By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots were crushed over the last 10 days for a poor effort and a lack of urgency in their season opener. They answered those concerns with a fast start in Sunday’s Week 2 win in New Orleans.
The Patriots took an early lead over the Saints and never looked back, marching to a 36-20 victory to improve to 1-1 on the season. New England is in the win column, and most importantly, the TB Times are back in publication:
Tom Brady was editor in chief of a great offensive performance on Sunday, despite a lack of depth at wide receiver, and the New England defense did what they had to do against one of the game’s best passers. It was far from a perfect effort, but it was a big improvement from what we saw from the Patriots last Thursday.
Here are all the Ups and Downs from Sunday’s win:
Brady Was Brady
No. 12 should get plenty consideration for Player of the Week after finishing 30-of-39 for 447 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Saints. He threw all three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes of the tilt, the first time in his career he’s thrown for three scores in the first quarter of a game.
He distributed the ball in classic Brady fashion as nine different players catching a pass on Sunday. He showed off the benefits of being an elder statesman of the game, talking referees out of flagging Chris Hogan for a first-half offensive pass interference call and letting his touchdown stand. Brady also caught Manti Te’o sauntering to the sidelines in the second half and earned a free throw with 12 Saints on the field (lofting an interception, just for fun), and kindly asked the refs to do some counting when no flags were thrown.
At times, it seemed like Brady knew the rule book better than the zebras.
The urgency was certainly there for the Patriot this time around, as they marched 75 yards down the field in 10 plays to find the end zone on their first drive.
Brady completed six of his seven passes for 59 yards, capped off with a 19-yard touchdown toss to Rex Burkhead. The Patriots scored touchdowns on each of their first three trips down the field, and put points on the board on five of their six possessions in the first half.
Nate Solder had his struggles at times, but Brady had plenty of time to operate thanks to a strong effort from his offensive line. The Saints sacked Brady just twice, and only recorded five QB hits.
Wise Wreaks Havoc On D
Rookie lineman Deatrich Wise was pestering Drew Brees all day, finishing the contest with New England’s only sack and five of their seven quarterback hits. Wise was an absolute beast on Sunday.
Where do we start? The Patriots probably should have invested in a bigger medical tent for the sideline on Sunday.
Rob Gronkowski left in the second half with a groin injury, the biggest injury of the day. He looked great before getting hurt with six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown (he dropped a second score, too), but now we’re back to monitoring an ailment with the tight end.
In addition to Gronk, receivers Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett both spent time with the medical staff on Sunday. Hogan said he felt great after the game, but given the Patriots only had three healthy receivers on the roster going into the contest, any loss at the position is going to make matters a little more complicated. Running back Rex Burkhead also suffered a rib injury and he didn’t play much in the second half (the blowout probably helped the decision to leave him and others on the sidelines).
On defense, corner Eric Rowe was also treated for a groin injury.
It’s only Week 2 and injuries are already starting to pile up for the Patriots at some key positions.
There appeared to be some communication issues in the New England defense, and it led to some big plays for the Saints. New Orleans had five plays of 20+ yards (not including a 28-yard run by Mark Ingram on the last play of the game) and two of those plays were part of scoring drives for the Saints.
A 38-yard connection between Brees and Alvin Kamara led to New Orleans’ first touchdown of the day, while they added three points shortly after Brees hit Brandon Coleman with a 48-yard connection on a terrible third-and-9 by the Patriots defense.
Brees had a couple of big connections with Michael Thomas as well; one for 33 yards that saw Stephon Gilmore get crossed up in coverage and another for 21 yards where the receiver was wide open after a play fake. But the Saints didn’t add any points the scoreboard following either of those plays, turning the ball over on downs and missing a field goal to end those drives.
Brees hit Coby Fleener for 20 yards on a third-and-7 play, getting New Orleans to the Patriots’ 38-yard line. The Patriots defense was pretty good on third down, with the Saints converting just four of their 12 third-down tries, but that was one of their few miscues. It didn’t come back to hurt them, as the Saints punted away a few plays later.
What’s Up With Butler?
Malcolm Butler wasn’t one of New England’s two starting corners on Sunday, taking a backseat to Rowe. He saw most of his action when the Patriots were in nickel coverage until assuming his regular role after Rowe was injured. Rowe played both inside and outside on Sunday after playing in the slot in Week 1.
It was likely only because of New Orleans’ taller receivers, but it’s a situation worth monitoring after Butler struggled through the preseason and in Week 1.