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Patriots game plan against the New Orleans Saints

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NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots go into Week 2 with the need to pick up a win to get to 1-1 and return a little bit of normalcy to the team then work on improving by each week. Last week proved the Patriots had a long way to go in order to become the playoff juggernaut we’ve seen over the years. This week goes a long way in determining how this season could unfold. I do think we’ll see more urgency on offense with Brady and the defense stiffen up a bit. So these are the points of emphasis for when the Patriots play the Saints in the Superdome.

Avoid turnovers: The last thing the Patriots need is to give Drew Brees and the Saints offense a short field or an extra possession. In a game that may turn out into a shootout, a lost possession or a big mental mistake could be enough to cost the Patriots the game. Ball security and surehands are a must on the field in order to score and also keep the Saints off the field. If the Patriots can stay clean on the turnovers, I think they’ll win.

Finish Drives in the Red Zone on Offense: The Patriots may need to score 30+ to win this game, which means Red Zone execution is a must. The Patriots did have 3 Red Zone TDs last week, but were 3 of 6 and left at least 15 points off the board in a 15-point loss. Part of the improvement will have to come from the passing game, which was out of sync. Every opportunity in the game will be crucial.

Defense must stiffen up in own territory: Last week, the Patriots defense let the Chiefs march up and down the field effortlessly, giving up more 90-yard drives than the past 3 seasons combined. The defense will likely be without captain Dont’a Hightower so there is a void in the defense to worry about. The Patriots will ultimately play a bend but don’t break style of defense especially while trying to figure out which personnel work the best. The Saints offense can put up yards in a hurry, but the Patriots defense must be able to force the Saints to punt or kick field goals while the offense hammers away for touchdowns.

Take away Michael Thomas: With Willie Snead suspended for this game, the Patriots can turn their attention to Saints’ #1 WR Michael Thomas. Thomas has a bit more size at 6’3” 215, so the CB matchup should be Stephon Gilmore instead of Malcom Butler. The goal will be to force Brees to check it down to either the RB or TE, or throw low percentage passes to Ted Ginn Jr. Drew Brees is very capable of picking apart the Patriots offense, but forcing him to go to his 2nd-3rd read buys the pass rush a bit more time to get there. If the Saints are able to move the ball and score with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th best weapons, all we can do is tip the cap to a future Hall of Famer.

Field Position Matters: The Patriots were inconsistent with field position in Week 1, particularly on the punt coverage unit. Forcing long fields is a must against a higher octane offense even though it’s missing a lot of key pieces to injuries and suspensions. Longer fields for the defense means more chances to stop the Saints offense without giving up points. It’s the same point as the turnovers, make the Saints earn everything. Stephen Gostkowski and the kickoff coverage unit need to force the Saints to start drives inside their own 20 yard line along with Ryan Allen, who had a horrible game punting, and the punt coverage team.