Early in the Saints annual Black and Gold scrimmage on Saturday, a familiar scenario quickly unfolded when the No. 1 offense drove 80 yards in seven plays to a touchdown in its first series against the second-team defense.
The drive, which was highlighted by a 40-yard pass from Drew Brees to wide receiver Marques Colston, seemed too easy. But it certainly wasn't anything the 3,641 spectators in the stands at the team's training facility hadn't seen before.
But after Reggie Bush covered the last 10 yards with runs of 4 and 6 yards for the touchdown, things changed almost as quickly. The defense rose up and took the upper hand to dominate the rest of the 76-play scrimmage.
In the final 69 snaps of the scrimmage, the offense was kept out of the end zone and had just 202 total yards against a defense that had a takeaway and six sacks. After connecting on his first four pass attempts, Brees was 2-of-12 the rest of the scrimmage.
"Aside from the first drive that they scored on, I thought we did a very good job defensively," said middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma. "We flew around pretty well and made plays on the ball. That was the biggest thing.
It certainly didn't catch Brees by surprise even though he was frustrated by the offense's failure to reach the end zone again.
While the takeaway and sacks were nice, the highlight of the day for the defense came near the end of the scrimmage when coach Sean Payton had Brees and backup Patrick Ramsey direct the offense to one series each in the two-minute drill.
Brees started his series by throwing a 34-yard pass to tight end David Thomas over the middle, which put the ball at the 11-yard line. But he threw three incompletions before a poor snap in the shotgun spoiled the final play on fourth-and-10.
Vilma said he can see a difference in this year's defense.
"The best example I could see is that two-minute drive where they hit the long pass, they're on the 10 (actually 11) and four plays later -- no points," he said. "At this time last year, we might have given that up. We might have broken down mentally and not been as tough to say, 'enough's enough.'"
Ramsey also moved his team in the drill, but he was sacked on what turned out to be the final play of the workout.
The defense wound up holding the four quarterbacks to 24 completions in 45 attempts for 200 net yards and limited the offense to 82 rushing yards on 25 carries although Bush and Pierre Thomas combined for just six attempts.
Vilma forced the only turnover of the day when he stripped the ball from rookie tight end Jimmy Graham after he caught a short pass from Ramsey and defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson, who had one of the six sacks, recovered the loose ball.
"They did today what everybody's used to seeing at least from last year: playing fast with pressure and rallying to the ball very quickly and creating turnovers," said Brees, who was 6-of-16 for 110 yards. "That's what our defense really thrived on last year."
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 30. The Saints will practice with the New England Patriots on Aug. 10-11 in Foxborough, Mass., and Houston Texans on Aug. 18-19 in Metairie, La.
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