Saints' Starting Defense Strong In Preseason Win Over Bengals

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst IAugust 14, 2009

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 30: Linebacker Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints yells during play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 30, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Jonathan Vilma started 2009 where he left off in 2008.

The Saints' middle linebacker scooped up a fumble, intercepted a Carson Palmer pass, and totaled over 110 return yards in the first half against a talented Cincinnati Bengals offense.

Newcomer Darren Sharper made two monster hits. One hit forced a fumble and another rung the bell of wide receiver Laverneus Coles.

It was the Saints offense, though, that had trouble first.

They could not punch it in the endzone after having a first and goal from the six yard line following Vilma's fumble return.

Garrett Hartley then missed a 19-yard field goal wide to the left.

Both teams had trouble scoring early on due in part to a strange sequence of events that occured with about five minutes left in the opening quarter.

Facing a 3rd—and—5 conversion from the Saints' 30 yard line, Carson Palmer's pass was intercepted by Vilma, who was stripped by receiver Andre Caldwell.

The fumble was recovered by the Bengals and they restarted the drive at their own four yard line.

The Bengals then drive the ball to the Saints' 12 yard line, but missed a 29-yard field goal.

The Saints scored both of their touchdowns with much—maligned players.

Drew Brees connected with tight end Jeremy Shockey three times for 61 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass for the first points of the game.

Once the second units took the field, Mark Brunell hit a wide open Robert Meachem on a deep post route for a 64-yard touchdown bomb in the third quarter.

Hartley redeemed his early miss with a 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to make the final score 17-7.


Other Observations

The goal line offense still needs a lot of work.

Lynell Hamilton did not help his chances of making this team with two fumbles, one near the goal line.

The Saints are giving Skyler Green every opportunity to make this team as the sixth wide receiver and punt returner.

Jason David gave up the only score allowed by the Saints defense.

The fact that the Saints ran the ball more than they threw it is an indication that the competition for the third running back is still wide open.

Neither punter distinguished themselves with inconsistent performances.

If the season started tomorrow, defensive end Anthony Hargrove would be on the roster.

Apparently, Jo-Lonn Dunbar is trying to convince the coaching staff that they don't need to sign another linebacker. He had a game-high eight tackles.

The Saints defense swarms to the ball really well.


The Saints will travel to Houston this week in preparation for their preseason game against the Texans.

The Saints and Texans will square off in a pair of two-a-days on Wednesday and Thursday before their game on Saturday, Aug. 22.