The Patriots quickly fell behind 21-0 with the first team offense and defense on the field, but were able to close it out with a 26-24 win on a game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The Patriots not only won, but didn't suffer any major injuries to key players.
Jimmy Garoppolo: After looking like a deer in the headlights, Jimmy Garoppolo looked great tonight. Garoppolo was throwing laser passes to his receivers and was able to march down the field. Garoppolo was releasing passes at a quick rate and wasn't pressured much. At the end of the first half, Garoppolo was able to escape a potential Bobby Richardson sack and turned it into a 24-yard TD pass to Chris Harper. Aside from an ill-advised floater in the 4th quarter that was intercepted by Saints safety Pierre Warren, Garoppolo was on point and dissected the Saints defense. If we can see this Garoppolo in the regular season, the Patriots will be in fine shape even if Brady's suspension is upheld.
Chris Harper: Harper was fantastic again tonight, both as a receiver and as a punt returner. With the injuries plaguing the WR position, Harper has stepped up and has had a fantastic camp and preseason. He was on the same page as Jimmy Garoppolo all night and catch everything going his way. Two more games like this, he might sneak onto the 53-man roster.
Dion Lewis: Lewis got his first extended look in preseason tonight and he excelled. From the looks of it, the receiving back role is going to be a very spirited competition with Lewis and White proving to be already viable options and Cadet potentially coming back. For now, I think Lewis has just edged out White a little bit in the running for that role because of more experience as a pass protector and a stronger burst after the catch. This battle is still far from over and whoever sticks is going to be good. We'll see who gets the nod in the 3rd preseason game, where the starters get their final tune up for the regular season.
Malcom Brown: Brown is making a strong case to start right off the bat. Brown was solid against the run game again, which is expected if you watched him in 2014. With the loss of Vince Wilfork, it's an all hands on deck to try to fill the void he left. Siliga is the Patriots' best interior DL and Brown could be their 2nd best. Brown is scheme versatile and can play virtually any technique in any defensive alignment. If he starts in the 3rd preseason game, he's probably starting against Pittsburgh in Week 1.
Honorable mention to the 2nd half offensive line: they did a great job of creating lanes for the running backs and keeping Jimmy Garoppolo upright after a horrendous game against the Packers last week. Here was the OL in the 2nd half:
LT- Chris Martin #65
LG- Shaq Mason #69 (3rd) and Ryan Groy #70 (4th)
C- Josh Kline #67
RG- Tre Jackson #63
RT- Cameron Fleming #71