The New Orleans Saints' new offense looked a lot like its old one, especially after Ricky Williams left with another ankle injury.
Luckily for the Saints, George Seifert's new Carolina Panthers' team looked nothing like his old one at San Francisco.
The Saints beat the Panthers, 19-10, today in a dull season opener that emphasized the problems each team still has this year. Special teams and defense were the difference as Tyronne Drakeford returned a Carolina fumble 20 yards for a New Orleans touchdown on the opening kickoff, and the Saints shut out the Panthers in the second half.
"Defense is the trademark of this team," Saints nose tackle La'Roi Glover said. "It always has been. We need a solid offense, but our defense has to be on for us to win games."
New Orleans, 28th in the league last year in total offense and last in rushing, gave up eight draft picks for Williams, the Heisman Trophy winner. But his NFL debut was unimpressive--10 carries for 40 yards and another injury to the left ankle that hampered him in preseason.
Williams made his two best runs of the game on the final two plays of the first quarter, running for eight and seven yards for the Saints' initial first down. He got up limping on his left leg, however, and hopped to the sidelines.
Williams returned for two more carries in the second quarter before being taken to the locker room for X-rays. He was found to have a slight sprain in a slightly different location than the one that sidelined him since Aug. 13. He did not return to the game.
Steve Beuerlein completed 16 of 32 passes for 207 yards for Carolina. He was also sacked seven times. Carolina's leading rusher, Tim Biakabutuka, had 45 yards on eight carries.
Billy Joe Hobert, playing his first complete game since Dec. 14, 1997, completed 11 of 22 passes for 132 yards. He was sacked four times.