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Saints game beneficial
SAN DIEGO -- Say what you will about the level of play Friday in New Orleans, both good and bad. With 16 days remaining before the season opener, Head Coach Norv Turner says his team is on schedule and will be ready to take the field at Kansas City.
Speaking at Chargers Park on Saturday, Turner talked highly of the competition between his starters and the Saints.
"Each time I get more excited about where this group can go. We've got some highly motivated guys in all areas," Turner said. "I don't think there was anything vanilla about that game. Both teams went after it pretty good. I thought the first half was back and forth like a regular season game with two good teams going at it.
"We're not ready to go, but that was a good example of what we can be. That was as close to a regular-season game as you can get through two and a half quarters, but I thought we were sharp."
The Chargers lost 36-21 and trailed 17-14 when the starters exited during the third quarter, but it appeared the two teams would provide an intense, close contest into the fourth had it been a regular-season game.
San Diego responded to two unanswered touchdowns with a drive of their own to tie the game at 14-14. The Chargers even drove into Saints territory after forcing a three-and-out but could not convert a third-and-3 after the two-minute warning. That allowed the Saints to drive and convert a 40-yard field goal to take a halftime lead.
A conversion wouldn't have guaranteed points, Turner said, but it would've lengthened the odds of a Saints score and made sure Brees didn't get the ball back. Those are the kind of plays that make the difference between two very good teams, he said.
Turner expressed confidence in Antoine Cason among other players. Cason matched Devery Henderson stride-for-stride on a deep pass by Drew Brees in the first quarter that appeared to dart between his hands. Henderson batted it to himself for a 46-yard touchdown. Cason finished the game with five tackles and three passes defensed.
"I thought he had excellent coverage," Turner said. "He was in great position on the deep ball and I thought the Saints receiver made a great play. I've made it clear that there's competition at all positions but I think
Cason has shown he's up for the challenge over there."
The coach lauded the secondary as a whole and thought strong safety Darrell Stuckey played well in his second preseason game other than one missed tackle and will get a lot of playing time against the 49ers.
Turner said Mathews played his best overall game, improving his pass protection and gaining yards after contact against a defense intent on slowing him down.
The Saints corralled Mathews during the second quarter after he busted a few big runs early. He finished with 13 carries for 43 rushing yards. Turner was particularly impressed with the speed that allowed him to prevent a loss and gain 16 yards on a third-and-1 pitch.
"The linebacker had a great angle," Turner said. "I think the linebacker expected to make a tackle for a two or three-yard loss. Ryan turned those jets on and it turned into a (big) play."