NEW ORLEANS – When Derek Carr finished putting on his uniform before his preseason debut with the New Orleans Saints, he couldn't help but be struck by the sight of himself in black and gold — instead of the Raiders' silver and black he'd worn for all of his previous nine NFL seasons.
“It may look weird, but it felt right," said Carr, the Saints' top free agent acquisition. “I just feel refreshed. I feel rejuvenated. And to put that uniform on and come out and be a Saint, it felt really good.”
Carr threw a touchdown pass on his opening series and rookie Blake Grupe kicked a 31-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Saints to a 26-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in the opening exhibition game for both clubs.
Chiefs star QB Patrick Mahomes started but took just five snaps before Kansas City’s first drive ended with a failed fourth-and-1 play on a direct snap to reserve tight end Blake Bell.
“We were a little flat at the beginning. You can’t do that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You come to work ready to go.”
That's what Carr did. He looked comfortable taking his first live snaps in his new offense, completing six of eight passes for 70 yards during his only drive.
Aftrer twice rolling away from pressure on first-down completions to tight end Juwan Johnson and running back Alvin Kamara, Carr capped the 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 4-yard pass to Keith Kirkwood as the receiver crossed the back of the end zone.
“I was fired up because now I get to move and work on my stuff in a live scenario,” Carr said. “It was satisfying because those are the realest reps it gets. Like, they can hit me out there.”
With backups in the game for both teams, the Saints rallied late.
After rookie Jake Haener’s 2-yard scoring pass to running back Ellis Merriweather pulled the Saints within 24-23 with 1:20 to go, New Orleans' 2-point conversion attempt for the lead went awry on a botched shotgun snap.
But Saints defensive end Kyle Phillips tipped Chris Oladokun’s third-down pass and caught the deflection on the Kansas City 22 to set up the winning kick.
“You can’t finish with a mistake and that’s a terrible way to end the thing," Reid said. "It looks like the Saints have a good football team. We’ve got to make sure we get our stuff taken care of.”
Jameis Winston relieved Carr after the Chiefs' fourth-down failure and drove New Orleans 48 yards in four plays for a 14-0 lead on a 29-yard pass over the top of the secondary to rookie receiver A.T. Perry. A sixth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest, Perry was New Orleans' leading receiver with six catches for 70 yards.
Blaine Gabbert played most of the first half for Kansas City and pulled the Chiefs within 17-7 on a 1-yard fade to Richie James in the corner of the end zone. Saints defensive backs Alontae Taylor and Bradley Roby appeared to have a miscommunication on the play, leaving James uncovered.
James' TD came a few plays after he'd beaten Taylor on a 43-yard catch deep into Saints territory.
Kansas City third-stringer Shane Buechele threw for 155 yards and a pair of scores, the first on a 15-yard pass over the middle to Justyn Ross.
Buechele put the Chiefs in front 21-17 when he escaped two near sacks, stepped forward and found Kekoa Crawford in the middle of the end zone.
“That escape was good and then the throw was good and the catch was good," Reid said. "All around, that was a pretty good play.”
Chiefs receiver Nikko Remigio, a rookie out of Fresno State, caught four passes for 71 yards.
The Chiefs had three sacks, with Drue Tranquill, Chamarri Conner and Danny Shelton each getting one. Linebackers Zach Baun and Ty Summers each had sacks for the Saints.
Kahlef Hailassie, a rookie out of Western Kentucky, made a leaping grab to intercept Haener along the sideline. Saints backup safety Ugo Amadi intercepted Buechele on a ball tipped by Taylor.
Saints: RB Kendre Miller left the game in the third quarter and coach Dennis Allen said he has a sprained knee. Miller was a third-round draft choice out of TCU who, if healthy, is expected to be in the mix for snaps during Kamara's three-game suspension to start the season.
Chiefs: Reid said reserve cornerback Nic Jones fractured “a couple fingers” and that fellow reserve defensive back Anthony Witherstone had a toe injury. Reid said he was unsure if Jones would need surgery or could return with a cast.
Chiefs: At Arizona on Saturday.
Saints: Visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 20.
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