For the second game of their preseason, the New Orleans Saints traveled to the not-so-frozen tundra of Green Bay to face the Packers on Aug. 19.
Like last week, offensive starters Jameis Winston, Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Alvin Kamara all sat this game. Ian Book started and played the entire game under center. Adding to the intrigue of the game was the first appearance of the Saints’ first-round pick, wide receiver Chris Olave. Noted receiver Marquez Callaway also made an appearance this game on two decent punt returns.
Green Bay would end its last drive with a field goal. Opening the scoring for the Saints in the first quarter was Will Lutz with an impressive 59-yard field goal of his own.
Green Bay again took the lead in the second quarter, first with a lengthy drive setting up an easy Jordan Love passing touchdown, then with a quick field goal near the two-minute warning.
With seconds left in the first half, Chris Olave caught his first NFL touchdown on a 20-yard strike as Book rolled to his right to cap off an impressive two-minute drill.
The Saints running backs, despite putting up similar stats, had a more positive impact than last week. Part of this was the trimming down of the rotation from four last week to the best three of practices since. They combined for 84 yards on 20 carries for a 4.2 yards per carry average, once again eclipsed by Book’s 7.0 average on seven scrambles.
However, the real player of the game on the Saints side was the punter, Blake Gillikin. In the middle of the third quarter, after the Saints got pinned near their own 15-yard line, Gillikin unleashed a monster 81-yard punt that, combined with a couple of lucky bounces, ended up in the opposing end zone. This led to some laughs days later, when Gillikin was called in for a random drug test by the NFL: “Punt at your own risk,” he captioned a tweet with the text request for testing.
The deciding play of this game harkened back to long-gone moments of NFL history; in the fourth quarter, on third down with a yard to go, the Saints stacked the box and lined up to play man on the trio of receivers on the left side of the field. Former LSU quarterback Danny Etling, who had been substituted in just for this drive, pulled down a high snap, stuffed the football into his running back’s chest, pulled the ball back out and took off running. An excellent lead block ensured that one was particularly close to him as he waltzed into the end zone, capping off a 51-yard quarterback bootleg with a touchdown.
So, for grades:
Team Performance: C+
Overall, this was not nearly as bad of a showing as last game. Book, while still uninspiring, played a slightly more complete game, throwing a touchdown and recording two turnovers instead of three. The catalyst for this was likely the offensive line: Book was sacked twice and rarely pressured this game; looking back, Houston’s five sacks and endless pressures last week were a recipe for disaster.
Conversely, Jordan Love took way better care of the ball than Jeff Driskel did, so the Saints’ defense didn’t have quite as many eye-catching moments. The Etling run that ended up sealing the game definitely felt bad on first watch, but it’s probably not a huge cause of concern; I’m glad the defense ran into a weird mistake like this in the preseason and not a game that counts.
Even though this was a pretty average preseason game, the game ultimately was up in the air in the fourth until the Etling run.
Saints fans will be looking forward to the third and final preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 26. Several starters will likely get their first taste of game action.