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Saints rally in second half to beat Jaguars in preseason opener

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The first Saints preseason game of 2018 had some interesting moments, as they matched up against the Jaguars on the road.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The first preseason game came and went for the New Orleans Saints, as they met up with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday evening. Sean Payton’s squad emerged victorious, defeating Doug Marrone’s bunch 24-20.

While most of the usual suspects were not playing in the team’s first action of the 2018 NFL year, the most notable absence was rookie Marcus Davenport, who has been reportedly dealing with a muscle pull. There were a host of other players not spotted during pre-game festivities.

New Orleans won the coin toss, but elected to defer to the second half. Blake Bortles and the most of the first-team Jaguars offense took the opening drive 79 yards in 15 plays to get the first score of the game. Bortles scored on a 2-yard bootleg to put the Jaguars up 7-0.

Free agent pickup Tom Savage got the call to start for the Saints offense after a good first impression 36-yard kick return by Brandon Tate. The Saints had a good drive going, but stalled out after some bad throws by Savage. Wil Lutz came in to put the first points on the board for New Orleans via a 45-yard field goal. Taysom Hill was the holder, for those interested parties.

The Jaguars would answer with a field goal drive of their own, and then the Saints countered with a 12-play, 78-yard drive to get the game tied up at 10-10. Rookie wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith caught his first pass on the drive, a 14-yard gain. Michael Thomas also did his thing, helping extend the Saints drive after a great individual effort on a 3rd down play.

Jacksonville saw Cody Kessler help pilot a 7-play, 38-yard drive that eventually the Saints defense halted. Josh Lambo connected with his second field goal from 49 yards out to put the Jaguars back on top 13-10 before halftime. Mitchell Loewen stood out a few times, generating some good rush and pressure.

As the third quarter opened, it was Taysom Hill’s time to shine, but the drive wasn’t all that memorable. Hill went 2-for-2 on his pass attempts, finding Dan Arnold and Keith Kirkwood on the drive, but took back-to-back sacks the finish what started as a decent offensive drive. The pass protection wasn’t all that great.

The Jaguars once again put together a long drive and managed to punch it into the end zone after Kessler helped pilot a 11-play, 51-yard drive that was capped off by a 7-yard pass to Scott Orndoff to extend the Jacksonville lead to 20-10. Hill was fairly inconsistent throughout the quarter.

To open the final quarter, the Saints defense was able to wrap up Tanner Lee twice to force a punt. Hill took advantage this time, as he helped lead the Saints on a 12-play, 81-yard drive to cut the lead to 20-17. Hill had a real nice 21-yard rush on a run-pass option (RPO) that was shortly followed up by a connection to Tre’Quan Smith for 25 yards to put the Saints inside the 5-yard line. Hill would take it in on the very next play.

The ensuing Jaguars possession had the Saints defense looking to get off the field after some early plays, but a bad penalty by Henry Mondeaux extended the drive. Just a couple of plays later, Jayrone Elliott had the strip sack on Tanner Lee and the Saints took over. Enter J.T. Barrett, who gave it to Jonathan Williams three straight times with three good rushes for 22 yards. Boston Scott got the Saints down to the 1-yard line, and two plays later Williams took it in from four yards out to put New Orleans ahead 24-20 with 2:55 to go.

Jacksonville made things interesting for the Saints defense in the final frame, especially after De’Vante Harris helped extend the drive after two holding penalties. However, Dennis Allen’s squad held on 4th down with 50 seconds to go to hold on to win.

The Saints will play in front of the Superdome crowd next Friday (Aug. 17) against the Arizona Cardinals.