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Saints struggle against Eagles

By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Aug. 12, 2003
NEW ORLEANS Preseason games traditionally lack surprises and considering the New Orleans Saints opened their preseason slate against future opponent Philadelphia without many of their big offensive names, it was no surprise that the Eagles, a team that came within a game of going to the Super Bowl last year, handled the Saints 27-17 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 67,954.
Neither the fans in the stands nor the nationwide ESPN audience saw Deuce McAllister or Joe Horn and quarterback Aaron Brooks did not stick around long, giving way to backup slinger Todd Bouman. It all added up to a night that showed Saints coach Jim Haslett that his team still has much work to do in training camp.
Many pundits predicted the Saints special teams units, which were All World a season ago, would have trouble duplicating that success this year.
If Monday night's results were any indication, they may well be right, as the kicking game had a big play taken away from them in the early going and it set the tone for a night of shortcomings.
Pro-Bowl returner Michael Lewis had 102-yard kickoff return for an apparent touchdown called back when it appeared he was down.
As it was, he was only credited with a 56-yard return. He spun out of the arms of a would-be tackler and replays revealed he never touched the ground. But an inadvertent whistle blew the play dead at that spot.
On the other hand, the Eagles return teams weren't bad.
Lito Shepard returned a 52-yard punt by Mark Maraschal 88 yards for a score that gave the Eagles a commanding 20-3 lead with 2:29 to go in the first half.
The Eagles took advantage of subpar defensive play from the starters, opening the game by methodically driving 75-yards in seven plays to open the night's scoring when McNabb found Freddie Mitchell on a 29-yard touchdown strike. McNabb tallied a 5-of-5, 58-yard night.
David Ackers added a 49-yard field goal on the team's second series. His other field goal in the second quarter gave the visitors a 13-3 lead.
One bright spot for the Saints came in the second half when Tory Woodbury was the third New Orleans quarterback inserted.
Woodbury, a free agent pickup from the Jets two weeks ago, has similar style and scrambling athleticism of Brooks.
It was he who stirred the listless crowd midway through the second half by driving the team down the field for its first touchdown of the season, a 26-yard strike to Zach Hilton, capping an eight-play, 48-yard drive.
The final lines on the Saints quarterbacks had Woodbury turning in the best effort, with the most reps, going 4-of-12 with 59 yards and a score. Bouman also went 4-of-12 for 45 yards. Brooks was in for the first two series, completing 3-of-6 throws for 33 yards. J.T. O'Sullivan mopped up in relief completing 7-of-10 passes for 64 yards, while driving the team to its final touchdown, a two-yard toss to former Southern Miss standout Terrell Shaw.
Backup running back Curtis Keaton, whom the staff wanted to see a lot of to establish a clear cut No. 2, was fairly lukewarm, finishing with 16 carries for 45 yards and catching four passes for 33 more.
The Philly first teamers weren't however, and overall the offense looked fairly sharp against a defense plagued by missed tackles.
The Eagles' backs amassed 91 yards rushing on 21 carries, and four Eagle passes churned out 242 yards on a 26-for-40 effort, led by A.J. Feeley's 11-of-18 output that included 98 yards and a score.