By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Pro Football Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — 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.
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-6, 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 4 of 6 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-5 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 2, 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 8 of 13 for 97 yards and the score. He was replaced by Trevor Siemian, who appears to be a lock as Darnold’s backup.
Saints rookie wide receiver Deonte Harris returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown with 7:27 left, giving New Orleans a 23-13 lead. Harris, out of Assumption College, avoided a diving tackle attempt by punter Matt Darr before sprinting into the end zone.
Kalil was expected to make his debut with the team, but the team decided to have him sit out while he continues to get into football shape and learn the playbook. Jonotthan Harrison started again in his place.
Kalil, who played 12 seasons with Carolina, came out of retirement earlier this month and signed a one-year, $8.4 million deal with the Jets.
“(Last) Sunday night was his first night in pads, so he’s only had really three practices,” general manager Joe Douglas said before the game. “So, we felt the smart thing to do was to hold him out. We’ll re-evaluate it next week. Again, we’re 15 days away from the opener, so we feel good that’s he’s going to have plenty of time to be ready for Week 1.”
JUST FOR KICKS
Jets kicker Taylor Bertolet — whose roster spot is uncertain — bounced back after missing two extra points last week, making field goals of 48 and 56 yards and converting on his one extra-point try.
Bridgewater was 15 of 26 for 143 yards before giving way to Taysom Hill in the third quarter. The do-it-all Hill ran for what appeared to be a go-ahead 8-yard touchdown late in the third, but it was wiped out by a holding call on Patrick Omameh. The Saints had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Wil Lutz that put New Orleans up 16-13 with 2:36 left in the quarter. … Lutz was also good from 39, 40 and 34 yards, but was wide left on a 43-yard attempt.
Saints: LB Josh Martin left in the third quarter with an apparent right arm injury.
Jets: S Brandon Bryant suffered a head injury in the third quarter after being called for unnecessary roughness for leading with his helmet on a play.
Saints: home vs. Miami on Thursday night.
Jets: at Philadelphia on Thursday night.