NEW ORLEANS - Keep things in perspective. It was the first preseason game. No need to get too high or too low over what we all watched.
While the starters were not impressive overall, the reserves picked up the slack for the Saints. Here are my quick takes from the 17-13 New Orleans victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
**Thomas Morstead hit the goalpost on the opening kickoff, the shape of things to come from a brilliant talent who thrives on touchbacks indoors.
**The Chiefs and Alex Smith ran their no huddle offense to perfection on the opening series. It was easy. Smith guided Kansas City 80 yards in 14 plays in 6:23. Smith picked up where he left off against the Saints in the infamous playoff win for the 49ers over the Saints to end the 2011 season. Smith finished 7-of-8 for 68 yards on his one drive of the game.
**On the first series, Will Smith looked lost in space, at least a step, if not two steps behind. Can he truly play outside linebacker, play in space?
**Tyrunn Walker had the only pressure of Smith on the first series, forcing an incomplete pass.
**Rookie Kenny Stills dropped a beatifully thrown deep ball on the opening offensive series for the Saints. Not a good first impression. It killed the drive. Brian De la Puente got beat badly on third down, forcing Brees to throw the ball away.
**Dexter McCluster had a huge punt return of a 61-yard punt by Morstead, returning it 55 yards to the New Orleans 42-yard line. Poor coverage by the Saints.
**Chase Daniel took over on the second offensive series for the Chiefs, facing his former team. Kenny Vaccaro was in on the second series for the Saints.
**The officiating crew of Mike Carey was in preseason form. It took them two minutes to sort out a defensive holding call against the Chiefs, the fact that the Saints wanted the penalty, not the yardage on a completion to Jimmy Graham. Easy, guys. Automatic first down versus second down. Move the chains. Move the game.
**Stills redeemed himself on a nice catch on a perfectly thrown back shoulder delivery from Brees for 22 yards on the final play of the first quarter. He then fumbled an end around from Brees on a play in which the timing was quite poor. Shades of Superdome Special? Remember 2008 and Reggie Bush, along with Devery Henderson? Stills later drew a questionable offensive pass interference call on an underthrown deep ball from Luke McCown. He then drew a pass interference call, resulting in a first down. Stills showed the ability to get deep, something that will earn him a spot, possibly the one vacated by the injured Joe Morgan.
**Ben Watson had a false start but caught three passes in the first half. Watson, if he remains healthy, could give the Saints a desired second pass catching tight end.
**Drew Brees engineered a nice 10-play, 74-yard drive but it ended in a disappointing field goal with the drive stalling at the Kansas City six-yard line as Garrett Hartley booted a 24-yard field goal to make it 10-3 early in the second quarter.
**Cameron Jordan made a couple of nice plays on the next defensive series, tackling Knile Davis for a loss of one and getting great pressure on Daniel, forcing an incomplete pass to get a stop.
**McCown took over at quarterback early in the second quarter for the Saints and the Saints promptly went 3-and-out.
**Vaccaro made a nice play on a punt by Morstead, drilling Devon Wylie but the Saints were guilty of an illegal formation, negating an excellent punt and tackle. Wylie returned the ensuing punt to the 31-yard line, a gain of 25 yards in the exchange for the Chiefs following the penalty.
**Rookie John Jenkins sacked Daniel to provide another stop for the Saints on the next defensive series. Linebacker Baraka Atkins later had a sack.
**Travaris Cadet showed some quicknesss to get to the edge three times in the first half. Sean Payton was not here to see him in person last year but he is no doubt impressing the coach.
**The Saints called two timeouts in the second quarter and then had to rush a play on fourth-and-one from the Kansas City 24 and Cadet lost two yards. Confusion reigned, clearly the definition of awful exhibition football.
**Andy Tanner got open down the middle and McCown hit him in stride for 36 yards. Tanner gets open and catches the ball. Brees loves him. Is there a spot on this roster for him? He has the ability. He later had a catch for a third down conversion from McCown and another to set up the first touchdown of the game for the Saints.
**McCown opened the second half with completions of 22 and 17 yards to Nick Toon, who has great size (6'4, 218). Toon then caught a third down conversion pass and added a 20-yard catch in the third quarter. Stills and Toon are favorites to make the final roster, likely ahead of Tanner but it will hard to let Tanner get away. Preston Parker and Steve Breaston are legitimate candidates as well.
**McCown showed mobility throughout, extending plays, making plays. He bought time to hit Parker on the first touchdown of the game in the third quarter. Parker later caught a 33-yard pass from McCown and added a two-yard touchdown reception, his second of the game. McCown directed scoring drives of 13 plays, 80 yards and 10 plays, 82 yards, the kind of drives that win games.
**Speaking of McCown, he took a definite step forward in the battle for the backup quarterback spot with Seneca Wallace. McCown was composed, threw pretty accurately and displayed some mobility, as mentioned. He went 7-of-9 for 75 yards and the score on the 13 play, 80-yard drive. Of course, he dampened the shine on his night with a poor decision and a poor throw, resulting in an interception by Tysyn Hartman. Still, he recovered nicely from it and finished 18-of-28 for 216 yards and two touchdowns with the one pick.
**Glenn Foster sacked Tyler Bray with Jay Richardson recovering for the Saints at midfield.
**The Saints allowed a huge 79-yard kickoff return to Knile Davis late in the third quarter, just after New Orleans had taken a 17-10 lead. Hartley kicked off on that occasion. A couple of dropped passes by the Chiefs kept them to a field goal, making it 17-13 Saints early in the fourth quarter.
**Ryan Griffin played the fourth quarter. He missed a wide open receiver short which would have been a third-down conversion. He hit his first two passes but missed his next five. He had a shot at a deep ball to Saalim Hakim late on play-action but got nothing on the throw, underthrowing Hakim, allowing the defensive back to recover and break it up despite being beaten on the play.
**Running back Khiry Robinson, who has distinguished himself well in training camp, acquitted himself pretty well against the Chiefs. He simply has to understand that you cannot run out of bounds, with the lead late in the game and the opponent out of timeouts.
**Tyrunn Walker played solid football up front on defense for the Saints.
Next up, the Oakland Raiders come to town. The Saints must focus on playing better with their main men early in the game or some of those main men may become less than main men moving forward.
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