Patriots slip by the Saints
Thursday, August 09, 2012
If you were expecting offensive fireworks, and big time, big plays from the stars…think again.
Really, what were you thinking? This is the NFL’s pre-season, which normally equates to little more than a glorified scrimmage, and usually means little offense, few stars and a lot of penalties.
In this instance, it also means there’s work to do for the New England Patriots, squeaking by in a 7-6 ho-hummer with the New Orleans Saints Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
On the Patriots’ opening series, which was lengthened thanks to a NO penalty on a 4th down punt, Tom Brady was strip sacked by Will Smith, and the football recovered by Curtis Lofton at the NE 34. With the Patriots defense showing some backbone against Drew Brees and the Saints offense, NO was forced into a 46 yard John Kasay field goal to open the scoring…3-0 Saints with 8:30 to play in the first quarter.
After a New England punt on the ensuing series, NO hit the first big play of the night – a 31 yard completion from Chase Daniel to Courtney Roby on a 3rd down and 22 play, showing early at least that there is still work to do in the secondary. The Pats defense stiffened, however, and forced a Saints punt to end the threat at midfield.
With 11:53 to play in the second quarter, and the Saints second offense in the game…moving the ball methodically largely against the first team defense…Jerod Mayo tipped a Daniel pass, and it was picked off by safety Steve Gregory at the NE 17 yard line. With Brian Hoyer in at QB to replace Brady at this point, the offense managed one first down before facing 4th down. And for the second time in the first half, the Saints committed a penalty during the punt (roughing the kicker this time), handing the ball back to the Patriots. Also for the second time, however, the Pats failed to produce any points after getting the break.
With 3:43 to play before the half, Ryan Mallett began a drive from the NE 10 yard line, and quickly moved his offense to midfield before a tipped pass was intercepted by Marquis Johnson. Four plays later, Patrick Chung ended the mild threat and picked off the 3rd Saints QB of the night, Sean Canfield, at the NE 11. It took six plays for Mallett to move the offense into position for a 53 yard FG from Stephen Gostkowski…which hooked wide left.
A lackluster, sloppy first half mercifully ended with the Saints leading 3-0.
Opening the third quarter in less-than-spectacular fashion after Julian Edelman misplayed the kickoff into a start from their own three, Hoyer re-entered the game at QB and engineered a 97-yard drive behind the strong running of second year back Shane Vereen (7 carries, 63 yards on the drive). After two off-sides penalties put the Pats at the Saints three, Hoyer found Britt Davis in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown, and a 7-3 NE lead with 9:39 to play in the quarter.
The TD seemed to put a spark of life into the Patriots’ sideline, as the defense forced a three-and-out of the Saints offense on the ensuing two series. Unfortunately for the Pats, however, the offense failed to fan the flames of that spark. With 2:02 left in the quarter, Sterling Moore committed a 46 yard pass interference penalty against Joseph Morgan on a jump ball pass from Luke McCown. On the first play of the 4th quarter, Garrett Hartley then connected on a 28 yard field goal to make it a 7-6 game.
With less than four minutes to play, McCown took the Saints offense into field goal range at the Patriots’ 23 yard line, where John Kasay misfired wide right from 41 yards out with 3:07 left…and the Pats dodged a final bullet.
Or had they? Going three-and-out as Mallett missed high and wide on a 3rd down attempt, the Saints found themselves with one final opportunity. Trevor Scott snuffed out any shot the Saints had with a strip sack of McCown, and even though the ball was recovered by New Orleans, it put them in a hole they could not climb from.
It was a win…but remember, it’s also the pre-season. Your expectations can still be reality.
Post Game Notes
Several reports after the game had Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher going out with an apparent ACL injury to his left knee in the first quarter. While it was not confirmed by the team, and his teammates urged those questioning his status to wait it out, it does appear that Fletcher could miss significant time...WR Britt Davis also left the game in the 4th quarter with an apparent arm injury...New England has now won four straight preseason openers dating back to 2009, and are now 9-4 (.692) in preseason openers since Bill Belichick became head coach in 2000...the six points allowed was New England’s lowest preseason scoring allowance in more than five years. The last time New England allowed six or fewer points in a preseason game was on Aug. 26, 2006, when the Patriots beat Washington 41-0...Brady finished 4-7 passing for 30 yards, Hoyer 8-15 for 45 yards and the only TD, Mallett was 8-19 for 89 yards...six of the seven Patriots 2012 draft picks made their NFL debuts, including two that were in the starting lineup. First round picks DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont’a Hightower both were in the starting lineup on defense...Belichick after the game, on his QB's performance, and the overall performance of the offense - "I wouldn’t say we lit it up offensively at any point in any aspect of the game. But I thought each of them had their – we had some good things and we had some other things that weren’t so good that we need to improve on, some corrections we need to make, timing things we need to work on. It’s like that at every position..." One of the largest cheers of the night came when Celtics' guard Rajon Rondo, watching the game from the field in the south end zone, was spotted on the video screens...also spotted at the game, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, sitting in the owner's box with Robert Kraft...