off for sure. I'm willing to bet he is not happy about the way he played tonight and will probably work twice as hard this week because of it. No need to panic. In fact, from purely a superstitious standpoint, I'd say a bad off-season means a great regular season. So keep sucking it up Breesy Boy.
- Meachem also looked a bit off. Drew dropped one right in on him that Meachem let sip directly through his outstretched hands. Good for him to get open, though. I believe he missed a second catch but I couldn't tell whether it was deflected by the defender first.
- Joe Morgan was certainly given plenty of opportunities with punt return duty but it was still surprising to see him run one of them back for a score. I don't remember hearing his name once in training camp reports from the media but the coaches obviously wanted to give him a good hard look. While he might have put together some highlight reel material I don't know if Saints fans should get too attached just yet. Wide receiver is going to be a tough position at which to make this roster. We saw similar things from Rod Harper during preseason and he wound up not making the team. Same with Larry Beavers. I'd say he's definitely earning himself a spot on the practice squad at the least, however, if he keeps it up.
- After his first run, the crowd gave a little extra applause to Mark Ingram. His touchdown run was pretty sweet but other than that, I wasn't too impressed. At least from where I was sitting. I blame INGRAMANIA! and the media, however, for making me think he has super powers. Nothing short of some 'Reggie Bush at USC' runs will impress me, damnit.
- Your starting linebackers were Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle and Will Herring. It looked like the second team linebackers were Jo-Long Dunbar, Jonathan Casillas and Martez Wilson. Casillas probably stood out the most to me. He seemed to be in the backfield a good bit.
- Second team secondary looked like Johnny Patrick and Leigh Torrence at cornerback with Jonathon Amaya at SS and Paul Oliver at FS. Mark Parson and Trumaine McBride also got action at cornerback with a little Terrail Lambert sprinkled in for good measure. Lambert actually snagged himself an interception late int he game. By the way, it was kinda weird to see Oliver and not Reggie Bush wearing #25. I don't know why.
- The halftime performance was youth flag football. There were two girls teams playing against each other on my end of the field. The couple next to me were really getting a kick out of it. Most lively they had been all night.
- During the half, photographers made us pretend to cheer just to get a good picture. That's how boring this game was.
- I've gotta give it up to David Akers on that field goal. That was a hell of a long kick. Probably could have made it from a little beyond 60-yards if he needed.
- I have no idea what position he holds within in the organization, if any, but Deuce McAllister was again on the sidelines throughout the entire game. He loves this team and I get the impression that he doesn't ever want to leave.
- I thought Thomas Morstead played very well. I watched the entire first quarter be played out on the opposite end of the field because his kicks were keeping the Niners pinned deep in their zone. He was given kickoff responsibilities as well, forcing San Francisco's return men to take a knee in the end zone multiple times. His kickoffs always seem to have a more line drive type trajectory with very little spin on the ball.
- Special teams definitely looked better today, Joe Morgan's punt return notwithstanding. Always nice to see some actual on-field results resulting from the deliberate off-season efforts of the coaches and front office. Here's hoping they keep it up.
- It was tough to tell who played well on the defensive line. I will hope that my Tivo recorded the game and go back to watch the television broadcast for a different perspective.
- The new turf grass looks a little longer and a lot softer. It just looks a little more lush, like they've been watering it well this summer and getting it some good sunlight. I'm serious though.
- Joique Bell's impressive rushing performance shouldn't come as a surprise since the local media have been touting his talent this past week or so. Glad to seem him actually deliver though. If Chris Ivory's recovery is delayed, Bell definitely has an opportunity to be next...Chris Ivory.
- My wife said at least one of the new women's bathrooms was huuuuuuge.. Like the size of three sections.
- I'm looking at the stat sheet and seeing that Nate Bussey had an interception but I don't remember seeing that at all. And I never got out of my seat. I'm glad to hear good news for him.
- They are still playing that damned 'Opportunity...opportunity...is knocking at your door' NFL commercial during games (and on NFL Network). You've gotta be crapping me! That commercial has been so overplayed it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. You guys have had an entire lockout off-season and you couldn't come up with something new? Really!?
- Injuries: Looked like Robert Meachem limped off with a lower back cramp which the trainers massaged for a while. Tom Johnson limped off the field with the aid of a trainer. Johnny Patrick had to be carted off and apparently Joique Bell hurt himself late in the game. I didn't see that one.