By: Russ Goldman
Each week I am going to look back, and give you six takeaways I got from watching the Patriots game. I want this to be a balanced post so I am going to give you an equal share of the positive and the negative takeaways in this match-up for the Pats.
1. The Patriots defense holds Saints Tight End Jimmy Graham to zero receptions. Graham has become one of the best tight ends in the game, and the number one target for quarterback Drew Brees. To take away this player in the game is seriously an accomplishment.
Cornerback Aqib Talib blanketed Graham continuously, up to the point that he left with an injury. Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington covered Graham in the absence of Talib, and simply got the job done. The ability to shut down Graham was a huge factor in the victory.
2. The Patriots defense forces several “three and out” situations on the Saints offense. In the first half, the Saints went “three and out” three times, and it really was a key to the 17-7 half-time lead.
In the second half, the Patriots forced “three and out” situations twice, with the last one leading to the Patriots winning drive on offense shortly afterwards. A major criticism of the defense in the past has been its ability to get off the field. Well, against the Saints, the defense completed its mission of getting Brees off the field quickly.
3. Running Back Stevan Ridley returns and has a huge impact for the offense. I really think the Patriots missed Ridley last week against the Bengals.
This week, he ran for 96 yards with a 4.8 yards per carry average which is very good, and he also caught a ball for 14 yards. His presence on the field was another huge factor in the Patriots victory
1. The Patriots offensive line does a poor job of protecting quarterback Tom Brady. The line has been inconsistent all season, and yesterday was just another bad performance. This unit gave up five sacks, and Brady was hit and under pressure often. The line needs to do a better job moving forward.
2. The Patriots receivers had several drops that were costly during the game. Half the battle for a receiver is getting open, but it means nothing if he cannot hold on to the ball. There were drops in this game that did stop drives from continuing.
For example, wide receiver Aaron Dobson dropped a ball on fourth down late in the game that could have extended a drive, and ultimately cost the Patriots three points. With more experience the hope is that some of these drops turn into receptions, but it is a cause for concern right now.
3. The Patriots had several injuries during the game. Four key players left the game with an injury, and they are Dan Connolly, Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola, and Jerod Mayo.
Reportedly, both Connolly and Amendola left with concussions, while Talib left with a hip injury, and Mayo it has been reported had an arm in a sling after the game. All of these players have significant roles with the team, and we will have to wait and see how long they will be out.
In concluding, this was a fantastic win for the Patriots as they found a way to win, and that was an important trait of the teams in the past that won rings. We will see if they can build on this victory, but beating the Saints was seriously an accomplishment against a team that could be playing in New Jersey this February.