Sports

Sloppy Saints stumble in exhibition opener

A new season, a different result, a lot of room for improvement for the Super Bowl champions.

The New Orleans Saints gave up big plays and a decisive 28-yard field goal in the final minute as the New England Patriots opened their exhibition season with a 27-24 win Thursday night in Foxborough, Mass.

The Saints lost more than a game during their visit to New England, which began Tuesday with two days of joint practices.

On Wednesday, No. 3 running back Lynell Hamilton tore his right anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that likely will sideline him for the season. On the Saints’ first possession Thursday, punter Thomas Morstead hurt his left shoulder knocking Julian Edelman out of bounds after a 40-yard return.

Coach Sean Payton said X-rays were negative, and Morstead was due for more tests today.

The Saints punted four times on their five first-half possessions and managed just a field goal on their last four possessions of the game. Their final series ended with an interception. And there were plenty of missed tackles.

“Too many sloppy things we’ve got to get corrected,” Payton said. “I know it’s the first week of preseason; still, a lot of things are disturbing.”

On his first series since being voted Super Bowl MVP, Drew Brees threw an incompletion and was sacked for a 10-yard loss. But on his third and final possession, he led a 20-play, 86-yard march that lasted 10:01 and ended with a 2-yard scoring run by Reggie Bush that cut New England’s lead to 10-7.

Brees completed 9-of-13 passes for 55 yards.

Tom Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, played New England’s first two series and went 5-for-8 for 67 yards. Steve Gostkowski kicked the winning 28-yard field goal with 53 seconds to go after Darnell Jenkins caught a short pass from seventh-round draft pick Zac Robinson and turned it into a 52-yard gain.

Raiders 17, at Cowboys 9: Dallas was inside the 20-yard line on four drives against Oakland, yet managed only three field goals. It came back to bite the Cowboys when the Raiders got two TDs and a field goal in the final 4:58 to win.

Oakland went ahead 10-9 with 2:24 left when kicker Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 28-yard field goal.

At Ravens 17, Panthers 12: Joe Flacco guided Baltimore’s retooled offense to a pair of scores, and the Ravens held Carolina without a touchdown.

Flacco went 8-for-12 for 120 yards and a touchdown. He produced a field goal in his first series, then went three-and-out before directing a 96-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton.

EXTRA POINTS

San Francisco defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer missed his fourth straight day of training camp and his absence because of a “personal issue” is still considered unexcused. … Cleveland’s starting inside linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson will be sidelined for at least a few weeks with a strained right pectoral muscle.

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