By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
August 18, 2005

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FOXBORO, MA -- Tom Brady started the game off shaky and rookie sensation Matt Cassel finished it that way after the Patriots lost to the New Orleans Saints 37-27 at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night.

Heading into Thursday night's game there were plenty of fans wondering about Brady's health, and he didn't do much to ease those concerns right off after he opened the game with an interception on his first play from scrimmage. The good news for fans was from there on out Brady returned to form for the most part, including coming right back with a 45-yard completion to Tim Dwight which helped set up New England's first touchdown. Brady finished the night 6-of-11 for 105 yards and no touchdowns, playing late into the 2nd quarter.

The quarterback who stole the show was Doug Flutie, who relieved Brady with just under 7-minutes left in the first half and came in to hand off for one touchdown, and later threw another one as the Patriots took a 24-16 lead into the locker room at the half.

The team got off to a fairly good start early in the third after the defense stopped the Saints on their opening drive of the third quarter. Flutie then helped direct the team down to the New Orleans 14 on some big runs from Patrick Pass and Kory Chapman, which helped set up a field goal for the Patriots to put them up 27-16.

But unfortunately for New England it was all downhill from there.

The Saints answered the field goal with a 9-play 64 yard drive which ended in a 34-yard strike from Aaron Brooks to Devery Henderson to cut the lead to 27-22 with 1:10 left in the third quarter.

From there Cassel entered the game to the delight of the Foxboro faithful, but unfortunately there would be very little excitement for the rookie QB. Cassel and the New England offense was unable to accomplish much of anything, with the offense punting on every possession with the rookie at the helm.

The backbreaker came after the Saints put together a 9-play 51-yard drive which culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Todd Bouman to Nate Poole. On the play Poole leaped into the air and reached out with both hands and allowed the ball to break the plane for the touchdown. The Saints converted the two point conversion to put the Saints up 30-27, and now the game was in the hands of Cassel.

Unfortunately this time around he didn't answer the call.

On the second play from scrimmage Cassel was sacked and fumbled away the football, which was picked up and run into the endzone for a touchdown by the Saints Jimmy Verdon for New Orleans final points of the night.

Cassel finished the night 7-of-11 for 69-yards, while Flutie was 3-of-4 with the team's only touchdown pass of the evening.

The Patriots got some good production out of their running game, with Corey Dillon getting the night off and Kevin Faulk starting the game. Faulk had some good runs and finished with four carries for 19 yards (4.8 avg). But it was Pass who led all rushers, carrying 11 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. Pass repeatedly bounced off defenders throughout the night and is arguably having his best preseason.

Meanwhile with the talk Brady possibly being injured, it was the passing game that was on everyone's mind this week, and his interception to start the game came as quite a surprise to the fans who were on hand at Gillette.

On the play Brady simply locked onto tight end Ben Watson on an out pattern on a play action pass. Unfortunately Dwight Smith, who simply followed Brady's eyes, stepped in front of Watson for the interception. The Saints then kicked a 23-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

But Brady would bounce right back. Following a 10-yard run by Faulk the veteran quarterback connected with Dwight on a 45-yard pass and took a big shot on the play. However Brady got right back up and completed a nine yard pass to Faulk, and one play later Pass took it in from 2-yards out for the touchdown to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead with 8:12 left in the first quarter.

Following a New Orleans punt, New England marched back down the field on an 11-play, 43-yard drive all the way to the Saints 5-yard line. But Brady would be unable to connect on three straight pass plays and the Patriots would be forced to settle for another field goal, this time from 23-yards out to extend their lead to 10-3 with 1:26 left in the first quarter.

Unfortunately the Saints were undaunted. They put together an 11 play 75 yard drive, including a 25-yard pass to Donte Stallworth and a 14-yard pass to tight end Zach Hilton to set up a 1st and goal from the Patriots 8-yard line. New England's defense then appeared to have stopped them on a 3rd down play, but safety Rodney Harrison would be called for a holding penalty giving the Saints a 1st down at the Patriots 2. McAllister would then take it in for the touchdown to tie the score at 10-10.

Later, following a Patriots punt which was downed on the Saints three-yard line, New England's defense came up big. Harrison picked off a pass attempt to Joe Horn which bounced off the back of Chad Scott into the arms of Harrison who took off toward the endzone. Unfortunately Horn ran him down and knocked the ball out for a fumble which was then recovered by Marquise Hill to give New England the ball at the Saints 3.

Flutie then came in and replaced Brady, handing off to Kyle Eckel for the three yard touchdown giving the Patriots a 17-10 lead with 7:29 left in the half.

The Saints then put together another drive, this time a 9-play 49-yard drive which ended in a 32-yard field goal to cut the lead to four, but New England wasn't done.

Ellis Hobbs returned the ensuing kickoff 53-yards to give the Patriots excellent field position at the Saints 41. A 12-yard completion from Flutie to Dwight, set up a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jason Anderson, giving them a 24-13 lead.

But it would be the Saints who would have the final word in the first half, answering with an 8-play 36-yard drive which helped set up a 39-yard field goal cutting the Patriots lead to 24-16 at the half and giving the Saints some momentum which eventually lead to the loss.

New England will now spend this week preparing to head to Green Bay to take on the Packers next Friday night at 8pm at Lambeau Field.


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