Titans fall to Saints in preseason match-up
AUG 16, 2014 12:46a ET
NEW ORLEANS -- Jimmy Graham didn't hesitate an instant to punctuate a pair of touchdown catches with the goal post-rattling, basketball-style dunks that led the NFL to ban such celebrations coming into this season.
Both times, Graham drew penalty flags for unsportsmanlike conduct. With relatively little at stake in preseason game No. 2 on Friday night, the crowd roared its approval.
Saints coach Sean Payton, however, didn't look so amused after the second one, barking at Graham on the sideline.
After holding out the entire offseason for his four-year, $40 million contract, Graham appeared to be in fine form on Friday night with touchdown receptions of 6 and 19 yards from Luke McCown in the Saints' 31-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Yet Payton, who constantly preaches the importance of taking preseason games seriously and minimizing mental mistakes, appeared to lose patience with Graham's insistence upon continuing his post-TD dunks.
Last year, one such dunk bent a goal post out of place, delaying a regular-season game. And after Graham's second dunk on Friday night, the goal post was still visibly shimmering as Derek Dimke's PAT kick sailed through.
The penalties after both celebrations were enforced on the kickoff, resulting in returns to the Tennessee 38 and 36 by the Titans' Marc Mariani. Tennessee scored touchdowns on both drives.
Payton's apparent frustration could have been provoked not just by Graham, but the fact that his unnecessary personal fouls only added to a pile of penalties. The Saints were flagged 22 times for 184 yards.
Yet, while Payton wasn't pleased with that statistic, he also had plenty about which to be pleased on both sides of the ball.
The Saints' defense had five turnovers and four sacks. Offensively, New Orleans produced several long gains, including completions of 52 and 44 yards from Ryan Griffin to Joe Morgan, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
The Titans were competitive early when both teams' starters were on the field.
Hunter was also on the receiving end of Zach Mettenberger's first touchdown pass as a pro. Mettenberger entered the game earlier than expected after second-string QB Charlie Whitehurst was shaken up on a sack by Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.
The crowd cheered the former LSU quarterback when he first took the field. Soon after, Mettenberger rifled a pass over the middle to Hunter, who raced away from all pursuers for a 64-yard score.
Mettenberger finished 20 of 25 for 269 yards, but was also intercepted once and fumbled once. Hunter had four catches for 111 yards.
Undrafted rookie kicker Travis Coons made a 50-yard field goal for Tennessee.
Once of Tennessee's fumbles may have cost more than a turnover. Running back Shonn Greene, who has had right knee surgery twice, appeared to favor his right leg after being stripped by Vaccaro in the second quarter.
McCown started for Brees, who missed his second game while resting his sore abdomen, and was 12 of 20 for 117 yards. Griffin finished 13 of 19 for 179 yards with touchdown passes of 23 yards to Mark Ingram and 3 yards to Seantavious Jones.