Brees starts strong, Saints down Raiders
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees will need some unproven receivers to emerge this year, and could not help but be encouraged by way rookie Kenny Stills and second-year pro Nick Toon came through against the Raiders.
Brees passed for 202 yards and a touchdown while leading five scoring drives, and the Saints survived a sloppy second half for a 28-20 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders on Friday night.
Toon, a fourth-round pick in 2012 who spend his rookie season on injured reserve, started for Marques Colston, who has been getting extra rest because of an offseason foot injury. Stills started at wideout for the second straight game and hauled in Brees’ lone scoring strike from 16 yards out.
“We asked them to do a lot. They were having to think a lot on the move,” Brees said. “They did a great job adjusting to that and played w lot of confidence.”
Brees completed 78 percent of his passes (14 of 18), including a 56-yarder to Toon, setting up Mark Ingam’s 2-yard TD run.
On his long catch, Toon beat former Saints cornerback Tracy Porter, who later left the game with a right groin injury. Raiders coach Dennis Allen said that was one of eight injuries — three of them potentially serious — for Oakland. In addition to Porter, Allen was particularly concerned about offensive tackle John Wetzel’s knee injury and tight end David Ausberry’s shoulder injury.
New Orleans’ new defense under coordinator Rob Ryan thrived, sacking Matt Flynn five times in the first half.
“Some of it was different looks, some of it was guys getting beat and some of it was we have to recognize the pressure, find the hot receivers and get the ball out,” Allen said, noting that Flynn twice did not see receivers open for potentially big plays. “I can’t point to one individual aspect and say that was the issue.”
The Saints (2-0) led 23-0 before the Raiders (1-1) scored on Flynn’s lone TD pass, an 18-yarder to Denarius Moore, late in the first half. Flynn was 12 of 16 for 124 yards.
“The difference between moving the ball and not moving the ball is just so small,” Flynn said. “There are just some things we have to clean up. We know we can do a lot better.”
The Saints finished with seven sacks. One by linebacker Ramon Humber, who was credited with nine tackles, including a fourth-down stop. The Saints also registered a safety in the fourth quarter when linebacker Will Herring and numerous teammates swarmed running back Jamize Olawale.
Brees, who played most of the first half, was pleased with New Orleans ball control, and the fact that the Saints never punted in the first half, but not with settling for Garrett Hartley’s field goals of 53, 31 and 30 yards.
“I wish we could have had more points,” Brees said. “So there’s still work to do.”
Stills caught four passes for 64 yards, making challenging grabs along the sideline twice, once on his TD.
Flynn was back in the stadium where he won a national title with LSU in January 2008. It also was a homecoming of sorts for Allen, a former Saints defensive assistant under Payton for five years.
Raiders second-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor completed one of five passes for 9 yards. He also rushed four times for 15 yards.
What helped the Raiders make a game of it was poor ball security by New Orleans. Second-year running back Travaris Cadet fumbled twice, resulting in one turnover. Oakland’s second touchdown came when defensive end Ryan Robinson recovered Seneca Wallace’s fumble, which was forced by David Bass on the 1.
Eddy Carmona’s 46-yard field goal, which pulled Oakland to 23-17 at the end of the third quarter, was set up by Omar Gaither’s interception of Seneca Wallace’s tipped pass.
“I know it was a preseason game, but we did everything in the second half to allow them a chance to get back in the game,” Payton said. “That frustrated me.”
Wallace, competing with Luke McCown to back up Brees, was three of six passing for 32 yards in five scoreless series.
NOTES: Allen said other Raiders injuries were: RB Darren McFadden (shoulder), LB Kevin Burnett (knee), CB Joselio Hanson (shoulder), DL Brandon Bair (hamstring) and Carmona (neck, leg). … The game was the last called by retiring public address announcer Jerry Romig, who has handled those duties since 1969. The 83-year-old signed off by announcing the final score and added, “It’s been fun. Good night. Love you.” He will be succeeded by his son, Mark in the regular-season opener against Atlanta.