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Patriots vs. Saints: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I don’t know about any of you, but I personally thought the previous Pats/Saints matchup at Gillette was a lot more fun.

Give me Kenbrell Thompkins and show ponies all day over what went down yesterday. Just a dud all around. And while we’re Patriots fans, which means nothing is ever good enough, it wasn’t all bad.

Just mostly bad. Mostly really, really bad.

  • If you felt, or are feeling, an odd sense of deja vu surrounding this game, not to worry. It’s perfectly normal. The faces were different, and maybe there wasn’t the same set of circumstances that we’re used to...but this was one of those games where nobody really showed up to play, from the head coach down to the backup jockstrap washer, and the whole team just kind of laid an egg.
  • And it really was everybody. Bad playcalling. A lack of adjustments. Awful protection from the line. Weak run defense. Soft coverage. A blocked punt. Poor field position. Little receiver separation. Costly penalties. Bad discipline. And when you’re built to be a ball-controlling, high-percentage, methodical team, and your leading rusher on the day is your rookie quarterback with 28 yards...well, you get what we all sat through yesterday.
  • There are a lot of football-shaped turds to pass around here, but if I had to give one anti-game ball, it has to go to Jonnu Smith. To go along with his one catch for four yards, he was responsible for two interceptions, one of which was a pick six that put the game away before the second half even started. He got beat at the line in the blocking game and ended up doing his team more harm than good. This would be the part in the movie where, after the game, Smith snuck out of the locker room to go collect his bribe from the bad guy who makes a living fixing games.
  • It wasn’t just Smith, though; again, there really isn’t much to take away here in terms of positives. But I’ll try.
  • I’d argue that a game like this is going to be much better for the development of Mac Jones than the last two games combined. That he only took two sacks on the day is one of the more surprising stat lines this morning, because he spent the majority of the game doing the NFL version of a Butabi brothers dance. You could just kind of see it in his face too, a sort of “good Lord what the hell is happening out there” kind of dejection that all QBs must go through multiple times as they grow and develop.
  • And it’s not like the Saints have a lights out defense or got super creative with their packages; they just won all the battles at the line of scrimmage and made the adjustments when they needed to, and New England didn’t have any answers.
  • There’s certainly a chance that one of the reasons that New England didn’t have any answers is because they were going to be running a James White heady offense yesterday, and when he went down JJ Taylor just didn’t have the in-game experience to make it happen.
  • Is that a massive, massive reach? Absolutely. But I’m trying here. Give me some credit.
  • Speaking of White - I’d be amazed if his season isn’t over, which is just a massive blow. He was, in my opinion, going to be the most important piece of that entire offense and the player that connected every other player to each scheme. He was the T piece in the Tetris game of the New England Patriots offense. Maybe he’ll be back...but I’m trying to think of the last time a player shook hands with members of the opposing team as he got carted off the field and returned that season and coming up blank.
  • At first I thought to myself “boy, Rhamondre Stevenson has lost a lot of weight and for some reason seems completely incapable to bowling anyone over” before I forgot he took Brandon Bolden’s number and Belichick decided he’d rather go with Bolden for special teams value and Stevenson was inactive again. I feel like this time was more of a gameplan thing as opposed to him still being in the doghouse...but I don’t really have anything to back that up beyond my own idiocy.
  • If I had to pick a few more bright spots from the offense, it would be that Mac Jones’s stat line makes it look like he played way worse than he did. He threw three interceptions, sure - but the first was off a Smith drop that was a little out in front of him, but he should have caught, and the second was a Smith drop that hit him right in the hands that he 1,000% should have caught. And the final pick of the day was when the Patriots were in desperation mode and the game was over anyway. I would argue that none of those picks came from poor decision making.
  • Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers also each had almost 100 yards receiving on the day, which is another plus, and nine Patriots caught at least one pass. Jones is spreading the ball around well.
  • Now if only this line could block. It doesn’t really make any sense, as four of five guys from last year are back and the fifth was New England’s best lineman a few years ago before he left for a well-deserved payday. I’m hopeful that they can turn it around, because the talent is there...but right now this line is comprised of five separate Chip Dillers.
  • What’s really frustrating is that, defensively, New England didn’t play horribly. The game could easily have been 28-3 at the half, but the Patriots forced punts and got the benefit of some missed field goals. The Pats were in this one longer than they deserved to be because the D stepped up even when they didn’t have any rest time between three and outs. They had a short field because of a pick and one of the touchdowns they gave up was just one of those absurd plays that seem to screw the Patriots every once in a while; Winston was as good as sacked, he hucked up the kind of red zone prayer that gets players benched most days, and Marquez Callaway made an amazing catch. That kind of thing happens.
  • Was it all good defensively? No way. Everybody knew that Alvin Kamara represented New Orleans’ best weapon, and they just couldn’t stop him. Once again, they couldn’t stop the run at all to the tune of 142 yards on the ground. And when New England finally got in the end zone to make it a one score game, the defense gave up a 75 yard, 13 play TD drive that ate up seven minutes of clock and put the game on ice. The defense has a lot of skill players, but no teeth. And my worry is that the one who should be giving it to them is now wearing dentures.
  • I’m talking about Dont’a Hightower, who has officially graduated off my “looks a little slow out there” list and has made his way onto “uh oh” island. The boat he used to get there is in great shape, well-stocked, and it’s not that far away from Studland where Hightower owns a lot of real estate...but if you forgot he was even out there yesterday, I don’t blame you. He needs to step it up.
  • I don’t think it was a scenario where everyone looked past this game or took it for granted or anything like that. I just think it was a poorly coached, poorly played, and poorly executed game. And credit to the Saints, who figured out what worked early and just kept doing it until New England had an answer, which they didn’t. It’s always tough when you lose a game by three scores and the opposing QB didn’t even throw for 130 yards - but the team that deserved to win won it, and New England needs to respond in a big way.
  • Sorry, Julian Edelman. You deserved better in your return appearance.

The good news about games like this is that, in the past, the team has bounced back with a great week of practice, big-time motivation and a huge statement game in which they completely dominate the following Sunday. I’m going to have to go and check the schedule and see who they’re playing next week. I sure do feel sorry for those bums, whoever they are.