Struggles for offense early, especially from Nate Solder. Tom Brady and the Patriots 1st string offense couldn't really get much going on their opening two drives. They ran the ball efficiently, but the offensive line couldn't keep a frustrated Tom Brady upright. Nate Solder, in particular, seemed to struggle. He looked slow, was flagged multiple times (one negated a big gain to Brandon Lloyd), and also allowed a strip sack of Tom Brady which set up the Saints' only points of the first half.
Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen two bright spots for offense. Ridley looked decisive for the Patriots in the first half, picking up 40 yards on 8 carries. It was a strong performance that will help him hold down the spot as the 1st string running back. In the second half, Shane Vereen really shined. He was the third running back to get touches after Ridley and Brandon Bolden, but he arguably looked the best. He was quick, shifty, and read his blocks well. He finished with 11 carries for 64 yards.
Brian Hoyer leads only Patriots scoring drive. The Patriots only managed to score once against the Saints, but that would be enough to hang on for the win. The team's only scoring drive came on the opening drive of the second half. Led by quarterback Brian Hoyer and running back Shane Vereen, the team marched 97 yards in 14 plays, with the drive being capped off by a three yard Hoyer to Britt Davis touchdown over the middle of the field.
Chandler Jones impressive on 'D.' In the first half, Chandler Jones really impressed. He started the game at right end, and simply abused Saints' left tackle Jermon Bushrod. At one point, Jones drew back-to-back holding penalties on Bushrod. Obviously it's early, but you can't help but be excited from what we've seen from Jones to this point. He has a unique skillset that the Patriots haven't had anything close to since Willie McGinest.
Jerod Mayo looks healthy. One part of the game that is sure to be overlooked was the performance of linebacker Jerod Mayo. He's healthy, and it shows. He made a several nice plays in pass coverage, and also helped in run support. It's obvious that he is much healthier than he was in 2011. I think he's ready to return to the All-Pro level he played at in 2010.
Dane Fletcher leaves with knee injury. Dane Fletcher started the game at middle linebacker for the Patriots, and went down with a knee injury while covering a punt in the first quarter. Reports are indicating that Fletcher has torn his ACL. If true, the Patriots are going to be without a really solid and versatile depth linebacker, and will be forced to rely even more on veteran pickup Bobby Carpenter. The health of Brandon Spikes will also come under the microscope even more.
Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham show flashes. Jermaine Cunningham and Trevor Scott both had solid nights from the left end spot as pass rushers. Cunningham showed an ability to mix up his rushes with both power and quick hands, and was able to turn the corner a few times. Scott on the other hand, playing with the third unit, flashed very quick hands, and reminded me a bit of Mark Anderson in his moves and speed. He strip-sacked Saints quarterback Luke McCown in the fourth quarter. I was less impressed by the play of Justin Francis, who looked a bit slow off the snap when rushing from a two point stance.
Serious struggles for Ryan Mallett. Heading into the game, I was really intrigued to see where the development of Ryan Mallett stood. Yeah, it was only one game, but Mallett really struggled. Completing only 8 of 19 passes, Mallett made some really erratic throws, and showed little accuracy. He did throw a couple of lasers, and had one particularly impressive second quarter play in which he stepped up from pressure and found an open receiver, but overall, he really didn't look comfortable out there.
Safeties both come up with interceptions. It was a strong day for the Patriots starting back-end, with safeties Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung both coming up with interceptions to halt potential Saints field goal drives. Gregory made an acrobatic juggling catch off of a Jerod Mayo tipped pass, while Chung made an easy interception over the middle near the end of the first half. The Patriots defense really showed up tonight, and some credit has to be given to Chung and Gregory.