Thursday night wasn’t the time and the Superdome certainly wasn’t the place to lay a big egg if you were on the proverbial New Orleans Saints’ bubble.
With less than 48 hours to go before NFL teams were required to reduce rosters to the regular-season limit of 53 players, Sean Payton gave 14 of his 22 starters the night off and pulled the rest of them early - giving his backups some work and others an opportunity to make one final impression.
Earlier in the week, Payton suggested that at least four or five roster spots were wide open heading into the exhibition finale against the Tennessee Titans.
Unfortunately, the bubble may have burst for some of those hopefuls in a lopsided 32-9 setback to the Titans.
It looked bad, very bad. About as bad as it could get actually, but only for a lot of players who’ll be among the 27 roster moves the Saints have to make by the 4 p.m. Saturday deadline.
The good news coming out of the game is it will have nothing to do whatsoever with what happens when the Saints open the regular season on Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers in a clash of the last two Super Bowl champions.
There’s more good news for Saints’ fans: the Saints starters will be fresh and ready to go for the first game that really counts and not worn out from a meaningless game no one will care about a month from now.
When asked if he could put the game behind him, Payton wasn’t about to cause widespread panic. But he didn’t exactly sweep the outcome under the locker room carpet, either.
“Yeah, we have to,” he said about getting over it rather quickly. “But that being said, you have to look at it and you don’t cover it up or sugar coat it. You have to look at it and make the corrections.
“There are a handful of guys that were on the field that are going to be on the team next week. So we’ve got to do what we do each week, and that’s make the corrections and get on to the next plan.”
If there is a valid concern coming out of Thursday night’s game, it would be about the team’s kicking situation.
With Garrett Hartley expected to be sidelined several weeks because of an injured hip, the Saints brought in former Carolina Panthers standout John Kasay. But he missed a 39-yard field goal try and an extra point before connecting on a 38-yarder late to help him sleep better.
But the 41-year-old Kasay, who ranks eighth in NFL history with 1,823 points, will likely get a pass because he stepped in without the benefit of training camp and had two days to work with a new snapper and holder.
“That third kick was critical; it was important for his own confidence,” Payton said. “He’s kicked in a lot of big spots. A game like this might not seem important for a lot of people, but for a veteran who missed the first two it’s a very important kick.”
And he made it, which was a positive. So, let the real games begin.