By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

Final Analysis

For such a low-scoring game, it wasn’t a bad offensive game for the Pats. Shane Vereen led the statistic parade with 64 rushing yards on 11 carries and adding 17 receiving yards on two catches. That, though, was mostly against the Saints’ backups.

Stevan Ridley, who got the start at running back, wasn’t too shabby with 40 yards on eight carries. Brandon Bolden, who got his chance prior to Vereen, chipped in with 23 yards on eight carries.

From a quarterback standpoint, Ryan Mallett showed off his cannon, going 8-for-19 for 89 yards and a pick, though that came when he was hit while throwing. Brian Hoyer finished 8-for-15 for 45 yards. He threw the game’s lone touchdown, a three-yard bullet to Britt Davis.

The big story though will be Chandler Jones. The rookie looked downright monstrous, drawing holding penalties on back-to-back plays, applying pressure on the quarterback and showing great burst and awareness on the end. It’s one preseason game, so you can’t put him in Canton just yet, but the 22-year-old showed a lot of promise for things to come this year.

End of Game, 7-6 Patriots: Rather than use their timeouts, the Saints let the Patriots kneel the ball and run out the clock, wrapping up the preseason opener and giving the Patriots a 7-6 win.

Few would have predicted such a low-scoring game, but with each team turning the ball over twice, points were hard to come by.

Fourth quarter, 1:44, 7-6 Patriots: McCown’s pass was well short of his receiver, and the Saints were forced to punt on fourth-and-18. Now the Pats will kneel the ball to wind the clock down.

Fourth quarter, 1:56, 7-6 Patriots: After a three-and-out from the Pats, Trevor Scott got a free shot on Luke McCown and knocked the ball loose. New Orleans recovered, though they’ll face a long third down after the two-minute warning.

Fourth quarter, 3:07, 7-6 Patriots: The Pats hold on to their one-point lead after Kasay pulls a 41-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Fourth quarter, 3:49, 7-6 Patriots: Ras-I Dowling has looked sharp tonight, which is nice for the Patriots to see. They were high on him last year when they drafted him 33rd overall, so they’re likely expecting some contributions from him this year after he missed essentially all of his rookie season due to injury.

Meanwhile, the Saints are facing a third-and-11 on the Patriots’ 28.

Fourth quarter, 7:52, 7-6 Patriots: Well, so much for that. Mallett and the Pats go three-and-out. The Saints will take over at their own 40.

This sort of goes without saying at this point, but Zoltan Mesko is really booming the ball tonight. But you’d expect nothing less from him.

Fourth quarter, 8:56, 7-6 Patriots: The Patriots will take over at their own 20 after a Saints punt finds its way into the end zone. It’ll be interesting to see if Ryan Mallett can lead another long scoring drive to give the Pats a comfortable lead here.

Third Quarter Analysis From WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid

The Highs:

On the first drive of the quarter, Shane Vereen was the star.  He’s running the ball extremely hard and catching the ball out of the backfield.  The Pats used Vereen to finally get on the board.  Brian Hoyer connected with Britt Davis on a 3-yard connection for touchdown.  Vereen ended the drive with seven carries for 63 yards, plus a reception for 10 yards.

On the first possession of the quarter for the Saints, they were forced into a three and out against a strong-looking Pats defense. Ras-I Dowling had a strip to break up a pass and Sterling Moore made a big play when he almost got an interception.
On the second possession of the quarter for the Saints, the Pats defense forced them into a three and out.

The Lows:
Right on the kickoff to start the quarter, Julian Edelman fumbled the ball in the end zone.  He recovered and tried to bring it out and … bad idea.  The Pats got the ball at the 3.
On the second possession of the quarter for the Pats, they went three-and-out. Brian Hoyer was running the show.
Dane Fletcher was escorted off the field earlier in the game.  It is being reported that he has a torn ACL.  We’ll get more after the game.
On the third possession of the quarter for the Pats, they went three-and-out.
On the final possession of the quarter for the Saints, they got in business by a pass interference call.  Sterling Moore got the flag and the Saints picked up 46 yards and are in position for a field goal when the quarter ended.

End of third quarter, 7-3 Patriots: The Saints go on a long drive, aided by a long pass interference penalty on Sterling Moore, and they’re set up for a field goal to cut the Pats’ lead to one after the fourth quarter begins.

Third quarter, 5:36, 7-3 Patriots: The Pats and Saints exchange possessions, and Brian Hoyer takes back over on his own 29-yard line. I’d imagine Hoyer will finish out the third quarter and Mallett will take over for the fourth. We’ll see.

Third quarter, 8:51, 7-3 Patriots: Awful news for Dane Fletcher, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports the Pats linebacker has a torn ACL. That’s an awful break for the third-year player.

Third quarter 9:39, 7-3 Patriots: It took a while for Shane Vereen to get his chance tonight, but he certainly came to play. He ran well and made a nice play on a screen pass from Brian Hoyer. (Expect a couple of more series out of Hoyer tonight.) Eric Kettani also had a nice 10-yard pickup on a short pass, too. Anyone looking to jump to any conclusions about the running game in the first half will have to readjust those expectations. There’s going to be a battle for carries that might go on until September.

Keep in mind, of course, that Shane Vereen wasn’t exactly going up against the first team defense when he just racked up all those yards. Regardless, he ran the ball well.

The drive, which was largely Vereen’s work, ended with a Britt Davis touchdown in the red zone. Davis had dropped a 30-plus-yard strike earlier in the drive, so it was nice for him to make amends for that.

Vereen gained 63 yards on seven carries while also hauling in a 10-yard pass.

Second Quarter Analysis From WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid:

The Highs:

On the Saints’ first possession of the quarter, Patriots safety Steve Gregory came up with a big interception. That’s good for the Pats because the Saints were moving the ball down the field.
On the Pats’ first possession of the quarter, Brian Hoyer looked better. He made a couple of of completions, and the Pats got to keep the ball on a running into the kicker penalty on a punt.
On the Saints’ second possession of the quarter, the Pats defense got them off the field. There was a good hit by Dont’a Hightower in this sequence, to stop a run.
On the Saints’ third possession of the quarter, Patrick Chung came up with an interception to stop their drive.
Ryan Mallett looked better on the Pats’ final possession of the quarter.  He got the offense down the field but Stephen Gostkowski missed a 53-yard field goal.
The Lows:

After the running into the kicker penalty gave the Pats the ball back, they inserted Ryan Mallett and he had problems, leading to a three-and-out.  All in all, the Pats’ QB back-ups have looked poor.  Hoyer really needs to be better.
On the Pats’ second possession of the quarter, Ryan Mallett was moving the team.  Then there was some pressure and his pass got tipped at the line. It was intercepted by the Saints’ Marquis Johnson.

Second quarter, :01, 3-0 Saints: It wasn’t a Mallett Hail Mary, but the kid was mighty impressive, driving the Pats down the field beyond the Saints’ 40. Stephen Gostkowski missed the long field goal attempt though, and this thing goes to the half with a 3-0 score.

Stay tuned for halftime analysis from Levan.

Second quarter, 0:47, 3-0 Saints: Patrick Chung makes a rather easy interception, as Canfield’s throw sailed over everyone. That’ll keep the score at 3-0 for halftime, barring a Ryan Mallett Hail Mary.

Second quarter, 2:00, 3-0 Saints: Tough break there for Ryan Mallett. He was looking good on that drive, showing off the strong arm that’s been talked about so much. However he was hit while passing, and the ball came wobbling out of his hand. Marquis Johnson made a diving interception, and the Saints take over at midfield with 2 minutes left to play.

Second quarter, 3:48, 3-0 Saints: After Chandler Jones’ impressive showing, Dont’a Hightower apparently wanted to show he’s no slouch either.

Hightower got some good pressure on quarterback Sean Canfield, and he laid a huge hit on running back Chris Ivory. That was just for show though, as Ivory was able to keep his feet. It was an impressive hit by the rookie linebacker, but in the NFL, those running backs don’t go to the ground quite as easily as they did in college.

Second quarter, 8:28, 3-0 Saints: Rough night for Martez Wilson, who ran into Zoltan Mesko on a punt and gave the Pats a free first down.

That’s when Ryan Mallett entered at QB though, and he had a rough first series. His first pass sailed high over everyone, while his second pass never made it over the mass of linemen standing in front of him. On third down, he completed what should have been an easy lob to Donte Stallworth over the middle, but the pass was a bit high and behind the receiver, taking him off his stride and leading to a minimal gain.

Chalk it up to some jitters for Mallett, who hasn’t seen real game action since last summer.

Second quarter, 12:48, 3-0 Saints: Welcome to the team, Steve Gregory.

The newest member of the Pats’ secondary saw Jerod Mayo tip a Chase Daniel pass and he flew to the wobbly football. Gregory bobbled it quite a bit but eventually got himself an interception, setting up the Pats on their own 17-yard line.

First Quarter Analysis From WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid:

The Highs:

The first possession of the quarter went to the Saints and the Pats defense forced them into a three-and-out. Chandler Jones forced Brees out of the pocket on one play and it was a good start for the Pats Dee.

The Pats’ first possession of the quarter had Stevan Ridley run the ball for eight yards on the second play. They need more of that.
The Saints were given a short field on their next posession because of the Brady fumble, but the the Pats held them to just three points. Nice play by Jerod Mayo on this sequence.
In the Saints’ third possession of the quarter and Chandler Jones was making a difference.  He drew back to back holding calls on  Jermon Bushrod, and then he chased down Chase Daniels to end the drive.  Rook is having a very good night.

The Lows:

The Pats’ first possession of the quarter lasted longer than it should have because of a Saints penalty.  It ended though when Tom Brady was sacked by Will Smith and he fumbled the ball.  Saints recovered. Offensive line is so thin right now.  They are getting beat.
The Saints take that fumble recovery and put three on the board, thanks to a 46-yard field goal by John Kasay.
On the Pats’ second possession of the quarter and  they could have done something here.  Tom Brady hit Brandon Lloyd on a good play but it was called back because of a hold on Nate Solder.  The Pats turned the ball over on downs.  Penalties are killing the Pats, as they already have four penalties for 35 yards.
New Orleans’ third possession of the  quarter and the Pats defense put the Saints in a 3rd and 22 and New Orleans converted.  Secondary has to be better than that.  Also this was against the Saints second string.
Hoyer in on the Pats final possession of the quarter and he goes three and out with the Pats offense.

End of first quarter, 3-0 Saints: Brian Hoyer’s first drive of the preseason was a forgettable one, as the Pats went three-and-out. Undrafted rookie running back Brandon Bolden got his first carry, which was noteworthy because it came before Shane Vereen’s gotten any action. Might the rookie have leapfrogged Vereen on the depth chart?

First quarter, 1:48, 3-0 Saints: Chandler Jones looks to be the real deal, as he drew holding calls on Jermon Bushrod on back-to-back plays. That’s quite the feat, even for the preseason. Jones also chased down quarterback Chase Daniel from behind to record a tackle, and he’s overall caused headaches for the Saints thus far.

All of this comes with the “it’s still just the preseason” caveat, but he’s showing signs that indicate the Patriots have something pretty darn good in Jones.

First quarter, 5:25, 3-0 Saints: The Patriots’ offensive line issues have come as advertised thus far. On that drive, the Pats had a false start from Marcus Cannon and a huge holding call on Nate Solder that negated a first-down pass to Brandon Lloyd over the middle. The Patriots ended up punting after a third-and-18 pass to Gronkowski came well short of the first down.

First quarter, 8:25, 3-0 Saints: Danny Woodhead gets the first kick return of the year for the Pats.

First quarter, 8:30, 3-0 Saints: John Kasay drills a 46-yarder to give the Saints the early lead.

Jerod Mayo looked outstanding on back-to-back plays in pass coverage. On second-and-8, he blanketed Darren Sproles despite Drew Brees having all the time in the world to settle in the pocket. Mayo broke up that pass. On third-and-8, Sproles caught a pass on an out route but Mayo was there to make the stop before the marker.

Mayo’s been great since entering the league in ’08, but the knock on him has always been his pass coverage. So far, so good in that regard this year.

First quarter, 9:52: The offensive line weakness strikes the Patriots early. Brady avoided one sack and rolled right looking to buy a little time. However he was walloped by Will Smith, and Brady fumbled the ball away. The Sasints take over on the plus side of the 50.

First quarter, 11:47: Some good news — Martez Wilson jumped offsides on fourth-and-1 when the Patriots punted, giving the Pats a free first down.

But that comes with some bad news — Dane Fletcher hurt his leg on punt coverage and had to be helped off the field. Not sure exactly what happened but he was definitely in a lot of pain.

First quarter, 14:09: Not a bad debut for the Patriots’ defense, as they force a three-and-out from the Saints to start the game. Chandler Jones battled through right tackle Jermon Bushrod’s block on second-and-5 and got good pressure on Brees, forcing a rushed throw to nobody.

First quarter, 15:00: Stephen Gostkowski’s low kick sailed through the back of the end zone, and the Saints will start things off with a first-and-10 from their own 20.

7:37 p.m.: The Patriots will be kicking off to Drew Brees and Co. to start the game.

7:35: A somber moment at Gillette as the Patriots hold a moment of silence for the late Junior Seau.

7:31 p.m.: The Patriots have taken the field at Gillette Stadium, and it’s just about time for football.

7:26 p.m.: We’re just minutes from kickoff. Deion Branch will not be playing tonight, nor will Brandon Spikes or Alfonzo Dennard, among others.

FOXBORO (CBS) — It’s not real football, so to speak, but tonight at Gillette Stadium, the pads will be crunching, bodies will be flying and the first step toward yet another glorious football season will be taken.

It won’t count in the standings, but the Patriots and Saints will kick off this year’s preseason tonight at 7:30 at Gillette Stadium.

READ: Four Stories To Watch In Patriots-Saints Preseason Game

There’s a lot we don’t know about this game, such as how long Tom Brady and the starters will play, if they play at all. But we know we’ll get our first looks at rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, and we should get an idea of how the Pats’ running back situation is going to look.

Drew Brees played last week just long enough to throw five passes, but if he plays longer this week, you can also see the Patriots’ secondary tested against one of the game’s best passers.

At the very least, we will all see football. And that’s always a pleasant site.

Read more from Michael by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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