Ryan L. Fox
Almost 8 years ago in Foxboro, the New England Patriots were facing a 27-23 deficit at home against the New Orleans Saints. With 1:13 left in the 4th quarter, QB Tom Brady drove his team down the field before finding WR Kenbrell Thompkins in the left side of the end zone for the game winning touchdown in what would go down as the ‘Unicorns, Show Ponies, Where’s the Beef’ game (courtesy of Patriots color commentator Scott Zolak).
Now this past Sunday, the Patriots welcomed in the Saints to Gillette for a midday matinee on a warm, sunny fall day in September. Unlike previous matchups where it was an offensive battle and points were a plenty, things were different this time around. It was a defensive lead charge by the visiting Saints who punched the Patriots in the mouth as the home team could not recover and as the game went on, the Saints continued to punch and the Patriots continued to stumble backwards.
The game opened up with both teams exchanging punts with one another with the Saints getting the ball to open up the game.
Following a punt by the Patriots, the Saints got the ball on their own 31 for their second possession of the game. Looking calm and poised in the pocket, QB Jameis Winston lead the Saints offense down the field, including hitting his receivers for a couple of deep throws (a 12-yarder to WR Deonte Harris and then a 17-yarders to WR Kenny Stills). The Saints got all the way down to the New England 11 where on 3rd and 7, Winston hit RB Alvin Kamara over the middle for a 11-yard catch-and-run touchdown. K Aldrick Rosas (filling in for the injured K Will Lutz) booted the extra point through the uprights to give the Saints the early 7-0 with 7:35 left in the first quarter.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Saints got the ball back at their own 15-yard line. Again, Winston lead the team down the field but the drive ended up stalling at the New England 34. Rosas came in to attempt a 52-yard field goal but the kick ended up going wide left as the Patriots got the ball back at their own 42 with 9 seconds left in the first quarter.
The two teams then exchanged punts with one another going as the Patriots got the ball back on their own 20 with 12:46 left in the second quarter. They got the ball as far as midfield before being forced to punt. But on the punt attempt, Saints LB Andrew Dowell got through and blocked the punt as teammate WR Ty Montgomery recovered the ball at the New England 49.
The Saints drove down the field before getting bogged down by the Patriots defense. Facing a 4th and 3 from the New England 18, the Saints elected to kick the field goal. But Rosas’ 36-yard attempt went wide left yet again as the Patriots got the ball back at their own 26 with 4:13 left in the second quarter.
With time winding down in the quarter, the Patriots needed to a sustainable drive going. They got the ball as far as their own 44 where on 3rd and 10, QB Mac Jones felt the heat of the Saints defense. He got hit as he threw the ball, seeing it float in the air and into the waiting arms of Saints S P.J. Williams. Williams returned the ball all the way down to the New England 9 as it seemingly squirted out as he was tackled and bounced to the New England 1 where teammate LB Kaden Ellis scooped it up and tumbled into the end zone for a touchdown. But upon further review, it was deemed that Williams was down by contact at the New England 9 before the ball came out.
Still, the Saints were set up with great field position when the offense came out. The drive took just 3 plays a minute off the clock as Winston found WR Marquez Callaway in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Rosas booted the PAT through the uprights as the Saints lead grew to 14-0 with 1:44 left before halftime.
The Patriots got the ball back as Jones opened up the drive with a 31-yard catch and run to WR Kendrick Bourne over the middle down to the New Orleans 44. Jones then found WR Nelson Agholor for a 13-yard pass to the New Orleans 31 as it seemed the Patriots had finally found an offensive grove. They got all the way down to the New Orleans 22 and were faced with a 4th and 1 from there before deciding to go for it. Unfortunately, TE Hunter Henry drew a false start penalty and backed the ball to the New Orleans 27. From there, K Nick Folk trotted out for the 45-yard attempt. Unlike Rosas, Folk booted it through (his 34th consecutive made) to put the Patriots on the board to make it 14-3 with 27 seconds left before halftime.
That would ultimately be the final score before halftime as both teams went into their respective locker rooms to prepare for the second half.
The Patriots got the ball back to begin the second half of the game, allowing the kickoff to go in the end zone to get the ball at their own 25. On the first play from scrimmage, Jones dropped back and seemingly found TE Jonnu Smith over the middle at the New England 34. But Smith couldn’t haul in the pass as it bounced off his head and into the waiting arms of Saints FS Malcolm Jenkins as Jenkins casually brought it back for a pick 6. Rosas extra point went through the uprights as the Saints lead grew to 21-3 with 14:51 left in the third quarter.
Following another exchange of punts between the two teams, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 20. They then embarked on a 16-play, 82-yard drive that ate up 9:05 off the clock. But the team ultimately had to settle for another Folk field goal as the kicker booted a 26-yarder through the uprights to make it 21-6 with 1:32 left in the third quarter.
After an exchange of punts between the teams, the Patriots closed out the third quarter by forcing the Saints to punt as PR Gunner Olszewski returned it to the New Orleans 44.
Following an incomplete pass and then a pass interference call on the Saints defense, the Patriots had it first and 10 at the New Orleans 34. Jones scrambled up the middle for 12 yards to the New Orleans 22. Then on the ensuing play, with the Saints pass rush in his face, Jones heaved the ball to the right side for Bourne as the receiver tiptoed his way over into the end zone. Folk booted the PAT through the upright as the score was 21-13 with 9:22 left in the game.
The Saints responded back with a long drive of their own. Starting from their own 25, the Saints went on a 13-play drive (of which 10 of those plays were running plays) for 75 yards that ate up 6:45 off the clock. Unlike the Patriots, the Saints capped that drive off with a 4-yard rush up the middle by backup QB Taysom Hill into the end zone. Rosas booted the PAT through the uprights to push the Saints lead back up to two scores to make it 28-13 with 2:37 left in the game.
With time ticking down, the Patriots tried to muster a form of a comeback.
Starting from their own 25, Jones drove the team down the field. This also included scrambling for 3 yards to the New Orleans 44 on a 4th at 1 at the New Orleans 47 and then a 14-yard pass to RB Brandon Bolden down to the New Orleans 25 on 4th and 5 from the New Orleans 39. But then Jones tried to find his receivers deep, coming up short each time. With 15 seconds left in the game and facing a 4th and 10 from the New Orleans 25, Jones heaved it up one last time. But instead of a Patriots receiver, the ball landed into the waiting arms of Saints CB Marshon Lattimore at his own 2 as he brought it back to the New Orleans 22.
Winston simply had to kneel the ball once to run the final 5 seconds of the game to ultimately give the Saints the win.
When the clock read 00:00, the Saints ran off the field as victors in a 28-13 victory over the home team. Patriots fans and media personnel were left a gasped and uncertain by the team’s performance in their first two home games. But unfortunately for the team, they won’t have time to lick their wounds as next week, they’ll be dealing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and an all-too familiar face.
Notable Patriots Players Statistical Standouts
QB Mac Jones: 30-for-51 for 270 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INTs for a QB rating of 55.2, 6 carries for 28 yards (4.7 yards per carry)
WR Kendrick Bourne: 6 catches (on 8 targets) for 96 yards and 1 TD
WR Jakobi Meyers: 9 catches (on 14 targets) for 94 yards
K Nick Folk: 2-for-2 on Field Goals, 1-for-1 on extra points for a total of 7 points
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.: 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 assist) and 0.5 sacks
LB Matt Judon: 3 tackles (2 solo, 1 assist) and 2.5 sacks
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 6 tackles (3 solo, 3 assist)
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
307 – The number of games that the New Orleans Saints have scored in, 4th longest streak in NFL history
0– The number of first downs the Patriots had in the first quarter, the first time since 9/23/2018
35 – The number of consecutive field goals by Patriots K Nick Folk, tying him 8th all-time with former Patriots K Adam Vinatieri and Ravens K Justin Tucker.
.776 – The winning percentage of the Patriots of the Patriots against the NFC since the 2002 League Division Realignment (59-17)
.747 – The winning percentage of the Patriots against the NFC in the regular season during Bill Belichicks’ tenure as head coach (62-21)
2 – The number of consecutive weeks that P Jake Bailey has kicked the ball out of bounds on a kickoff
5 – The number of turnovers (2 fumbles, 3 interceptions) the Patriots have at home this season so far (0-2 in those games)
2.9 – The average yard per carry by the Patriots for the game (17 carries for 49 yards)
Did You Know That…
- Today’s game marked the first time that the Patriots and the Saints faced off against each other without QB Tom Brady under center for the Patriots and QB Drew Brees under center for the Saints. The last time game that had neither Brady or Brees was back in Week 5 on October 4, 1998 down in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana where the Patriots beat the Saints 30-27. Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe went 21-for-35 for 317 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT in the victory while Saints QB Danny Wuerffel went 25-for-47 for 278 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs for in the losing effort.
- With the month of September coming to a close, the Patriots close out the month with a 1-2 record. During the Belichick era, the Patriots are 48-25 (.658) in the month of September games. Those 48 wins in the month of September are the most wins by an NFL team since 2000.
My Two Cents
Cent #1: When the Patriots signed both TE Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith to those massive contracts in the offseason, everybody who covered the team, the fans, and the Boston sports media were ecstatic that the team had finally addressed the tight end problem that plagued them since Rob Gronkowski retired in 2019 and then bolted for Tampa Bay in 2020. Me, I scratched my head and wondered why did the Patriots shell out two huge contracts. One to a frequently injured player and one to an unproven player. So far my, doubts are being proved right. In their first 3 games, Hunter Henry has only 10 catches for 109 yards while Jonnu Smith has only 10 catches for 74 yards.
Both of those players have 0 TDs combined and Jonnu has fumbled the ball as well as had a pass bounce off his hands against the Saints that ended up being a pick 6. I can hear it now, “We are only 3 games into the season…bleeeeeehhhh!” Yeah, we may be 3 games in but if I’m the Patriots de facto general manager, I would be a little concerned that my two of my big free agency acquisition are putting up paltry numbers.
Cent #2: Oh god. The Patriots offense has struggled to find points at home so far. In their two home games, they’ve scored a combination of 29 points. To put this in perspective on how bad this looks, they dropped 25 on the Jets last week (yeah, it’s the Jets but still 25 points is 25 points). With the Buccaneers coming to town next week, the Patriots offense needs to find a way to put points up on the scoreboard and fast. Otherwise, losing to the Saints by 15 will actually look ‘comforting’.
Well we’re already into Week 3 and already the Patriots offense suffered a crucial loss in the game.
In the second quarter, the Patriots were facing a 3rd and 3 from their own 27. RB James White took a handoff and went left side for 6 yards, giving the team a first down at their own 33. But as he was being tackled, White ended up landing on the ground awkwardly and was slow to get up. White ended up getting carted off the field and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
This is a crucial blow to the Patriots offense. James White presents a problem for opposing defensive coordinators. He not only is a receiver in passing situations as well as a good route runner, he can also pass block whenever he is called upon as well as run the ball for a few yards to keep defender’s heads on a swivel.
If he is to miss some time, that could spell problems for the offense since a majority of running backs on their roster (Harris, Taylor, Bolden, Stevenson) are more of runner than a receiver.
Fox Fist Bump
There was really only a couple Patriots player that deserved a fist bump.
First is LB Matt Judon.
The guy played with a motor throughout the entire game and was a beast. Judon was always blitzing and rushing the passer, making Jameis Winston uncomfortable when dropping back to as he finished with 2.5 sacks for the game.
The other is QB Mac Jones.
In the face of a stout, blitzing Saints defense, I thought Jones performed well completing 30-for-51 passes for 270 yards 1 TD. Not to mention that he was the Patriots’ top rusher (6 carries for 28 yards) and had a couple of runs that kept the drive alive. I know he had three interceptions but two of those picks bounced off the hands of his receivers.
The Meatball of the Game
This week’s Meatball of the Game is none other than Jonnu Smith.
The guy was pretty much invisible for the entire game. I barely heard his name get called…except for the Patriots’ first play in the second half. There, he couldn’t haul in a quick pass over the middle by Jones. It bounced off his hands and into the waiting hands of Saints FS Malcolm Jenkins for a pick 6 to make it 21-3.
I was sold that Jonnu Smith was going to be this game-changing tight end on the Patriots who can catch, run, and block. So far this season, dare I say Jonnu Smith is slowly descending into Adalius Thomas territory (a high-priced free agent that’s not performing up to his contract).
Also, what the hell is up with Jake Bailey and him kicking off. This was the second week in a row where he had a kickoff that went out of bounds. Bailey is lucky that his defense forced the Saints to punt but they can’t keep bailing him out all season if he keeps screwing up like that.
Play(s) of the Game
Not the Ideal Start For the Second Half
Tip Toe Touchdown
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