Carson, Ca. — The Saints trailed for nearly the entire game, but scored 16 unanswered and shut-out the Chargers in the second half to win their second preseason game, 19-17. The game started well for the Saints, who had a promising first quarter, but things quickly turned in favor of L.A. from the second quarter on. After an early 3-0 Saints lead, the Chargers scored 17 unanswered to take a 17-3 lead into halftime and stayed out front until the final minute of the game.
The Saints defense was the story of the game early, as they forced a turnover on downs, punt, turnover and another punt on the Chargers’ first four drives of the game. But then in the second quarter, the Saints turned the ball over and the Chargers proceeded to drive 98 yards on their ensuing possession, capped-off by an Andre Patton 24-yard touchdown reception. That gave the Chargers a 7-3 lead. After a field goal and a punt returned 81 yards for a touchdown, L.A. pushed their lead to 14.
Teddy Bridgewater started for the Saints and had a rough outing, playing nearly the entire first half. The Chargers’ defense was getting pressure on Bridgewater early and often, and the results were not favorable for the Saints back-up quarterback, who finished 5-12 for 40 yards and an interception. His pick was one of 3 Saints turnovers in the game– two of which were red zone turnovers.
Taysom Hill came in for the final 90 seconds of the first half and really showed-up in the second half, becoming the other major story line of this game. Hill led the Saints down the field for their first touchdown– a 27-yard pass to Austin Carr, capping-off a 5 play, 60 yard drive. That cut the deficit to 17-10, which is where it stood going into the 4th quarter. With under 7 minutes to play, Hill then connected with Devine Ozigbo for a 1-yard touchdown pass, but a failed two point conversion still left them trailing, down 17-16.
During this stretch, the Saints defense kept the Chargers at bay, forcing them to punt on 5 out of 5 drives in the second half.
On the Saints 6th possession of the half, they drove down the field and took the lead on a 28-yard Will Lutz field goal with 1:08 to play. It was their first lead since the 3:17 mark in the first quarter.
On the ensuing Chargers drive, Colton Jumper came-up huge for the Saints and saved the day with an interception with 30 seconds to play. He actually returned it for a touchdown, but it ended-up being called back for a penalty. The pick still stood, and the Saints were able to take a knee and end the game.
Hill’s stats in this one were impressive to say the least, finishing 11-15 for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Saints in rushing with 53 yards on 5 carries. It was a night and day comparison to Bridgewater’s outing, made glaringly obvious by their QB rating in the game– Hill’s was 140.6 and Bridgwater’s was 16.0. More evidence of the stark difference in offensive production from the first to second half– the Saints had 4 first downs and just 76 total yards of offense before the break, compared to 15 first downs and 248 total yards after.
Another bright spot for the Saints came on special teams and the work rookie Deonte Harris did on kick and punt returns. His speed and agility allowed him to finish with 105 total return yards (55 punt, 50 kick-off).
Two injury notes: New Orleans native and McDonogh 35 product, Chris Clark (OL) left toward the end of the second quarter, carted off the field, and Michael Ola (OL) left late in the third after Hill rolled-up on his leg.
The Saints return to New Orleans for three more practices this week before they break camp on Thursday, August 22. After that they travel to take-on the Jets on Saturday for their third preseason game.