The Saints’ 7-6 loss to the New England Patriots on Thursday played out like the Hall of Fame Game opener against Arizona was supposed to do but didn’t: sloppy, ugly and boring. The first half featured three points, four turnovers and six punts. QB Drew Brees played two series and did not produce a first down, going 1-for-4 for 4 yards.
Still, the news of the night was the way the Saints’ first-team defense looked in limited action. On the Patriots' opening possession, DE Junior Galette pressured Tom Brady into a sack by teammate Will Smith, who forced a fumble that linebacker Curtis Lofton recovered, setting up the lone points of the first half.
The Patriots went next to nowhere on their second series. Cornerback Marquis Johnson added an interception of backup Patriots QB Ryan Mallett in the second quarter.
Last year New Orleans’ front four generated very little pass rush, and the Saints rarely caused turnovers, recovering only seven fumbles and picking off only nine passes in the regular season.
New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo appears to be fixing both problems. It is far too early to know for sure, but the Saints hardly had any stretches last year with the consistent pass rush and turnovers they have forced in the first two preseason games.
Big FG miss: John Kasay, the 43-year old veteran who went 28-for-34 on field goals last year while subbing for injured Garrett Hartley, hooked a 41-yarder that would have given the Saints a 9-7 lead late in the fourth quarter. Holder Chase Daniel did not spin the laces away from him, a no-no on kicks, but Kasay still needed to make it.
After connecting from 46 yards out in the first half, Kasay was 30-for-36 as a Saint. He still has not missed from inside 40 yards.
Hartley, 26, is 42-for-49 in his career but with a couple of short misses.
WR muddle: The race for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots is wide open with Adrian Arrington missing his second consecutive preseason game because of a meniscus question in his knee, and rookie fourth-round pick Nick Toon sitting out his second straight game with an injured foot. Arrington was having an outstanding training camp before deciding to have the knee checked out.
Courtney Roby, a special teams ace who might have a spot guaranteed anyway, led the Saints with five receptions for 85 yards four days after catching four passes for 54 yards against Arizona. His last regular-season reception came in 2009.
Long shot Andy Tanner had four receptions for 45 yards a week after making four grabs for 75 yards. Deep threat Joe Morgan dropped a pass and had only catch for seven yards, but he drew a 46-yard interference penalty after racing by the New England secondary in the third quarter, setting up the Saints’ second field goal.
Night to forget: Defensive end Martez Wilson, who has excelled in training camp, committed two special teams gaffes in the first half. He was offside on New England’s first punt, handing the Patriots a first down.
The next time New England punted, he ran into the kicker, giving the Patriots another first down.
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLNO.