From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 12, 1998

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / August 12, 1998

A season ago, Green Bay advanced to the Super Bowl while New Orleans finished the season with a 6-10 record.

After Saturday night’s exhibition game between the two teams, it does not appear much has changed over the offseason. The Packers, 31-7 winners,still look like a Super Bowl contender while the Saints are still looking for a way to end their streak of five straight non-winning seasons.

The best thing that can be said about the game is that it was the exhibition opener for the Saints while the Packers already had a game under their belt. And yes, a few months from now, most fans probably willnot remember what happened during the game. But the signs, especially inthe first quarter when the starters for both teams played, were not en- couraging.

Brett Favre and the Packer offense went through the Saints defense like they were conducting a non-tackling drill, driving for touchdowns on the first two possessions. Travis Jervey, who did not carry the ball for thePackers last season, gained 39 yards on three carries on the first possession and capped off the second one with a two-yard touchdown run.

Favre completed seven of his eight passes for 86 yards and a had a two- yard touchdown pass to Mark Chmura before calling it a day.

The Saints offense, one of the worst in the NFL a year ago, is still searching for an identity other than one that resembles a brick wall.

Lamar Smith had a 23-yard scamper but otherwise the running game, which has not been a consistent factor this decade, was again ineffective, rushing for just 3.4 yards a carry. Billy Joe Hobert had little time tothrow and when he did, he looked extremely out of sync. Dropped passesdid not help any either.

The Saints defense did recover in the second quarter to force two turnovers deep in Packer territory. An interception by Sammy Knight and afumble recovery by Rob Kelly gave the Saints possession at the Packers’ 23- and 34-yard lines. But the offense failed to capitalize on either break,losing a combined five yards on the two possessions, missing a field goal on one and punting on the second.

Jervey would stretch the lead to 21-0 by going virtually untouched for a 44-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He would finish the gamewith 100 yards or 28 more yards than the Saints would gain as a team.

The Saints offense finally got untracked near the end of the first half, driving 89 yards to the Packer one-yard line. But Fred McCrary was nailedon third down and tight end Marcus Hinton dropped a pass from Hobert in the end zone on fourth down to end the drive.

It was up to the defense to get the Saints on the scoreboard in the third quarter as Chris Hewitt intercepted a pass from David Klingler and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. But turnovers, which killed theSaints over and over last year, did so again Saturday. The Saints fumbledtwice and Danny Wuerffel and Jake Delhomme were each intercepted once.

Sure it was just a preseason game. But unless Ditka and the Saints canfind a way or make a way in the next couple of weeks to find a way to do whatever it takes, the 1998 season will take on an eerily resemblance to 1997.

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