After losing two starters to season-ending injuries last week, the Baltimore Ravens rested every starter but scored 23 consecutive points, including a strip sack for a touchdown by rookie defensive tackle Michael Pierce, to beat the New Orleans Saints 23-14 in the final preseason game Thursday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Ryan Mallett got the start at quarterback for Joe Flacco and played three series, going 8-of-12 for 65 yards, before giving way to Josh Johnson. Johnson also was efficient, completing 18-of-24 for 181 yards, and sweeping left end for 2 yards for Baltimore's final score with seven minutes left.
On his only drive, Brees completed a 26-yard back-shoulder pass to wide receiver Willie Snead on third down, the key play in a 61-yard, 10-play drive that ended with Kai Forbath's 36-yard field goal for a 3-0 New Orleans lead. Brees (3-of-6 for 40 yards) then put on his baseball cap and gave way to Luke McCown.
Connor Barth, in a close battle with Forbath for the Saints' kicking job, nailed a 40-yarder on New Orleans' second series for a 6-0 lead.
Justin Tucker's 46-yard field goal on Baltimore's next series cut the deficit to 6-3, and then he tied it 6-6 with a 39-yarder that climaxed a 13-play, 65-yard drive.
The Ravens defense provided the go-ahead score. Pierce, a rookie defensive tackle from Samford, knifed through to sack McCown inside the 5-yard line, stripping the ball and recovering in the end zone just before halftime to put the Ravens up 13-6. Tucker added his third field goal of the half, a 30-yarder, for a 16-6 halftime lead.
Saints third-string QB Garrett Grayson threw a 4-yard TD pass to fullback Austin Johnson for the final score, cutting the Baltimore lead to 23-14, with 1:53 left.
The Saints have lost nine consecutive preseason games dating back to 2014, and they finished the preseason minus-eight in takeaway margin. ... The Saints signed center Max Unger to a three-year, $21 million extension. ... This was the Ravens' sixth 4-0 preseason. ... Ravens backup DT Carl Davis suffered a left ankle injury.