No Drew Brees, no problem for the Saints offense against the Titans. Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin made the backup job competition tighter than ever.
Thanks to McCown and Griffin's four combined touchdown passes, the Saints prevailed 31-24 over the Titans in their preseason home opener.
McCown finished 12-19 passing, 117 yards, with two touchdown passes. Griffin went 13-20 passing, 179 yards, also two touchdown passes. Griffin's favorite target was Joe Morgan on the night. The speedy receiver had three catches for a 108 yards.
McCown started the fireworks on the Saints first drive of the game. He converted four third-down conversions, finally leading to a McCown to Jimmy Graham 6-yard touchdown strike. Graham was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play for dunking over the goal post. McCown, the former Louisiana Tech star, was 6-10 passing, for 58 yards on the opening drive. Derek Dimke, not starter Shayne Graham, nailed the extra point to put the Saints up 7-0.
The Titans responded on the very next drive tying things up with a Jake Locker to Justin Hunter 4-yard touchdown connection. It appeared earlier in the drive Kenny Vaccaro stripped a Titan, and Curtis Lofton recovered. Referees overturned the call saying the pass was incomplete before the fumble.
McCown wasn't done in the first half thanks in large part to Vaccaro forcing a fumble inside Titans territory. McCown engineered a 3-play, 35-yard drive, ending with another Graham touchdown reception. Yes he dunked it over the goalpost again, and yes he got flagged again. Saints led 14-10 at this point.
Titans responded swiftly, and it came from a familiar face. Former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger threw his first NFL touchdown pass, hooking up with Hunter for a 64-yard strike. Tennessee back in front 17-14.
Mettenberger finished 20-25 passing, 270 yards, with two touchdown passes.
Then Griffin got his shot to win the backup gig. He first threw a fantastic deep ball to Joe Morgan, a 52-yard play. Then capped a 4-play, 79-yard drive, with a scoring pass to Mark Ingram, the touchdown covered 23 yards. The final score of the first half put the Saints back on top, 21-17.
The second half is when the Saints defense stepped up. A Vinnie Sunseri interception resulted in a Graham 34-yard field goal. Saints took a 24-17 lead on the kick.
Sunseri's forced turnover was one of five on the night for Rob Ryan's defense.
The fifth was registered by Brandon Deaderick on a fumble recovery. That would lead to a Griffin 3-yard touchdown pass to Seantavious Jones. Black and gold in control with a 31-17 advantage after the score.
Mettenberger's second touchdown pass closed out the scoring.
One black eye for the Saints was penalties on the night. Sean Payton's team was flagged 22 times for a 177 yards.
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