Saints vs. Titans: Three and out

1. WHAT WE LEARNED

Since Drew Brees arrived in 2006, the New Orleans Saints have never played a regular-season game by choice without him at quarterback. They don’t want to have to test the theoretical probability of winning without him (though that’s two weeks Brees’ strained oblique has sidelined him), but his backups showed they have a good chance of being able to carry the day in his absence. Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin played well, combining to throw for 296 yards and four touchdowns. The captain must return, but the pinch-hitting was quality.

2. TRENDING NOW

All the yellow flags thrown against his team had Saints coach Sean Payton seeing red. “That was painful to watch,” he said of the game, and “I lost count” of the penalties. There may still be a ref or two to be heard from, but the postgame total was 22 penalties for 184 yards. “That’s a sign of a team that’s not disciplined and not well coached,” Payton said, not excluding himself from his own postgame sandblasting. The biggest worry for the Saints is they were trying to improve on 10 penalties at St. Louis the week before.

3. FINAL THOUGHTS

There were equal amounts to like and be concerned about for the Saints on Friday night. The defense forced five turnovers, a big point of emphasis, but the penalties kept the Saints from enjoying a blowout. While McCown and Griffin played well, getting Brees back soon is starting to take on some urgency. That the Saints overcame their mistakes and a long list of 15 inactive players and still win says a lot about their talent. More needs to be said about their execution with the most important preseason game next.