NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton watched as New Orleans’ offense failed time and again to move the ball into scoring position.
And while the Saints defense allowed only one touchdown, it couldn’t stop the Ravens from driving into field goal range several times.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hit five field goals of distances ranging from 24 to 45 yards, and the Ravens beat the Saints 22-13 on Thursday night.
Now Payton must make a roster decision about those players on the fringe, who were vying for a few open roster spots.
“This game matters for somebody every year,” Payton said. “Often times, you get to this point in the process and maybe you want a little confirmation or you want to know for sure.”
Baltimore (4-0) found the end zone only once on Tyrod Taylor’s 8-yard pass to Deonte Thompson, but that was enough against the Saints (3-1), who struggled to score while quarterback Drew Brees got the night off.
Brees’ backup, Luke McCown, completed all four of his passes, including a short touchdown toss to Travaris Cadet on his only series. But New Orleans managed only two more field goals by Derek Dimke.
“I feel like I took the opportunities I had and put my best foot forward,” McCown said of his preseason, one in which he found competition from second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin.
A mix of backups on offense struggled to find any consistency. New Orleans gained only 190 total yards of offense and went 0 for 7 on third down. Griffin went 11 for 21 for 126 yards. He was not intercepted and was sacked once.
Besides Brees, tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Marques Colston and running back Pierre Thomas were among those who didn’t get on the field.
The Saints’ decision to rest Brees, who had strained a left oblique muscle early in camp, means he’ll head into the regular season having played a total of three offensive series in the preseason. He played only the first quarter of last week’s game at Indianapolis, leading two touchdown drives.
The Saints did play 36-year-old, 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey. Because of a foot injury, he’d made his preseason debut only a week earlier. He played only the first quarter against Baltimore, giving up a 7-yard completion.
Free agent rookie safety Pierre Warren, trying to make the cut, had an interception for New Orleans.
Like the Saints, Baltimore rested numerous starters including quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice. Taylor, Flacco’s backup, played the entire first half, leading four scoring drives.
The Ravens gained 214 yards on the ground, with Fitzgerald Toussaint rushing for 103 yards and Lorenzo Taliaferro 88. Baltimore outgained New Orleans by 243 total yards.
Still, the final dry run was good enough for some, Saints defensive lineman John Jenkins said.
“You go out there and you want to see how you’re at personally,” Jenkins said. “You want to work on things.”
The Saints, founded in 1967, have never made it through a preseason without a loss. However, they did go 3-1 in the 2009 season, the same season they won their only Super Bowl.
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