Drew Brees threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas to cap his only drive in his preseason debut, and the New Orleans Saints defeated the New York Jets 28-13 on Saturday night in East Rutherford, N.J.
Brees didn’t take a snap in the Saints’ first two exhibition games, but Sean Payton gave the 40-year-old quarterback a brief regular-season warmup in this one. And, Brees and the starting offense breezed down the field.
Alvin Kamara had a 25-yard catch on third down, and a 20-yard grab by Thomas two plays later got the Saints (2-1) down to the 23. On third and six, Brees found Thomas in the back-right corner of the end zone with a perfectly placed ball over cornerback Tevaughn Campbell’s head for the touchdown.
Brees finished four of six for 68 yards and was done for the night, along with the rest of the offensive starters, and was replaced by Teddy Bridgewater.
Sam Darnold’s night for the Jets (1-2) lasted quite a bit longer as the second-year quarterback played midway into the second quarter, despite three projected starting offensive lineman — center Ryan Kalil and guards Kelechi Osemele and Brian Winters — sitting out.
After a sluggish start — and Darnold taking a hard shot from Trey Hendrickson to end his fourth drive — the starting offense got things going against the Saints’ backup defense.
On third and five from the Jets 40, Darnold connected with Robby Anderson down the left sideline for a 41-yard gain. After two runs by Ty Montgomery and a defensive holding call on Terrell Williams Jr. put the ball at the Saints two-year line, Darnold threw a pretty swing pass to Montgomery for a touchdown that cut the Jets’ deficit to 10-7 with 8:22 left in the first half.
That was it for Darnold, who was eight of 13 for 97 yards and the score. He was replaced by Trevor Siemian, who appears to be a lock as Darnold’s backup.
49ers 27, Chiefs 17
San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was impressive in his return to Arrowhead Stadium, and Kansas City counterpart Patrick Mahomes might have been even better, as the 49ers beat the Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., in their third preseason game.
Garoppolo was 14 of 20 for 188 yards while playing the entire first half in a much better showing than his preseason debut against Denver last week. Garoppolo led the 49ers deep into Chiefs territory four times, throwing a nice touchdown pass to Matt Breida and getting two field goals from Robbie Gould.
It was an encouraging night for Garoppolo on another front: He was able to put to rest any lingering memories from last season, when he tore up his knee during a Week 3 game in Kansas City.
Mahomes finished eight of 10 for 126 yards, highlighted by a 62-yard catch-and-run to Damien Williams in which the Chiefs’ injury-prone running back raced right by the woebegone linebacker covering him.
Mahomes was so sharp in what was likely his final tuneup before the regular season that the league MVP even completed his first incompletion — it was just caught out of bounds. His only other misfire was a drop by backup tight end Blake Bell before coach Andy Reid gave Mahomes a visor to wear.
Garoppolo kept his helmet on, leading a two-minute drill that gave the 49ers a go-ahead field goal.
The 49ers clung to that 13-10 halftime advantage until Chiefs backup quarterback Kyle Shurmur led a 13-play, 97-yard drive that took up most of the third quarter. Byron Pringle capped it with a short TD run as the second-year pro tries to make the Chiefs as an extra wide receiver.
The 49ers answered with a 12-play drive. Nick Mullens, who is battling C.J. Beathard for their backup quarterback job, led the way and Jeff Wilson Jr. finished it with a TD run.
Wilson put the game away with another touchdown run with 3:41 to go.
Cowboys 34, Texans 0
Deshaun Watson didn’t get the longer preseason look he wanted against Dallas.
Houston couldn’t get its quarterback off the field fast enough, especially after running back Lamar Miller was injured on the second play.
Watson didn’t return for a second series after getting dropped twice in three plays. The first play wasn’t a sack because of defensive holding, the second was and resulted in a fumble , the first of four Texans turnovers in an exhibition loss to the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.
Miller was carted off after defensive tackle Maliek Collins slammed into his left leg at the line of scrimmage in what figures to be Miller’s only carry of the preseason. The eighth-year back didn’t play in the first two exhibitions. There was no immediate update on Miller’s status.
Dak Prescott scrambled and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gallup while playing the first two series for Dallas. Prescott was two of five for 22 yards, the three incompletions his first of the preseason.
Tony Pollard, the starting running back with Ezekiel Elliott holding out, stayed an extra series, when the rookie had a 20-yard run to finish with 26 yards in six carries. Alfred Morris, the primary replacement during Elliott’s six-game suspension two years ago, had a one-yard TD run.
Pollard nearly reached the end zone by running 24 yards on a screen, but it was negated by an illegal block penalty on Jason Witten. The tight end, poised to set the Dallas record with a 16th season, was playing at home for the first time since coming out of retirement after a year in broadcasting.
Taco Charlton had both the hits on Watson, causing and recovering a fumble on the sack that counted to set up Gallup’s touchdown. Charlton got a second sack against Joe Webb III, and Kerry Hyder added a pair. The Cowboys had eight sacks.
The night got worse for Houston’s offensive line when versatile starter Zach Fulton was carted off in the first half. Last year’s right guard has also played center and left guard in previous seasons.
Vikings 20, Cardinals 9
Dalvin Cook had an 85-yard touchdown run for Minnesota, the highlight of an otherwise rough first half by the first-team offense during a victory by the Vikings over Arizona in Minneapolis.
Cook scored early and Mike Boone crossed the goal line late for the Vikings, who totaled 190 yards on 29 carries. The ground game was by far the best development on an afternoon when Kirk Cousins went just three for 13 for 35 yards while taking two sacks and Kaare Vedvik missed field goals from 43 and 54 yards.
Rookie Kyler Murray, the first overall pick in the draft to whom new coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals have turned to lead the reconstruction project, was relatively sharp while going 14 for 21 for 137 yards over the five possessions against a Vikings defense that was almost at full strength. Three of the drives ended with a successful field goal by Zane Gonzalez, a result that surely made the Vikings envious.
Vedvik, who has been given an extended evaluation as both a kicker and a punter, made both of his extra-point attempts, at least, while incumbent Dan Bailey took the afternoon off. Matt Wile punted six times for an average of 47.3 yards, leaving no more clarity about the specialists than when the month began.
Cousins was under frequent pressure and had multiple passes knocked down at the line, including one deflection by rookie Zach Allen, who had a half-sack. Another Cardinals draft pick, KeeSean Johnson, stood out on the other side of the ball with seven receptions for 85 yards on seven targets.
One of the most discouraging aspects of the performance for Kingsbury and his staff were the 14 penalties for 111 yards, including two false starts called on backup quarterback Brett Hundley in a three-snap stretch late in the second quarter for apparently lifting his leg to signal a receiver to start his motion.