Tag Archives: Mark Ingram

Patriots Week 9 Report Card, Defense Struggles in 37-20 Loss to Baltimore

Steve Balestrieri
November 5, 2019 at 8:26 am ET

Patriots are 8-1 at the Bye Week

The Patriots weren’t going undefeated, we’ve been saying it all year since the summer but yet people continued to predict it like it is a walk in the park. Think about this, it has only been done twice in the past 50 years and four times in 100 seasons of the NFL.

The point is they were bound to have a game where they were making too many mistakes and ran into a hot team. Earlier on Sunday, I watched Green Bay scarcely resemble the team they’ve been all year play sluggishly on the road in LA. And wondered if it was the Patriots’ time. Baltimore, rested after a bye week was the perfect storm and pretty much kicked the Patriots defense behind all game long. 

So, please stop with the over the top reactions to a single loss. Although some of them were unintentionally hilarious.  Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s game in Baltimore.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady got off to a rough start but was able to get it going in the second and third quarters when the team went to the hurry-up, up-tempo offense. Brady finished 30-46 for 285 yards with a touchdown and an interception. 

Brady put the team on his back when they were trying to dig out from the big hole they got in and targeted Edelman and Sanu almost exclusively in this one. Everyone else was an afterthought. The best throw of the night was his 30-yard completion to James White, however. 

Running Backs: C-

The running game either by design or the way the game unfolded early was relegated to the back burner on Sunday night. We said in our pregame keys that we thought they’d eschew the ground game for the most part and try to attack Baltimore through the air. 

They ran just enough to keep the defense honest and ended up with just 17 carries for 74 yards (4.2-yard average). While no one stood out as outstanding, neither did anyone stand out badly either. Going into a 17-0 hole in the first quarter will take an offense out of their game plan if indeed they did plan on running more. 

James White had the most production out of the group with 38 yards on 9 carries. He tripped and ended up just short of the goal line just before the half where the team actually had a chance to tie the game up. He later added a touchdown. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu were both featured in this one and it is easy to see that Sanu is going to fit this offense quite well. Edelman was targeted 11 times and had 10 catches for 89 yards. Sanu was targeted 14 times and had 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown, his first as a Patriot. 

Sanu in just his second week on the team has already been determined to having the trust factor with Brady. In our keys, we also thought that both he and Edelman would have good games with the short quick passing game against the Ravens secondary.

Edelman’s fumble hurt. After crawling out of a 17-point deficit, the team actually had the chance to take the lead early in the 3rd quarter, the idea of which seemed ridiculous earlier in the game. It happens. Give the Ravens defense the credit there. It flipped the momentum right back into their corner. They didn’t relinquish it again.

Phillip Dorsett had just two catches. Jakobi Meyers played one snap. White, Burkhead and Michel had only four combined catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C

Ben Watson went the distance for the Patriots at tight end and had four catches for 28 yards on five targets. Ryan Izzo was active but didn’t play a snap. Watson played pretty well but did have a drop on a contested 2nd-down catch, that set up the 3rd and 10 play where Brady was picked off deep. 

The team can’t expect Watson to play all the snaps down the stretch at 38-years old and will need somebody else to step up. 

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line got back Shaq Mason this week although he didn’t play particularly well in his return. Marcus Cannon did have arguably his best game of the season. After a tough start, the line did a decent job of pass protection when the team decided to spread out the defense and go up-tempo. But although they gave up just two sacks, 10 QB hits is a lot, but considering the score, it could have been worse.

The run blocking was fair enough this week, the Ravens are a tough team to run against and they didn’t really ever get the chance to establish anything considering the early deficit. But the 4.2-yard average was better. 

 Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line struggled for the first time this year against an opponent. There wasn’t anything exotic, the Ravens didn’t scheme up some things that they hadn’t seen before. They just lined up and played very physical. What did give the line problems was the option plays where Jackson stuck the ball in the hands of a back and either kept it or left it depending on the play of the defense. They never really figured that out.

Baltimore’s running game, especially Mark Ingram gashed the Patriots for 210 yards on 41 carries. Ingram had 115 yards on just 15 carries. The team also did a much poorer job of setting the edge, it is rare to see a back or QB turn the corner and see no one there. It happened more than once. 

The group was able to generate just one sack and three QB hits.  

Linebackers: C

The linebackers had their most lackluster game of the season. Dont’a Hightower’s fiery speech on the sidelines lit a fire under the group for a bit and their play improved…for a bit. He led the team with 13 tackles and one tackle for loss, something the unit had precious little of on Sunday night. Kyle Van Noy had a solid game, providing backside coverage when Lamar Jackson would cut back. 

Jamie Collins had a rough game, getting taken in on those option plays by Jackson early, he certainly wasn’t alone. Elandon Roberts struggled as well.   

Secondary: B

The secondary wasn’t really tested by the Ravens wide receivers, mainly out of design. They passed for only 163 yards because their running game was a difference-maker for them. When they did pass it was to the tight ends. 

Stephon Gilmore matched up with Marquise Brown who had three catches for 48 yards. Willie Snead had two grabs for 15. That was it for the wide receivers. The tight ends did the damage with Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, and Hayden Hurst combining for 9 catches for 63 yards and a score. On the surface, it doesn’t add up to much, but it seemed every catch was a key first down.  

Special Teams: B+

Nick Folk gets passing marks this week, he made both extra points and both chip shot field goal attempts. It is a strange night when Justin Tucker misses an extra point or field goal but he did although it didn’t hurt the overall scheme of things. 

Brandon Bolden did well in the kick return game and the coverage units were outstanding. Lost in the hot takes of the dynasty crumbling was the STs coverage units. This was easily their best game of the year. The Ravens averaged just 12.7 yards on kick returns and 3.5 yards on punts. They forced a fumble on a Cyrus Jones muff and recovered by newcomer Justin Bethel. 

Jake Bailey continued his stellar rookie season, averaging 46.6 yards per punt while dropping three inside the 20. 

Coaches: C

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t have the team properly prepared to handle the Ravens running game, especially those options by Jackson. As Bill Belichick said after the game, they didn’t do anything well enough to win, coaching, playing, or preparation.

The offense played in “11 personnel” all game long and it is a head-scratcher when the team has struggled all season long to find a viable red-zone target for Tom Brady and you have a big 1st-round draft pick at WR who is inactive for a tight end that you didn’t play a single snap.   

There will be plenty of self-scouting to do this week before they take off for a few days during the bye week before preparing for Philadelphia.   

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

Ravens Run Roughshod 37-20 Over the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
November 4, 2019 at 7:16 am ET

The Baltimore Ravens had their bye week to prepare to face the Patriots and it was obvious from the opening moments that they used their time wisely. And the Patriots now enter their own bye week with some work to do. 

Baltimore’s running game was simple in its inception and executed wonderfully as they bludgeoned the Patriots defense to the tune of 214 yards and waltzed away with a 37-20 beatdown of the previously unbeaten Pats on Sunday night in Baltimore. 

The Ravens completely dominated the first quarter of the game outscoring the Patriots 17-0 and did it by running the ball right down their throats. The Ravens said they wanted to punch New England in the mouth with their running game and they did just that.

The Patriots did a poor job of setting the edge, there were uncharacteristic huge swaths of open space for the runners to exploit and the Baltimore offensive line was clearly the winner of the trenches on Sunday night. The Patriots had never faced Lamar Jackson and it was clear, his speed was very much an issue for them all night long.

Baltimore dominated that first-quarter very much like the Patriots had dominated nearly every first quarter this year. It was ultimately too big a hole to fight out of. Baltimore ran for 142 yards in the first quarter, almost double what the Patriots had been allowing in a game. 

As a result, it was New England who was making the mistakes that we normally see the opposition do. Shalique Calhoun jumping offside on the initial field goal attempt, giving the Ravens a first and goal was a harbinger of things to come. 

And when the Patriots clawed back in the game at 17-13 and actually appeared to be ready to take the lead early in the third quarter, the Julian Edelman fumble and scoop for a 70-yard touchdown going the other way drove home that this wasn’t their night. Although the Patriots answered with a touchdown drive to close again to four at 24-20, one could sense the feeling that the Ravens weren’t going to bend anymore. 

The Ravens dominated time of possession from there on going on two long, time-consuming touchdown drives to blow the game wide open. They converted several key third and fourth downs to keep the chains, and the clock moving in their favor.

The Patriots offense changed things up offensively tonight and eschewed the running formations that haven’t been bearing fruit this season and opted to spread Baltimore out with the receivers out wide, allowing Tom Brady to see the defense and adjust the protection and then hit the open man with a quick, short passing game. They went to a hurry-up offense, with the hope that it would gas the Ravens pass rushers and allow them to run the ball later in the game. 

It was working for a bit, the Ravens defense appeared totally gassed at the end of the touchdown drive that cut the score to 24-20. The problem was that they had dug themselves into too deep of a hole to make it work. And the fact that because two wide receivers were inactive (N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski), the wide receivers were as gassed as the defense was. *Note* watch Julian Edelman on his fumble play. But it was all rendered moot when Baltimore answered with an eight-minute scoring drive that gave their defense the rest they needed. 

On a bright note, Mohamed Sanu appears to be a great pickup for the offense. In just his second week with the Patriots, he caught 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Edelman caught 10 passes for 89.   The pair are going to be a handful for opponents to cover down the stretch. 

The issue, however, continues to be the red zone and especially once the team gets inside the 10-yard line. They don’t have a go-to guy or a big target they trust enough to attack opponents once they get down close. And if we want to be nitpicky here, the team drafted a 6’4, 225-pound wide receiver in the 1st round who was inactive on Sunday night because he wasn’t conceivably “ready” but activated a tight end (Ryan Izzo) for the game who didn’t play a snap on offense? 

So, the Patriots enter their bye week at 8-1 and the #1 seed in the AFC and yet to log onto social media tonight, one would think they are in dire straits at 1-8. They have some self-scouting to do and now have two weeks to prepare for the Eagles in Philadelphia who coincidentally are also on a bye week this week. 

They’ll file away what they learned in what doesn’t work against the Ravens but this isn’t the time to dwell on rematches that won’t happen, if at all for two months. It is time to get back on track and move on to Philadelphia. 

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Patriots – Ravens Week 9 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 1, 2019 at 6:45 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. This should be the marquee matchup of the week as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense has been lighting it up thus far in 2019. 

They’ll be going against the Patriots defense which has been the stingiest unit in the league. The game will be taking place in Baltimore where the crowd is always loud and where the games are always tough

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (8-0) beat the Cleveland Browns 27-13, Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Julian Edelman while the defense held the Browns to just 13 points.

The Ravens (5-2) are coming off their bye week. 

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Ravens have had some memorable matchups in the past, and this one figures to add to that. Overall the Patriots are 8-1 against Baltimore in the regular season and 2-2 against them in the playoffs.  

One memorable Sunday night game in 2012 featured a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker that was ruled good but appeared to miss. Bill Belichick was livid over that one. 

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Ravens Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Baltimore

This matchup clearly favors Baltimore. The Patriots running game remains stuck in neutral. Sony Michel has clearly not found the holes he enjoyed a year ago and his yards per carry average has suffered. Rex Burkhead, James White, and Brandon Bolden have all struggled to find consistent running room. 

The Ravens run defense has been outstanding thus far in 2019 allowing just 84.3 yards per game, good for third-best in the league.  The big men up front, Matthew Judon, L.J. Fort, and Josh Bynes have done a tremendous job of limiting any push from the opposing offensive line and stopping the run in its tracks.

Don’t look for Josh McDaniels to try to establish the run this week as they’ve done in other games. They’ll run enough just to keep the defense honest, but this week, they’ll look to get it done elsewhere. It would like banging your head against the wall.                  

Patriots WRs vs Ravens Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is getting 1st round draft pick N’Keal Harry on the field for the first time in 2019. He’ll be asked to fill the Josh Gordon “X” role outside. Mohamed Sanu will be playing in his second game and is still learning the offense. But Tom Brady’s passing game still goes through Julian Edelman and James White out of the backfield. Ben Watson is getting more comfortable in the offense as well. 

Baltimore’s pass defense is 26th in the league, their secondary was hit hard by injuries and their pass rush hasn’t been what they’re used to there and has only 12 sacks. They traded for Marcus Peters who is a boom or bust type of player but will be up for a prime time game. They have Jimmy Smith returning this week and his availability gives them good depth with Marlon Humphries and Brandon Carr also at the corner.

This will be a “spread ‘em out” type of week for the Patriots passing game. If Shaq Mason is back, the pass protection should be improved and will give Brady time to work the routes to Edelman and Sanu. Phillip Dorsett can always be counted on to hit a couple of key plays while White out of the backfield is always a matchup problem.

Next up the Ravens offense:

Ravens RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Baltimore

Baltimore has the top rushing attack in the league and it begins with QB Lamar Jackson. Although he is more than capable of scrambling, many of his runs (he leads the team in rushing) are designed runs, schemed to take advantage of his talent. Mark Ingram is another weapon in the running game, he is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Ravens are averaging 204.1 yards per game on the ground, the best in the league. 

The Patriots run defense is allowing 85.3 yards per game on the ground, fourth-best in the league, just behind Baltimore, but we’ve seen some issues prop up in recent weeks in the running game with Le’Veon Bell and Nick Chubb. This rushing attack will be a big, big test this week.

The big men inside, Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy will have to control the gaps inside to allow the linebackers to make some plays and try to limit the running game, which has averaged 35+ minutes of possession time this year. Setting the edge will take on paramount importance when Jackson takes off.

Ravens WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Ravens passing game is middle of the road but improving.  A big key for them is if Marquise Brown is able to go this week, he’s been injured with an ankle issue and is the Ravens deep threat receiver. He’ll be matched up with Stephon Gilmore. The Ravens also use Miles Boykin and Willie Snead at wide receiver.  Jackson’s most targeted receiver, however, is Mark Andrews at tight end. 

The Patriots have been outstanding against the pass this season, allowing just 148.8 yards per game. They’ve intercepted opposing passers 19 times and have 31 sacks. Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty give New England arguably the deepest cornerback roster in the league. Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon have been excellent at safety. 

But the secondary play has been stellar this year and while Jackson is steadily improving, he still isn’t the most accurate passer in the league and the opportunity will avail itself to more turnovers this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Baltimore

The Patriots special teams signed former Raven All-Pro ST/S Justin Bethel last week. He, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, and others form an excellent unit. Mike Nugent was released and kicker Nick Folk was signed. Rookie punter Jake Bailey is having an excellent rookie season. 

The Ravens have a kicker who is as automatic as there exists in Justin Tucker. There’s Tucker and then everyone else.  Sam Koch is excellent at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line. Former Patriot Cyrus Jones is the Ravens’ punt returner averaging 10.6 yards per return. 

Next up, who wins and why…

The Patriots are looking to improve to 9-0 before heading home for their bye week. Then follows games against the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. They begin the meat of their schedule right now.  

Keys to the Game from a Patriots Perspective:

Spread Them Out – Look for the Patriots offense to go more to a 4-wide look this week and attempt to get the passing game going quickly. How much can they get or expect from N’Keal Harry this week? We may not see much from him until after the bye week when he starts to find his stride. Edelman and White remain the go-to guys until Sanu too finds his comfort level in the offense. Ben Watson may see more targets this week. 

Limit The Running Game For Baltimore: The Ravens are going to get their yards on the ground, but the key is to force them to have to throw to beat you and then it plays into the strength of your defense. Jackson is a dynamic player and the type of mobile QB that used to give New England fits. But the defense is much better equipped to slow down a runner like Jackson. Can they do it? That may be the key to this game.

Keep the Turnover Machine Going: The Patriots have been ridiculous at forcing turnovers this season. They obviously want to keep that going and if they can force a couple more this Sunday, it will go a long way towards earning another victory. They’ll have to bring pressure and force Jackson into making mistakes, while not allowing him to use his legs to hurt the defense.

___________

Prediction: 

We’ve said all along that the Patriots aren’t going undefeated this season and with this five-game stretch, this may be a perfect time for the Ravens to knock them off. The Ravens are coming off of their bye week and have had two weeks to prepare.

With them getting their top draft choice just on the field and having Sanu for just the second game, the passing offense could struggle somewhat, albeit against a secondary that hasn’t been great. And we’ve already put out how effective the Baltimore ground game has been. But until someone puts a lick on this New England defense, I’m sticking with Bill Belichick finding a way to make them settle for field goals.

Brady and the offense will score just enough, with some help by the defense with a key turnover as the boys of Foxboro improve to 9-0. Patriots 24-16

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour hits the bye week before they head back out on the road to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on November 17.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

 

Patriots – Saints Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory after the first week of the season at the wrong end of a 0-1 record. To even things up, they have to travel to the New Orleans Mercedes Benz Superdome where the Saints are always tough to beat. The Saints are also 0-1 and like New England didn’t play particularly well on Monday Night. Now with a short week, they return home to face a Patriots team that is looking to rebound in Week 2.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nance will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (0-1) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 giving up 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The defense struggled and gave up the most points and yards ever allowed by a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team.

The Saints (0-1) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 29-19. The offensive line struggled to protect Drew Brees and the defense gave up big plays on third down and had communication issues in the secondary. Not exactly unheard of on Week 1 with a young defense.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Saints have met thirteen times in their history dating back to 1972 with the Patriots holding a 9-4 advantage including 4-1 in New Orleans. The last meeting was in Foxboro in 2013 when Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a game winning touchdown with less than a few seconds left on the clock to pull it out 30-27.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Saints Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is still looking to get untracked but did have a bit of success running the ball last week. Although stopped twice on 4th and 1 attempts, Mike Gillislee scored on three short yardage touchdown runs from 2,2, and 1 yard out.

The Saints did a pretty good job of stuffing the run last week against Minnesota holding Adrian Peterson and Co. in check. Cameron Jordan is their best pass rusher and a very good run defender.

Look for the Patriots to spread them out and run Rex Burkhead in between the tackles this week. I expect to see him get plenty of work in the passing game as well. Gillislee will be the designated goal line/short yardage back.

Patriots WRs vs Saints Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game was very lackluster last week, Tom Brady completed only 16-36 for 267 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots were trying to stretch the field last week going deep vertically much more than they’re accustomed to. They have to get back to stretching the field horizontally this week.

The Saints have a young and talented secondary but they’re not ready yet. They had multiple breakdowns and communication issues in Week 1. They also struggle to cover the tight ends which should be a big matchup nightmare for them this week.

I’m looking for Brady to get the tight ends involved early and often this week. Even with an injury depleted wide receiver corps, Brady still has plenty of weapons to go to. Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen should be primary targets early in this one. Look for Josh McDaniels to get the running backs more involved in the passing game this week. As long as the offensive line gives Brady time to throw, he should find plenty of space to work in this week.

Next up the New Orleans offense:

Saints RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New Orleans

The Saints barely used Mark Ingram who rushed for over 1000 yards last year. And neither was Adrian Peterson who they signed this spring as they went with rookie Alvin Kamara who played well And after Peterson yelled at head coach Sean Payton late in the first half of his first game as a Saint, his time there may be short.

The Patriots played in a dime for most of the game last week with Jordan Richards as a linebacker and were gashed by the run. They allowed 185 yards and 6.9 yards per run. This week’s game should see them change that up quite a bit as that strategy plain didn’t work. Look for the Patriots to be much better against the run this week.

Saints WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New Orleans

Drew Brees struggled in the opener because of issues with his offensive line. But he has a very good wide receiver in Michael Thomas and a burner in Ted Ginn as well as TE Coby Fleener. If Brees gets time to throw, he can pick apart any defense.

The Patriots were gashed in the passing game as well, this secondary is much too talented for that. Look for the Patriots to go to the Big Nickel this week, with Pat Chung as the extra linebacker. Harvey Langi should see some action this week. The key will be the pass rush against a beat up New Orleans offensive line. Look for Trey Flowers to have a nice game this week putting pressure on Brees.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots special teams lost their punt returner when Danny Amendola went down with a concussion. That’s three punt returners and counting that have been lost so far this season. The coverage units and kicking game were solid last week. The kickoff return team was stuck in neutral.

Bill Belichick raved this week about Thomas Morstead this week, (he loves his punters) and he’s one of the better ones in the league. Their kicking game with Wil Lutz had a solid week, but the Saints allowed five kicks to be blocked last year. Look for the Patriots to try to get one this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be an entertaining one as two of the best quarterbacks in the league get together. Both have enormous respect for one another and both are ultra competitive who leave it all out on the field. The Patriots defense has some issues to work out or else Brees could have a huge day. Likewise, the Patriots offense, even with banged up WRs should have their way with this young defense.

This has the potential to be a shootout. But I like the Patriots to take control of this game with a much better effort defensively. It starts with the run defense and Alan Branch and Malcom Brown inside. Ditching the four-safety look this week should really help. Look for Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise to put some pressure on Brees against the younger tackles.

Offensively, if the Patriots don’t score between 30-35 points I’d be very surprised this week. A look at what Minnesota was able to do with a much less talented offense sets the bar this week. And it starts with Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had to hear the entire, “he can’t run anymore”, “he’s lost a step”, take your pick. He’s in line for a huge game this week. Brady will spread them out and find his mismatches. It may be newcomer Phillip Dorsett against nickel corner De’Vante Harris, who was picked on by the Vikings on Monday night. Look for the Patriots to rebound and play a much better game in New Orleans. Time for the fan base to come in off the ledge.

Patriots 34-24

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New England Patriots 2017 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Saints

Steve Balestrieri
September 13, 2017 at 7:54 am ET

 

We are on Week 2 in the NFL and the schedule this weekend has the Patriots traveling down to New Orleans to take on the Saints. Neither team got off to the start that they wanted to kick off the season and both teams enter the week at 0-1.

The Patriots had a rare 4th quarter meltdown at home against the Chiefs and allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter to lose 42-27. The defense gave up big plays for touchdowns and the offense, despite scoring 27 points never got untracked.

The Saints went to Minnesota and dropped an ugly one as well 29-19. Drew Brees and the offense in five trips to the red zone could only manage four field goals and a touchdown. And the defense consistently gave up big plays on third down as Sam Bradford had his way with them.

Both teams will be looking to bounce back this week as teams that start the year 0-2 rarely have success in making the playoffs or reaching the Super Bowl. New Orleans, especially their offense, however, always play much better in the Super Dome.  Here are our five first impressions of the Saints before this week’s game.

Minnesota Picked on De’Vante Harris in the Opener: Week 1 is the classic overreaction week in the NFL. Just look around, the fans from 15 teams are already looking on StubHub for tickets to Super Bowl LII, while fans from 15 others are in panic mode. However, the Saints knew coming in this year that they are inexperienced at the cornerback position.

And the Vikings saw this and made it a point to pick on cornerback De’Vante Harris. The 2nd year UDFA from Texas A&M got the start and had a rough game. Minnesota QB Sam Bradford had a 100 passer rating when looking in his direction last week. Harris got caught peeking in the backfield at Bradford during a red-zone possession which allowed Stefon Diggs to get behind him for an 18-yard touchdown.

Diggs also beat him on a deep sideline pass in the second quarter that, despite pass interference by Harris was still able to pull it in. We know that the NFL is a copycat league, I’d expect Josh McDaniels to test the young corner early and often this week.

Young Linebackers Make A Good First Impression: The Saints have revamped their linebacking corps and the early results were encouraging. With A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o and rookie Alex Anzalone manning the Saints front seven at linebacker, they are looking for improved play this season.

Klein, who was brought over from the Carolina Panthers this spring had a very solid outing and was active making 11 tackles although he said there was plenty of room for improvement from the unit, especially on the first play of the game where the Saints had only 10 men on the field. “To know we started the season that way was just a lack of communication to start,” he said. “I think that can fall on me. I have to know who is on the field and personnel and make sure everyone is on the field. I take responsibility for that one.”

Anzalone had what coach Sean Payton called a pretty active night. The rookie from Florida had a pair of tackles and a pass defended. He broke up a pass in the end zone on the Vikings first drive that forced them to settle for a field goal.

Red Zone Offense Uncharacteristically Stalls: Last season the Saints were one of the best teams offensively in the red zone.  But on Monday night they struggled, albeit against one of the better defensive units in the NFL.

The Saints made five trips into the red zone, with four of them being inside the 10-yard line and of those four trips, they could only manage three field goals and a touchdown, that came in the final two minutes of the game when the score was basically out of reach.

Some of the play calling was curious as they didn’t target Michael Thomas in the red zone during the game. The 2nd year wide receiver caught 92 passes a year ago but on this night had just 5 catches for 45 yards.

Mark Ingram played very sparingly (only 26 snaps) and had just six carries for just 17 yards in the game. He was more effective in the passing game with five catches for 54 yards. The Saints were going mostly with rookie RB Alvin Kamara over Ingram and veteran addition Adrian Peterson.

But credit the Minnesota defense, although they sacked Drew Brees only once, they were able to bring pressure on him and he was constantly under duress.

Offensive Line Needs Work: The Saints brought in running backs Alvin Kamara and Adrian Peterson this season to bolster the already very good Mark Ingram in an attempt to make the offense more balanced and assert their will on opponents. It would also take some of the onus off of Drew Brees and the passing game. But the offensive line, which was supposed to open up the holes for the running game struggled in Week 1.

Injuries and playing the tough Minnesota defense certainly had a hand in that. Left tackle Terron Armistead was out of the lineup in Minnesota and right tackle Zach Strief left the game with an MCL sprain that may keep him out of the line up for the next few weeks. Those losses, coupled with the Vikes front seven made life difficult for the running backs to find any room to run. Kamara and Peterson managed just 18 yards a piece and Ingram gained just 17.

While the interior of the offensive line remains intact, one area that will bear close scrutiny this week will be the edges. If they can give Drew Brees time to throw and open up some holes for the talented running back trio, the Saints offense will be tough to stop. If not, then the Patriots defense will be looking to assert their own pressure.

Like the Loss of Edelman, the Saints Felt the Loss of Snead: Watching the Saints in the opener, one couldn’t help but notice that the New Orleans passing game was missing their slot receiver Willie Snead in this one. Much like the Patriots in their opener, the loss was even more keenly felt on third down.

While Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn give them production and speed on the outside and TE Coby Fleener is a good, productive pass receiver, having that go-to slot receiver in the middle of the field is always a plus and the Saints could have used Snead who is serving a three game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse rules.

It will be interesting to see if the Saints use Austin Carr this week against his former team. The Patriots signed the UDFA wide receiver this spring and he had a very solid training camp and preseason. He was cut as the team whittled down the 53-man roster and the Saints scooped him up.

Check back with us later this week as we’ll have a detailed breakdown of the key matchups between the Patriots and Saints as we try to piece together who wins and why.

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