Saints defensive backs, all together in one place, stand out against Colts

Associated Press photo by SAM RICHE -- Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) and cornerback Patrick Robinson celebrate Vaccaro's interception against the Colts during Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis.
Associated Press photo by SAM RICHE -- Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) and cornerback Patrick Robinson celebrate Vaccaro's interception against the Colts during Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — Keenan Lewis had already watched the replay a few times and was ready for the question. He wanted to tell someone — anyone — that he felt he was robbed.

The New Orleans Saints cornerback believed he had the highlight moment of Saturday’s 23-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The only problem was that the officials didn’t agree with him.

So when he was asked about it following the game, he reached for his phone and pulled up the replay, which appeared to show him tipping the ball away from T.Y. Hilton and diving over the receiver to make an interception. Once it finished playing, he looked up and simply said, “You tell me.”

That was one of the few moments the Saints’ secondary had to complain about. Most everything else appeared to go their way Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

For starters, it was the first time Jairus Byrd, Kenny Vaccaro, Lewis, and Patrick Robinson were on the field together, and Champ Bailey, along with Byrd, made his preseason debut against the Colts. The group lived up to the lofty expecations that have formed around them this offseason.

With the starting secondary in the game, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck was held to 5-of-11 passing for 50 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The only low moment came when tight end Coby Fleener took advantage of a busted coverage involving linebacker Curtis Lofton and Vaccaro to score a 21-yard touchdown.

“I don’t like a guy running through our defense free on a busted coverage,” coach Sean Payton said. “So we’ve got to get that ironed up, but overall I was pleased.”

The bulk of Luck’s yards came by finding soft spots in the coverage over the middle. He had nowhere else go. Lewis and Robinson took away the outside of the field.

Lewis was targeted by Luck twice. Both times he almost came up with an interception.

On the first target Lewis was covering Reggie Wayne and nearly jumped a short pass thrown to the right sideline. The next one was the pass to Hilton.

“He just showed me the highlight,” Vaccaro, who recorded an interception, said. “It looked like it was a pick for sure.”

Robinson was nearly as strong. And if he is indeed ahead of Bailey on the depth chart, as it appeared Saturday, he did nothing to relinquish his hold on the job. He surrendered an 11-yard reception to Hakeem Nicks early in the game, but otherwise provided quality coverage and forced an incompletion the second time Luck threw his direction.

The only time Byrd was noticed or needed during his 15 snaps came in the first quarter when he anticipated a screen pass to Hilton and came down from his perch to stop him before he was able to turn up the field.

The members of the secondary felt it was a good start for them.

“Definitely a good first step,” Byrd said. “I think we came in here and played good as a defense, but there’s some things we need to work on.”

The anticipated debut of Bailey, who logged 16 snaps, came after Lewis tipped the ball away from Hilton. He logged three snaps with the starting secondary and then stayed on with the second unit and played into the second half.

The only time he looked shaky was when Hilton beat him down the left sideline, but the ball was not thrown his direction. He otherwise looked solid before leaving the game in the third quarter.

The defense would have liked to be awarded another turnover. But barring that, shutting down a high-powered offense will suffice.