The New Orleans Saints are looking to get back to the playoffs after two years of unfulfilled expectations. The team’s primary weakness of late has been a porous defense that has resulted in the Saints’ high-powered offense being outscored too often to keep coach Sean Payton employed into the next decade.
If the third preseason game of 2009 is any indication, the New Orleans offense is still very good, and the defense is improved.
The Saints outscored the Raiders in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s game to the tune of 31-0. (You can follow the rest of the action right here, at NBCSports.com.)
Though Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell has generated decent numbers, the Saints have smothered the Raiders’ rushing attack. With five minutes gone in the third quarter, the Raiders have only two net yards on the ground.
So if the Saints can carry their performance into the regular season, they’ll be a major factor in the chase for six seats at the NFC playoff table. That said, with defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant scheduled to commence their four-game StarCaps suspensions in little over a week, the Saints will need to find a way to suck it up against the Lions, Eagles, Bills, and Jets.
Regardless, the offense will be fine. Quarterback Drew Brees finished the day with 14 completions on 17 attempts, resulting in 179 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Raiders, the pathetic play comes at a time when head coach Tom Cable continues to be distracted by the reality that he’s the subject of a criminal probe relating to the busted jaw of defensive assistant Randy Hanson.