By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots defeated the New Orleans Saints 30-27 on Sunday.
While the team did get the victory, they still have a lot of work to do moving forward. Here is my report card for week six. —
Offense Grade: A –
Tom Brady led the Patriots to a dramatic victory Sunday evening against the Saints.
(USA TODAY Images)
It wasn’t perfect, but the patriots offense looked better from the start last Sunday. Tom Brady hit rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson several times at the beginning of the game for big gains. Dobson caught six passes for 63 yards in the contest.
New England was balanced throughout the game and had success running the ball. As a team, they averaged 4.0 yards-per-carry and racked up 141 total yards on the ground. Stevan Ridley was the biggest contributor, accounting for 96 of those yards and scoring two touchdowns.
There were two big negatives standing out from the game. Dropped passes continue to plague this team and the offensive line struggled once again. Now, it’s easy to sweep both of these under the rug since the Pats won, but these are two problems that have been going on for several weeks. The offensive line needs to play better, it’s that simple. The team has invested way too much for mediocre play. The receivers need to do a better job catching the ball because whether it’s the rookies or veterans, almost everyone has dropped a pass at some point. It’s time for these receivers to step up.
The game winning drive is obviously worth a mention. Honestly, who’s more calm, cool and collected than Brady? It’s incredible to watch him operate in those situations. He spread the ball around and the offense matriculated the ball down the field quickly and efficiently. The final pass to Kenbrell Thompkins was perfect. Thompkins made a great catch and showed his great ability on the play. For him and many of the other young players on the team, it’s about getting more consistent moving forward. A very good performance by the unit overall.
Defense Grade: B +
The Saints put up 27 points Sunday, but that doesn’t take away from New England’s strong performance defensively. It’s unfortunate how the final score is so misleading, because if you watched the game the Patriots played much better than the number indicated. Was it perfect? No. But in their biggest test of the season, the unit played a very good game.
Going into the matchup, everyone was talking about how the Pats would stop Jimmy Graham. They not only stopped him, the team made him a non-factor and held him to zero catches. Graham has been so good this season that despite being held catchless Sunday, he still leads the NFL in receiving yards. Aqib Talib did a great job one-on-one. As Deion Sanders once said, “Pay the man!”
The Patriots defense did a number on Drew Brees as well. Brees, who was limited to 236 total yards, was kept relatively quiet throughout the game. As a trio, Aqib Talib, Alfonso Dennard and Kyle Arrington are playing spectacular right now. The New England cornerbacks have stepped up this season and helped the unit be more aggressive.
New England struggled with the ground attack, allowing five yards-per-carry to Saints rushers. Rookie defensive tackles Joe Vellano and Chris Jones have played great, considering both went undrafted, but were dominated at times at the point of attack. With Jerod Mayo potentially out for the season, the Patriots have to focus on stopping the run even more moving forward.
Special Teams Grade: A
Stephen Gostkowski has been stellar to this point in the season. He was three-for-three Sunday, including a long field goal of 54 yards. He has made 16 of 17 field goals this season.
Ryan Allen had another good game against the Saints. The rookie punter averaged 52.5 per attempt and helped New England keep field position in their favor. The punt coverage was also solid, holding dangerous return man Darren Sproles to just 20 yards on three attempts.
The special teams unit has been very good throughout the season and it was another well-rounded performance Sunday.
Overall Grade: A –
It’s hard not to give the Patriots a grade of at least “A -” after that game. It wasn’t perfect, but the Patriots rose up to a tough challenge and got the job done. The offense played much better than the week before and the defense continues to carry the team throughout the first six weeks of the season.
The Patriots are a very young team, battling through some big time injuries and yet, they have started with a 5-1 record. These young players will continue to grow and their chemistry will build. It’s hard not to be encouraged by the fight and heart this team has shown through six weeks.
The team still has a lot of work to do, but they are improving while developing and more importantly, winning. That’s tough to do in the NFL. We’ll see how they handle their second contest against the Jets, next week in New York.
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