1. Tom Brady was his usual incredible self.
Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Brady looked pedestrian and completed less than half of his pass attempts. Against the Saints, the 40-year old future Hall of Famer was spectacular and in total command from the first snap onwards. Brady completed 30 of 39 pass attempts for 447 yards - the third-highest regular season total of his career - and three touchdowns to three different receivers (overall, nine different players caught a pass).
2. New England excelled in situational football.
The Patriots pride themselves on being a smart football team. Against the Saints, this was on display multiple times: On a 4th-and-short attempt late in the first half, New England's defense did not get drawn offside and instead forced New Orleans to abandon the try. Later in the second quarter, with the Patriots driving towards a last-second field goal, the team performed a quick offense-to-special teams change to perfection. The final example of smart football came in the third quarter when Tom Brady caught the Saints with 12 defenders on the field to quickly convert a third down.
3. Injuries continue to take their toll on the team.
New England already entered the contest without multiple core players in all three phases of the game - and the injuries continued to pile up: Cornerback Eric Rowe suffered a groin injury, Rex Burkhead left the contest with a ribs issue, Chris Hogan injured his knee and Phillip Dorsett appeared to have suffered an ankle injury. The biggest one, however, was suffered by Rob Gronkowski: The NFL's best tight end left the game in the third quarter with what later turned out to be a groin injury. Before that...
4. Rob Gronkowski was dominating the Saints' defense.
Before he exited the game, the Saints were unable to slow Gronkowski down. The All-Pro caught six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in the game's first 40 minutes. His only blemish was an endzone drop late in the second quarter but overall, Gronkowski had a spectacular game. Now, the Patriots have to hope that his injury is no serious one. For what it is worth (little, at this point in time), it did not look like that initially.
5. Short on wide receivers, the Patriots turned to their running backs.
New England used all four of its primary running backs and found great success no matter if on the ground or through the air. With the team entering the contest with only three pure wide receivers, James White and Rex Burkhead saw additional chances as pass catchers, finishing with a team-high eight and three receptions, respectively. Dion Lewis and fullback James Develin added one pass apiece. Don't be surprised if the running backs continue to play integral roles in the passing game in the future.
6. New England's defense was really good on third down.
The Patriots were able to keep the home team to only 25 minutes of possession. They were able to do that by usually not allowing the Saints to extend drives: New England's defense gave up only four of 12 third down attempts all game long, while also stopping one of two fourth down tries. For a defense that struggled to consistently stop last week's opponent this has to be considered a step in the right direction.
7. New England's offense has to improve in the red zone.
The Patriots' offense was able to score 36 points and was in control of the game from the get-go. However, the unit did still not play a flawless game and could have scored even more points if not for some questionable red zone play: Overall, the team went only 3-of-7 in the red area as it had to settle for four short field goals - three of which in the second half.
8. Rookie Deatrich Wise Jr. was a standout.
After a mostly solid performance in his first NFL game, rookie defensive edge Deatrich Wide Jr. was one of the Patriots' best defenders this week. The fourth round draft pick finished with New England's lone sack of the day while adding an additional five quarterback hits as well as two tackles for loss. It appears as if the Patriots have found a talented pass rusher to pair with Trey Flowers.
9. Patrick Chung is the Patriots' punt returner.
With nominal number one punt returner Danny Amendola out with a concussion and Cyrus Jones and Julian Edelman both on season-ending injured reserve, the Patriots turned to their starting strong safety to return punts. To be fair, though, Patrick Chung did not do a lot of returning: He returned one punt but for no gain and fair caught two more.
10. Alan Branch has slipped down the depth chart.
Coming off an uneven performance against the Chiefs, the Patriots opted to use Branch in a limited role today. Of course, a lot of this likely had to do with the opponent - a pass-first Saints offense - but it still is a development to keep an eye on. After all, Branch was the Patriots' best defensive tackle just a year ago.