By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — Be honest: When the Saints were facing a third-and-7 in their own territory midway through the fourth quarter in a one-possession game, you thought the Patriots’ defense would be good enough to make a play against Jameis Winston to get the ball back to Mac Jones and the offense with a chance to tie, didn’t you?
You must have. Despite everything that had happened to that point — the interceptions, the mental mistakes, the woeful offensive showing — the Patriots were still in the game. Just like they had countless times over the past 20 years, Bill Belichick’s team hung around and maintained a chance to win a football game that they technically had no business winning.
Alas … the defense was not good enough to make a stop. Just as the Dolphins were able to pick up a gotta-have-it first down after the Damien Harris fumble in Week 1, the Saints much-too-easily converted their third down shot, en route to a clock-draining, soul-sucking touchdown drive that sent the fans to the exits.
The 28-13 loss was ugly. As such, the Four Ups/Four Downs may be weighted a little more heavily on the negative side, and we’re going to start right there.
His first pick was on a pass that shouldn’t have been thrown. His second did hit Jonnu Smith’s hands but wasn’t accurate. Both led directly to Saints touchdowns.
While there are some legitimate reasons — a constantly collapsing pocket, questionable play-calling, no real running game to speak of — the fact is that a lot of weight gets thrust upon an NFL quarterback’s shoulders. With a 30-for-51 day for 270 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions (the third came at the very end and was mostly meaningless), Jones was not nearly good enough on Sunday.
Kyle Van Noy — maybe?
We don’t know every player’s assignment on every single play, so this may be wrong. However, it sure looked like Kyle Van Noy was responsible for Alvin Kamar coming out of the backfield on third-and-7 from the Patriots’ 11-yard line. Kamara ended up releasing from the backfield with nobody on him, easily slipping into the spot vacated by Dont’a Hightower on a blitz.
Jameis Winston hit Kamara over the middle for a much-too-easy touchdown to put the Saints up 7-0 in the first quarter.
Winston to Kamara for 6️⃣. #Saints
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2021
That is far, far too easy. And whether it was Van Noy’s fault or someone else’s, the best player on the field can’t ever be left unaccounted for like that. Especially on a third down in the red zone.
In a first half where field position was paramount, Josh Bailey and Co. had a chance to pin the Saints deep, punting from the 50-yard line in the second quarter. But Andrew Dowell ruined those plans when he got a hand on Bailey’s kick, making a block and allowing the Saints to take over near midfield.
On the Patriots’ previous punt, it appeared as though New Orleans jumped offside on a fourth-and-5. But after an officials’ huddle, the ruling on the field was that Joe Cardona committed a false start. Bailey then punted into the end zone for a touchback, one of two touchbacks on the day.
Bailey also sent a kickoff out of bounds for the second straight week.
Fourth-and-1 from the Saints’ 22-yard line. Offense lined up to go for it. And … Hunter Henry’s taking off.
The tight end started his route slightly early, taking off up the field and taking a false start penalty in the process.
The Patriots, scoreless to that point, had to settle for a field goal instead of attempting the fourth-down play.
They were without Trent Brown again, though the issue wasn’t egregiously at right tackle in this one. Still, the line simply isn’t good enough right now, and it’s sinking any chance the offense has at generating scoring drives with consistency.
While Mac Jones gets tagged with the pick-six, Smith did his quarterback no favors with that double-bobble that put the ball on a tee for Malcolm Jenkins. Smith had another drop on a third down play, which may not have worked but definitely didn’t have a chance after the drop.
The veteran running back is a down not for his performance, but for the unfortunate injury he suffered after giving the Patriots a first down for the first time all game. White immediately grabbed for his midsection after getting tackled out of bounds in the second quarter, seemingly knowing right away that his injury was a bad one. The cart came out and brought him to the locker room, and based on the way his teammates spoke about him after the game, the heart and soul of the offense will be missing for an extended period of time.
Red Zone Play-Calling
Brandon Bolden wasn’t supposed to factor in to the Patriots’ running back situation. But with White injured and Rhamondre Stevenson inactive (for the second straight week), the Patriots went ahead and handed the ball to Brandon Bolden on two consecutive runs from the Saints’ 11-yard line. The first one went for no gain; the second lost a yard.
On third down, Jones threw a pass to Smith near the line of scrimmage that had close to zero chance of turning into a touchdown. The Patriots settled for a field goal.
You can’t really fault Bolden on that. It’s more about the play-calling, which continues to be a problem for the Patriots when they get near the end zone.
The kicker successfully booted two more field goals, extending his streak to 35. Folk now has the seventh-longest consecutive field goal streak. He can climb into a tie for fifth if he hits his first field goal next week, he can reach a tie for fourth if he hits his next two, and he can move into fourth all by his lonesome if he hits his next three kicks.
While the final score didn’t show it, the defense had a solid day, outside of the final touchdown drive for New Orleans. Matt Judon was probably the best player out there, as he recorded 2.5 sacks and — as he has since the preseason — looked like he had been shot out of a cannon all game long.
Judon sack on second-and-3 from 18. turns into third-and-12 at 27.
The receiver caught the Patriots’ lone touchdown of the day, winning a jump ball against Paulson Adebo before impressively staying in bounds and reaching around the pylon for a touchdown.
Mac Jones lobs it up and Kendrick Bourne makes a play 🔥 #ForeverNE
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2021
Bourne set a career high with 96 receiving yards on his six catches.
Meyers had a good day statistically, with nine catches and 94 yards.