Maybe the New Orleans Saints won't miss Ricky Williams after all. Deuce McAllister had 70 total yards as the Saints beat the Miami Dolphins 24-7 Thursday night and held Williams to 17 yards rushing in his first game against his former team.
"We didn't get the short end of the stick,'' Saints receiver Joe Horn said. "Deuce is a better running back. Deuce can do more things. Ricky is a power running back.''
McAllister ran 11 times for 42 yards and caught three passes for 28 yards, all in the first half, and helped New Orleans build a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Saints also got plenty of assistance from the mistake-prone Dolphins. Jay Fiedler threw three first-half interceptions, and Miami had a special teams breakdown for the second time in as many preseason games. The Dolphins also were flagged eight times for 54 yards in the first half.
Fiedler, who missed much of training camp following hip surgery, regressed in his second start in a four-day span. Fiedler was 4-of-6 passing for 36 yards in a loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night. He was 8-of-19 for 83 yards against the Saints. Although he was under heavy pressure for much of the half, Fiedler was off target on many passes.
He played six series on a night when he was supposed to go 20 plays, staying in the game to try to work through his mistakes.
"I was disappointed in the placement of my throws,'' Fiedler said. "I'm usually more accurate that that. I was off balance and didn't get my feet set.''
Fiedler threw interceptions on three of four possessions.
The Dolphins' other drive ended even worse, with Fred McAfee coming unblocked up the middle and blocking Mark Royals' punt. Sammy Knight picked it up and ran 38 yards for a touchdown that made it 10-0. The Buccaneers returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown Monday.
Four Miami possessions that ended with four bad plays helped New Orleans jump out to a 17-0 lead.
"There's no way you can expect to win turning the ball over four times, and one of them for a touchdown,'' Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It's obvious that Jay needs a lot of work. He's behind, and we're fortunate that we have three weeks before we play to get that done.''
The fans were equally upset. They booed Fiedler when he returned to the huddle to start another drive.
They cheered when backup Ray Lucas entered the game and were their loudest when he threw a 24-yard TD pass to rookie tight end Randy McMichael on the final play of the first half. McMichael jumped over two defenders at the goal line and scored as time expired. It was Miami's lone highlight.
"I don't care what anybody says or writes,'' Lucas said. "Let me say this right now: Jay Fiedler is the starting quarterback on this team... I think everybody should relax. He'll get it turned around in practice.''
Williams, traded from New Orleans to Miami in March, was ineffective for the second consecutive game. The former Heisman Trophy winner carried eight times for a 2.1-yard-per-carry average against the Saints.
"It's disturbing, but that's what preseason is for, to find out what we need to work on,'' Williams said. "I wanted to play a bit more, but that's not for me to decide. It's a process of getting looks, and that will happen in time. I don't think I need a lot of carries to get going.''
Williams ran five times for 9 yards against the Bucs.
"You can't judge Ricky unless he carries the ball 30 times,'' Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He is what he is, but he's a very good player.''
Williams' replacement in New Orleans was much better. Running mostly behind the right side of the Saints' line, McAllister managed 3 or 4 yards on just about every run, breaking off a 10-yarder once and never getting stuffed for a loss.
"He's different than what we had in the past,'' Haslett said. "Ricky can pound it 35 times in the middle, but he's a guy that can get to the edge.''