Blaine Gabbert left little doubt he is getting better in his second NFL season, and Jordan Palmer delivered a late clutch pass to cap a fun Friday night in the Big Easy for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Palmer hit Kevin Elliott with an 11-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 13 seconds left, lifting Jacksonville to a 27-24 preseason victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Jacksonville (No. 31 in the AP Pro 32) saw continued progress from Gabbert, the second-year quarterback who outperformed Drew Brees of the Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro 32) during the first half.
Gabbert completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, the first a 16-yard strike to rookie Justin Blackmon, who was making his preseason debut.
Brees was 10 of 13 for 133 yards and one touchdown, an 8-yard pass to Devery Henderson.
Undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet had 90 yards from scrimmage and a TD for New Orleans.
Cadet’s score on a 24-yard reception from Chase Daniel gave New Orleans a 24-20 lead with under 2 minutes remaining, but Palmer quickly drove Jacksonville back down the field with the help of pass interference calls against Jose Gumbs and Cord Parks. The second penalty put the ball at the New Orleans 6.
A false start penalty backed Jacksonville up to the 11, and Palmer threw three incompletions before finding Elliot in the end zone on a last-gasp play.
Josh Scobee had field goals of 36 and 47 yards, the second giving Jacksonville a 20-17 lead late in the third quarter.
Blackmon finished with four catches for 48 yards as Jacksonville remained unbeaten in two preseason games.
Joseph Morgan had three catches for 68 yards for New Orleans (1-2), including a 53-yard touchdown reception from Chase Daniel that tied it at 17 in the third quarter.
Jacksonville got the start it hoped for from Gabbert and Rashad Jennings, the No. 1 running back while Maurice Jones-Drew holds out.
The Jaguars marched 80 yards on nine plays against the Saints’ first-team defense, taking a 7-0 lead on Gabbert’s third completion in three throws. It was a 16-yard scoring strike to Blackmon, who ran the last 7 yards after snatching the ball from defensive back Marquis Johnson and spinning into the clear.
Blackmon, the No. 5 pick in last spring’s draft, missed Jacksonville’s preseason opener after a contract holdout that lasted through the first 11 practices of training camp. His first career catch came on Gabbert’s first completion of the game for an 8-yard gain.
Jennings ran 6 times for 42 yards on the drive, including gains of 17 and 15 yards around the left end. He finished with 62 yards on 11 carries.
Brees drove the Saints to the Jacksonville 18 in his first series, highlighted by Pierre Thomas’ 25-yard gain on a screen pass, but the drive stalled. Garrett Hartley’s 37-yard field goal made it 7-3.
Gabbert later marched the Jaguars 66 yards in 14 plays, capped by his 15-yard TD toss to tight end Colin Cloherty.
Things quickly got worse for New Orleans as Brees was drilled and stripped by defensive end Jeremy Mincey. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton recovered the ball on the Saints 15.
Hindered by a holding call, Gabbert couldn’t get Jacksonville in the end zone this time. Scobee’s 36-yard field goal made it 17-3.
Although Brees briefly shook his (right) throwing arm after the sack, there didn’t appear to be any lingering effects when he returned to the field for his fourth and last offensive series. He completed all six of his passes on the drive for 74 yards, including two to Marques Colston for 15 and 28 yards. Then came Henderson’s 8-yard TD on a difficult catch as he twisted and tumbled over the sideline, making it 17-10.
Daniel played the last series of the first half and all of the second half. He was 16 of 21 for 185 yards and two touchdowns. His connection with Morgan was a deep throw, and Morgan broke free behind the defense.
Jaguars backup Chad Henne was 4 of 9 for 36 yards and was intercepted by safety Isa Abdul-Quddus on a pass tipped by defensive back Elbert Mack.
Several Saints players left the game with injuries, including Abdul-Quddus, who appeared wobbly after a collision late in the third quarter. Reserve linebacker Chris Chamberlain left the game with a left knee injury, and reserve receiver Andy Tanner sustained a left ankle injury.