By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots defeated the New Orleans Saints 7-6 in the first pre-season game for New England and will provide the coaches with plenty of film, good, bad and ugly to work on until they take the field again in 10 days.
While the final score is never a barometer for coaches, unless it is tied at the end of regulation, the scoring was definitely down quite a bit than what was expected considering the offenses led by QBs Drew Brees and Tom Brady are among the best in the league.
I wish that the Patriots defense could have gotten a longer look at Brees and the first team Saints offense. It was pretty limited so, not too much can be taken from that, but the defense did okay. It was a good first step; with that in mind here a few ups and downs for the game.
- Chandler Jones- No big surprise here, Jones was the buzzword all night long on Twitter, but the simple fact is this: Jones made a nice impact on about a quarter of his snaps against a very good tackle in Jermon Bushrod. As Bill Parcells was fond of saying, “Let’s not put him in Canton just yet”, however the strength and moves showed by Jones has to be a big positive for the coaches. A first good first outing for the rookie, whose confidence has to be growing.
- Run Defense- The run defense was not a strength last season, teams spread out the Patriots defense and gashed them hard up the middle. Last night the Saints tried the same thing and overall I thought the run defense held up very well. When they tried to turn the corner the defensive ends, Rob Ninkovich, Jones, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott and Jake Bequette did a nice job of setting the edge.
- Zoltan Mesko- The most interesting man in the NFL had a fantastic evening getting some great hang time on his punts and putting four of them out of bounds inside the 20. With the offense far from its normal productive self, Mesko did his job of putting the defense in good position. Looked to be in mid-season form.
- Shane Vereen- Vereen somewhat surprisingly, didn’t get a snap in the first half but against albeit 2nd and 3rd stringers provided a nice burst out of the backfield. He piled up 73 yards of the 90+ yards of the only touchdown drive of the game.
- Offensive Line- Collectively, the first team unit was handed their lunch by the Saints front seven. Tom Brady was piled drived to the turf on the second drive and everyone struggled. Was a tad surprised that Brady played at all considering the flux at the OL position. However, if it’s because the coaches want to work out the kinks at the position with Brady at the helm because this is the unit that the team will be using for the foreseeable future, then it is a major cause for concern. Dante Scarnecchia has a lot of work to do with the line, because this offense should not be scoring just seven points against anyone.
- Sterling Moore- The hero of the AFCCG had a rough night, first he was burned on a 3rd and 22 allowing for a first down (haven’t we heard this before?), he wasn’t turning around in time to watch the ball on more than one occasion and then was flagged for a 46 yard penalty (incorrectly called on Tavon Wilson). Not the start Moore was looking for, the starting three CBs of Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling remain locked for the time being.
- Backup QBs- Neither Brian Hoyer nor Ryan Mallett had a big evening. Mallett’s accuracy was way off on many of his medium to long range throws as his passes sailed high off target. Hoyer didn’t light the world on fire either, but it is still only the first pre-season game so we’ll see how they each respond. But it wasn’t a nice night for either.
- Dane Fletcher- Tough break for the linebacker, tearing his ACL during kick coverage. Looked like he and one of the Saints players just collided knees on the play. With his loss for the year, it will be a tough break for the team’s depth at inside linebacker. Fletcher was playing well, filling in for Brandon Spikes who is being brought along slowly after his off-season knee surgery.
So with the results pretty much a mixed bag for the Patriots, it will give Bill Belichick plenty to use for teaching points until the next pre-season game. He’ll have more than enough opportunity to give everyone some “Humble Pie” but there will also be plenty to take from this and use it as confidence builder.
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG