Patriots 7 Saints 6: Grading the Offense

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12), quarterback Brian Hoyer (8) and quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) on the bench as they take on the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter of the preseason game at Gillette Stadium.

Assigning a grade to the Patriots' offense for their performance in New England's 7-6 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the team's preseason opener Thursday night:

Passing Offense

The Patriots passing offense, as a whole, really struggled against the Saints. Tom Brady went four for seven for 30 yards, but also turned the ball over after being strip-sacked by Saints defensive end Will Smith. Brian Hoyer, the team's second string quarterback, fared a little better than Brady, going 8 for 15 for 45 yards and the team's only touchdown of the evening - a three yard score to Britt Davis. Hoyer actually performed at least close to par - his stats would have looked a lot better had Britt Davis been able to hold on to a deep pass that Hoyer zipped over the middle. The Patriots' third string quarterback, Ryan Mallett, had an abysmal evening, going 8 for 19 and sailing several passes over the heads of receivers.

While the Patriots' quarterbacks performed poorly on Thursday, some of the reason for that has to be do to the team's poor pass protection. Nate Solder was flagged for two holding penalties and allowed the strip-sack of Brady. Marcus Cannon didn't fare much better. It's hard to blame Brady for his poor night when he really didn't have enough time to throw the football. Some credit has to be given to the Saints' front seven, but the Patriots pass protection was sorely lacking.

Overall, for the passing offense, it was the type of day that you're going to look to improve on heading into next week's preseason match-up against the Eagles. There were some positives to take from the game, but it's obvious that there's a lot to work on.

Grade: D

Rushing grade after the jump!

Rushing Offense

The bright spot of the game for the Patriots was certainly their rushing attack. As painful to watch as the passing attack was, the Patriots fared that much better on the ground. The blocking was also certainly improved in the running game, with Nate Solder actually helping to spring a couple of nice runs. However, there were also several occasions when runners found themselves trapped in the backfield with nowhere to go.

As for the backs, it started with Stevan Ridley, who looked decisive in his cuts, carrying the ball for 40 yards on 8 attempts, mostly against the Saints starters. The second back into the game for the Patriots was Brandon Bolden, who had an up-and-down night, rushing for 23 yards on 8 carries. While the numbers weren't terrific, Bolden definitely showcased a bit of what the Patriots have seen in him, displaying patience and power on a 13 yard second half carry. The star of the night for the rushing attack was second year pro Shane Vereen. Vereen hadn't moved up the depth chart during training camp as expected, but look quick and explosive on his carries Thursday. I was also impressed by his ability to read blocks. He finished the game with 64 yards on 11 carries, and was the key player on the Patriots' only scoring drive in the third quarter.

Grade: B+

OVERALL OFFENSIVE GRADE: C-

Two turnovers, dropped passes, missed blocks, too many penalties - yes, Thursday night was ugly on offense for the Patriots. But it was also a preseason game. The Patriots have a lot of tape to work with now, and hopefully they can begin to turn things around on this side of the ball in the next week of practices.

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