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Poor Defensive Play Headlines New Orleans Saints Season Opener

The Saints opened their preseason against the Baltimore Ravens last night, losing 30-27. They mounted an impressive comeback that started in the second quarter, but eventually lost on a last second touchdown. However, the final result of the game isn't what's important, not yet anyways. What's important is who goes down and how everyone plays, and the Saints saw Delvin Breaux, Brandon Browner and Dannell Ellerbe leave the field with injuries within the first two drives.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There's preseason bad, and then there's just bad.  The Saints were in the grey of these two perceptions at best, at worst they Olympic sprinted across the line and never looked back.  Here's a drive summary of the opening drive, in which the Joe Flacco led Ravens took on Rob Ryan's retooled defensive unit:

Play 1: 1st & 10 - Joe Flacco pass short right to Kyle Juszczyk for 7 yards.  Tackle made by Kenny Vaccaro at BAL 27.

Play 2: 2nd & 3 - Justin Forsett run off of right guard for 1 yard.  Tackle made by Cameron Jordan at BAL 28.

Play 3: 3rd & 2 - Flacco pass short middle to Steve Smith for 3 yards.  Tackle made by Brandon Browner at BAL 31.

Play 4: 1st & 10 - Forsett run off left tackle for 2 yards.  Tackle made by Stephone Anthony & Kevin Williams at BAL 33.

Play 5: 2nd & 8 - Flacco pass short middle to Crockett Gilmore for 8 yards.  Tackle made by Anthony & Bobby Richardson at BAL 41.

Play 6: 1st & 10 - Flacco pass short right to Lorenzo Taliaferro for 9 yards.  Tackle made by Hau'oli Kikaha at midfield.

Play 7: 2nd & 1 - Taliaferro run off right guard for 5 yards.  Tackle made by Vaccaro at NO 45.

Play 8: 1st & 10 - Javorius Allen run off right guard for 3 yards.  Tackle made by John Jenkins & Richardson at NO 42.

Play 9: 2nd & 7 - Flacco pass incomplete to Juszczyk.

Play 10: 3rd & 7 - Flacco scrambles for 17 yards, pushed OB at NO 25.  Penalty on Browner enforced from the end of the run, up to NO 20.

Play 11: 1st & 10 - Taliaferro run off right guard for 5 yards.  Tackled by Anthony and Jenkins at NO 15.

Play 12: 2nd & 5 - Taliaferro run off left tackle for 5 yards.  Tackled by Tavaris Barnes at NO 10.

Play 13: 1st & 10 - Taliaferro run off left tackle for 3 yards.  Tackled by Jenkins at NO 7.

Play 14: 2nd & 7 - Flacco pass short right to Taliaferro for 6 yards.  Tackled by Kikaha at NO 1.

Play 15: 3rd & 1 - Talaferro run off left guard for no gain.  STOPPED by Anthony and Rafael Bush at NO 1.

Play 16: 4th & 1 - Taliaferro up the middle for 1 yard; TOUCHDOWN Baltimore.

The plays that are bolded are favorable situations for the Saints, whereas the italicized plays are quality plays for the Ravens (>5 yards, first downs and touchdowns).  The Saints forced 3 third downs on this drive, one of which was a third and >5 yards, but only capitalized on the one at the goal line (which the Ravens immediately punched in).  The Saints defense saw a massive drop off in third down efficiency from 2013 to 2014, a trend that they need to buck in the upcoming season.

Stephone Anthony looked like a rookie, which is acceptable for a young player that was thrust into wearing the headset.  Kikaha played well, and Breaux struggled a bit before his injury but seemed to be acclimating.  Browner was giving an unusually large cushion at the line of scrimmage, presumably to avoid exactly what happened.

The Saints' offense didn't really show any of what it will look like, as Drew Brees sat out.  Marcus Murphy was electric on a few kick returns, as he made the case for a roster spot in a special teams capacity.

It was an ugly first game where by the time the result rolled around, it was largely irrelevant.  Yes, it's a watered down playbook and yes these players are rusty, but the defense looked borderline disinterested in their limited snaps.  Players that are on a new team should be fired up about that new time, but the Ravens were able to march down the field and take up over 8 minutes of clock on the opening series.  All while their starting running back (that eviscerated the Saints' defense last year) looked on after taking only one carry, and the red zone offense consisted of giving the ball to their back up.

Obviously, it's one game.  There's no panic button to push, there's nothing to absolutely freak out about.  But the Saints' defense deserves a bit of skepticism after last season, and every player should be under the microscope.  Hopefully it's just first game jitters, because if it isn't, "it's just one game" could become a catch phrase all around New Orleans next season.