Drew Brees wore a uniform — and even a eye black — but never played. Ryan Tannehill also watched from the sideline, laughing at the Kiss Cam when it showed during a timeout on the scoreboard video screen.
The final preseason game for the Saints and Dolphins was for reserves, and Miami third-string quarterback Pat Devlin led his team to a 24-21 victory Thursday night.
Devlin threw for 259 yards, including a 56-yard pass to Marvin McNutt on fourth-and-4 with 3:02 left for the winning score.
Many of the players who took part will be out of work by Saturday, when teams must reach their 53-man roster limit. The fans knew it, which is why the stadium was two-thirds empty.
The Saints (3-1) open the season Sept. 8 against Atlanta eager to rebound from a 2012 season that went wrong from the start following their bounty scandal. The Dolphins (2-3) open at Cleveland the same day, hoping to end a streak of four consecutive losing seasons.
By the start of the season, the final exhibition game will be long forgotten. A neutral zone infraction by the New Orleans defense on the first play signaled the quality of what was to come.
The game was the Saints' first in Miami since they beat Indianapolis in the Super Bowl four years ago, but this New Orleans team bore little resemblance to that one. The only first-teamers to start were receiver Marques Colston and center Brian de la Puente.
Backup quarterback Luke McCown played one series, directing a 14-play touchdown drive. He went 4 for 7 for 44 yards.
Rookie Ryan Griffin went 15 for 31 for 198 yards and one interception to end the Saints' final scoring threat. Undrafted rookie Khiry Robinson ran for 115 yards in 22 carries and caught six passes for 50 yards, while Mark Ingram scored on an 8-yard touchdown run but lost a fumble.
Right guard John Jerry was the only Miami first-teamer to start. Devlin, just hoping to make the roster, went 22 for 38 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Rishard Matthews helped his chances of winning the No. 4 receiving job by making three catches for 37 yards. Rookie Dion Sims, who is challenging Charles Clay for playing time at tight end, caught four passes for 36 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown. McNutt caught four for 99.
Rookie Mike Gillislee ran for 47 yards in 14 carries. Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis, who won a job in training camp, went 3 for 3 on field goals and finished 9 for 9 in preseason.
Top draft pick Dion Jordan missed his third consecutive game because of a lingering shoulder injury.