Saints Dominate Patriots From Start to Finish
The Patriots, or should I say the fan base got a big bite of humble pie on Sunday afternoon. The Saints dominated them in every phase of the game and the final score is not indicative of how much the Saints controlled this game.
Bill Belichick went on window shopping this spring in the high-priced aisles and still got their next franchise quarterback in the first round at #15. We were expecting them to jump right back into contention and vie for a playoff spot if not the entire division. While they could still do that, the team is only 1-2, and there is plenty of time for them to gel. However, what we saw yesterday afternoon shows that they are still a long, long way away from that.
There were some flashes (rare) of great play but many more examples of glaringly bad play. They still have a long way to go and the rebuilding may take a lot longer than we envisioned/hoped.
So, here are our positional grades this week for the Patriots-Saints game.
Mac Jones looked a lot like a rookie QB against New Orleans. His final numbers 30-51, 270 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs is indicative of how poorly this game went. The Patriots’ offense isn’t built to come back from two scores and certainly not constructed to be throwing the ball 50 times.
Jones made his share of mistakes, he overthrew the deep balls we’ve all been clamoring for all day. He frequently held the ball too long and made some bad decisions…all of which you expect from a rookie QB.
However, the protection, especially in the first half, was atrocious, and it seemed like he was harassed every time he dropped back to pass. He hung in there and stayed upbeat if not upright. His pass to Kendrick Bourne for the touchdown was another gutsy play, he saw the rush bearing down on him, but put the ball where his receiver could go to get it.
jones is not yet at the level where he can elevate the other players around him a la #12, and nor should he be expected to be after just three starts. But what ails this team, has little to do with his struggles.
Running Backs: D
When the running game is led by Mac Jones… you have issues on the ground. The backs ran 11 times for 21 yards (1.9-yards per rush). That’s not going to get it done. While the run blocking was poor, they can do better.
James White went down with a subluxation hip injury and was carted off, which is very bad news for the running back room, especially in the passing game. He’s going to be out indefinitely. The team sat Damien Harris and J.J. Taylor for the most part and went with Brandon Bolden, who looked horrible yesterday gaining -1 yard in three carries, including a painful to watch 3rd and 1.
Bolden did chip in with 3 catches for 23 yards in the passing game. Harris got a gain of seven on the Patriots’ first snap from scrimmage. But after that, he was an afterthought, with just five more attempts for 14 yards.
Wide Receivers: B
The wide receivers got the best grade this week and deservedly so. Jakobi Meyers is still the go-to guy in the WR room. He chipped in with 9 catches for 94 yards. Kendrick Bourne had 6 catches for 96, including the aforementioned 22-yard touchdown, where he snagged the ball and showed great footwork staying in bounds and going in for the score. He also caught the Saints in a blitz and took a quick slant for 31 more. The two were producing just fine and when Jones had time to throw could connect with them.
Nelson Agholor was targeted eight times but had only 2 catches for 17 yards. Jones was attempting to hook up with Agholor on several deep throws but they aren’t in sync yet and Jones consistently overthrew him down the field.
Tight Ends: F
Jonnu Smith had a nightmarish afternoon, with four drops including a “gift six” on the first snap of the second half. Jones delivered a good pass and the ball bounced off his hands and went straight up to Malcolm Jenkins who ran it in for a TD that blew the game open. He had 1 catch for 4 yards on six targets. He was also flagged for a holding penalty.
Hunter Henry did have five catches for 36 yards on six targets, giving Jones a reliable target at least. But then on a key 4th and 1 when the Patriots were trying to crawl back in the game, he jumped and it moved them back and forced a field goal.
Offensive Line: D-
The offensive line was absolutely awful in the first half, and blaming it all on the right tackle position is not paying attention. The pressure was coming from the left and up the middle. This unit was supposed to be a Top 5 unit in the league…they’re not anywhere close to that.
The protection was slightly better in the second half, or maybe New Orleans players were getting winded rushing on over 50 passing attempts. But Jones was hit 11 times and sacked twice and while he bears some responsibility, the lack of space for the running backs and miscommunication issues with free rushers coming at him is poor.
Defensive Line: C-
The defensive line was having a fairly decent game until the Saints’ final drive, where they ran the ball right down the Patriots’ throats and ate up nearly 7 minutes of the clock while getting an insurance touchdown.
This is the second time in three weeks that the defense, which is supposed to be a strength of the team, couldn’t get a stop when the team really needed it. The Saints didn’t do any tricky or fancy. They just lined up and pushed the DL backward.
The DL had some good plays by Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, and Christian Barmore who showed up as a pass rusher again. Deatrich Wise had a half-sack with Matt Judon. And the Saints averaged just 3.7 yards per rushing attempt. But at crunch time, the Saints had their way with them.
The linebackers had a similar type of game, other than a communication issue on the Saints’ first touchdown, where Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley came on an A-gap blitz and Alvin Kamara was covered by Kyle Van Noy, who passed him off to no one …the unit played well initially.
Bentley started the game where he left off last week, with a nice run stuff and pass breakup. Chase Winovich got a QB hit and pressure in what is still a limited role for him. But Matt Judon, who is dealing with a knee issue, had 2.5 sacks as part of the group’s seven QB hits.
But they bear some responsibility for the running game breakdown on the Saints’ last touchdown drive.
At first glance, you’d look at the stat sheet and see that Jameis Winston threw for only 128 yards and you’d be thinking that the secondary was shining at Foxboro yesterday afternoon. But sometimes stats can be deceiving. They did provide solid coverage for long stretches of the game, but like elsewhere, there were breakdowns.
However, when the Saints needed a completion at a big time of the game, they were getting them. On the hope and a prayer heave by Winston deep in Patriots territory, Marquez Calloway beat Jonathan Jones to the ball (Jones was flagged anyway for holding).
J.C. Jackson made a sweet open-field tackle on Taysom Hill early in the game, but then later on a 3rd and 1, he inexplicably played seven yards off the line allowing a far too easy quick slant that went for 13 yards. Devin McCourty and Kyle Dugger were solid on the back end, hence the lack of big chunk plays by the Saints.
Special Teams: D
Nick Folk continues his hot streak and on one of his field-goal attempts, he made despite a rare bad snap from Joe Cardona.
The coverage units gave up a 28-yard return to Braxton Berrios last week, and a 25-yarder to Deonte Harris this week. And this was after a 64-yard punt by Jake Bailey. With all of these players on the team strictly for special teams, that is just unacceptable. It leads one to question why Bailey had two punts sail into the end zone. Were they miscues by the punter or were the Patriots gun shy of Harris after that?
Bailey had the first punt of his career blocked and later sailed a kickoff out of bounds for the second week in a row. On a 4th and 1, they tried to draw the Saints offside but were flagged with a false start. There was also a holding penalty (Winovich) on a punt return. Folk saves the team from another failing grade.
The Patriots Coaches share in the blame, the team came out flat, especially on offense where it seemed they played much of the first half underwater. Miscommunication issues along the offensive line, picking up blitzers, in the secondary (allowing Kamara to run alone), sloppy play on STs, having only 10 men on the field for the Hill TD run… these are the hallmarks of a team not ready to go. And it falls to the coaches for not having the team prepared.
After running tight formations offensively, and watching their young QB get hammered they finally began spreading out the Saints’ defense and played better, not great but better.
We’re on to the Bucs…and Harvey Levin Week with the reporting on all things not related to the game.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Alvin Kamara Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Jameis Winston James White Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL Patriots