NEW ORLEANS -- Although the New Orleans Saints beat the Tennessee Titans 31-24, coach Sean Payton will be seething over the stunning amount of penalties his team committed. The Saints finished with 22 of them (14 in the first half) and had at least four others declined. Payton was already upset when the Saints committed 10 penalties a week ago.
Two in particular stood out. Tight end Jimmy Graham drew 15-yard taunting penalties for dunking over the goalpost after both of his touchdown catches in the first half -- a celebration that was outlawed by the NFL this offseason.
Although Graham obviously felt like it was worth the cost during the preseason, Payton appeared to be upset when he chased down Graham to talk to him after the second one.
Here are some other thoughts on the Saints' second preseason game of the year.
With Drew Brees sidelined again by an oblique strain, both of his potential backups played great. Luke McCown completed 12 of 19 passes for 117 yards and both touchdown passes to Graham. He was especially impressive on the opening drive. Griffin, meanwhile, completed 13 of 20 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns (though he was fortunate to have an interception nullified by a penalty). Griffin went big on a few throws, hitting Joe Morgan twice for 40-plus yards and nearly hitting Brandin Cooks for a deep score that Cooks couldn't reel in.
The Saints' defense was maddeningly inconsistent, allowing some big plays and long drives early (including a 64-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter). But it finally started to deliver some of those turnovers the Saints have been preaching about all offseason. The Saints finished with five takeaways (forced fumbles by Kenny Vaccaro and Cameron Jordan that were recovered by Rafael Bush and Akiem Hicks; opportunistic fumble recoveries by Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Brandon Deaderick; and an interception by Vinnie Sunseri). Vaccaro also appeared to force another fumble, recovered by Curtis Lofton, but it was overturned by replay.
No, Pierre Thomas has not become the odd man out in the Saints' three-way time-share at running back. After sitting out the first preseason game, he was heavily involved Friday -- especially as a pass-catcher and pass-protector on third downs. Thomas caught three passes for 27 yards. As I've been saying, I expected to see him in Darren Sproles' old role tonight. … The Saints' run game wasn't very effective Friday, but Mark Ingram did catch a 23-yard touchdown pass -- showing that he'll have a chance to play a more versatile role this year in the Saints' offense.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis left the field with trainers during the first half. The Saints didn't offer any specifics on his injury. He would be a huge loss if he's out for any regular-season games -- maybe as hard to replace as anyone outside of Brees. Rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt also left with an apparent injury.