Ok, now everyone can back away from the ledge. The Patriots did just what they needed to do after a bad performance in the Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, they dominated the game on offense and the Saints defense had on answers for the Patriots offense as the team ran out for 30 points in a pivotal first half and cruised to an easy win on the road.
It wasn’t all pretty, there are still several areas to tighten up on, but as we’ve seen for years with Bill Belichick and this team, it is always done be degrees and this team was infinitely better than the team that stepped on the field 10 days ago.
So after Buffalo thudded back to earth in Carolina, the Patriots find themselves tied with Buffalo at the top of the AFC East at 1-1. Miami and the Jets are still playing at this point although the Jets are trailing as we speak. Here are some other observations on this one:
Tom Brady Skewers Saints “D”: We talked coming into this game that we’d be shocked if this offense didn’t score between 30-35 points. I predicted a 34-24 win. They actually went a bit more than that and left some points on the field in the process.
Brady entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and put on an absolute clinic in the first quarter throwing for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
Brady overall was surgical, completing 30-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, no interceptions, no interceptions with a passer rating of 139.6
He went to his running backs more in this one, mostly James White and completed 13 passes for 143 yards to the backs who stepped up big time in the passing game this week. Brady was frequently under duress but stood tall in the pocket and delivered. Despite being short of WRs today, Brady completed passes to nine different players today.
Defense Steps Up: It still is far from what they’ll expect later in the season, but it is only Week 2. The defense was gashed a week ago by the Chiefs, and all week the lament was “what is Drew Brees and the Saints going to do?” Well, the defense stepped up big, especially in the running game. New Orleans ran for 81 yards, helped by a big run on the last play of the game by Mark Ingram. But that was much, much better for Matt Patricia’s unit. Take away that last run which skewed the stats and the Saints averaged 3.3. Yards per Rush.
Anytime you can go to New Orleans and hold Drew Brees and the Saints to two touchdowns, you’ve done your job. And this defense definitely did that today. They still need to work on their communications for the rub routes and pick plays but overall this was a much better effort.
Minnesota is supposed to have one of the best defenses in the NFL. They allowed 19 points at home to New Orleans. This same Saints offense at home where they are much more effective scored just one more point. Mission accomplished.
Gronk Has a Big Game Before Injuring Groin: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski heard the talk about him supposedly losing a step this week after Eric Berry did a masterful job of slowing him down this week.
He too, answered the bell this week, hauling in six passes for 116 yards and a score, including his broken play 53-yard touchdown where it was vintage Gronkowski. He got free down the sideline, got the pass and shook off a tackle and then the big man rumbled into the end zone for a score and treating the fans to the first Gronk spike since Week 8 a year ago.
He then left the game and running another seam route and taking the ball deep into New Orleans territory he went down awkwardly and went straight into the medical tent. He was seen later pedaling the exercise bike on the sideline. We’ll have to see what transpires this week on the Wednesday practice and injury report.
Situational Football Pays Off: One thing we always love to watch in practice is the team practicing their situational football scenarios. Bill Belichick calls out downs, distances and time on the clock and the team has to respond. No one does it more and better than the Pats.
Today was a prime example of this. After stopping the Saints just before the half, the Patriots were driving and in a position to score to go up big at halftime. Brady led them down the field and on third down he scrambled but came up two yards short of a first down.
The reacted perfectly. The kicking unit ran on the field, the offense got off and Stephen Gostkowski had time to get set and boot a field goal to end the half that put the team up 30-13 at the break. It was a huge switch in momentum and was a prime example of why they practice those plays.
Deatrich Wise Steps Up Nicely in His Second Game: The rookie defensive lineman got a ton of reps today. Looking at the defensive line, there was a ton of youth out there at times with Wise, Adam Butler and Trey Flowers providing the pass rush.
Wise finished with two tackles, a sack and five QB hits on Brees. The young lineman from Arkansas had a very good summer and is off to a very good start in his NFL career. The pass rush wasn’t great today, especially considering the state of the Saints offensive line but it was good enough.
Cassius Marsh only had a few snaps but got some good pressure as well. His coming off the left end saved a touchdown as Brees had to unload the ball early and his pass was short, with his wide receiver open in the end zone.
Offensive Line Didn’t Play Well: The offensive line play will be an area where the coaches will try to settle things down this week, with Houston coming into town. Brady was under pressure far too often although they only sacked him twice. Nate Solder, in particular, struggled with Cameron Jordan.
But they also had a mixed bag in the running game. Overall the Patriots managed 119 yards on the ground which is good but only for a 3.8 yard per carry average. The run blocking will have to be better as we go on but again when you score 36 points and run up 555 yards on offense, there aren’t too many dings against the offense. However, the coaches will point to the 3 of 7 in the red zone as a teaching point this week.
Call the MASH Unit: The injuries continue to pile up. New England entered the game with just three healthy wide receivers and had two of them plus Gronkowski going down. Chris Hogan looked like he had a thigh injury and Phillip Dorsett also came up limping in what looked to be an ankle or foot problem.
Eric Rowe was injured which opened the door for Jonathan Jones to come in and he played very well, breaking up a couple of passes, one in the end zone on a very head’s up play. Rex Burkhead suffered a rib injury and left the game. It will be interesting to see who is healthy enough to go next week against Houston.
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