Coming off their most lopsided defeat of the Bill Belichick era, the New England Patriots appear to be at a crossroads heading into a Week 5 meeting with the New Orleans Saints. A loss would drop them to 1-4 and might lead to some uncomfortable internal discussions, whereas a win might help them get back on track.
In order to get a better understanding of who the Patriots will be up against in Week 5, we exchanged questions with Luke Hubbard of Pats Pulpit’s sister site Canal Street Chronicles — the SB Nation community for all things Saints.
Here is what Luke told us about the upcoming game.
1. The stats haven’t been kind to New Orleans’ offense this season. Where does the responsibility fall for their lack of production, and where are their bright spots?
I think everybody needs to take some of the blame for the poor offensive play this season. It starts with Pete Carmichael and his bland play calling, but everyone needs to execute better. The line needs to block better (they have been steadily getting better each week), the receivers need to be sharper with their routes, and Derek Carr needs to be more consistent. I know he’s injured, but he missed some throws and reads he shouldn’t have missed.
As for the bright spots, I’d say Chris Olave has been our best offensive player. He’s made a bunch of crazy catches down the sideline and has shown why we traded up for him in last year’s draft. Rashid Shaheed has been another bright spot for our offense. He’s become a nice addition to the return game, and on top of that, he’s become a true weapon as a receiver. Carr was able to get the ball to them in the first two weeks pretty consistently, but since his injury, their production has dipped.
2. The Saints’ pass rush numbers are modest at first glance, but they’ve been outstanding on 3rd downs and when using stunts. What makes them so dangerous in these situations?
One reason they’ve been so dangerous is because of Bryan Bresee. Our first round pick this year (Thank you Denver) was looked at as a sort of ‘project’ player, but he’s made a huge impact already. He has actually had better numbers than Jalen Carter on a very similar snap count through four weeks. He’s been able to give us pressure from the inside and eat up those interior blockers to free some of our edges for those stunt plays.
Another reason is because of the emergence of Carl Granderson. The former UDFA has shown out for us the past few seasons, and with Marcus Davenport gone and Payton Turner hurt, Granderson has fully embraced the starting edge role. He’s been off to a good start, and he got paid a couple weeks ago because of his play.
3. I feel like New Orleans’ secondary isn’t getting nearly enough credit. Would you consider this one of the better groups in the league? And what’s been the key to their success?
The Saints secondary is very interesting. I would say they’re one of the best in the league, but they certainly have their moments where they look like they can’t guard anyone. I think one of the keys to their success is their aggressiveness. They love to make plays on the ball. They haven’t forced an insane amount of turnovers, but Isaac Yiadom, Marshon Lattimore and Alontae Taylor are the top three corners in terms of passes defended so far. But with their aggressiveness comes a lot of mistakes. They’ve let up their fair share of deep balls and there are some drives where it seems like the other team has a wide open guy almost every play. I wouldn’t trade our group for anyone else’s, but they do have to clean some things up before I crown them the best in the league.
4. If you’re Bill O’Brien, what’s your plan for moving the ball against this Saints defense?
I would say just be aggressive. As I alluded to earlier, the Saints secondary has a tendency to be too aggressive at points, so the Patriots receivers should be able to get some separation with some double moves or deep routes. Last week, Baker Mayfield had a lot of success hitting crossing routes and only threw one incomplete pass that was under 10 air yards. Those short to intermediate routes cooked our secondary last week, so I think if Mac Jones can work the short part of the field he can find success and open up some of those deeper shots when the Saints secondary tries to get too aggressive and starts playing those short routes tight.
5. Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have set the over/under for this game at a very modest 40 points. What needs to go wrong or right for these teams to hit the over?
Well to be honest with you, a lot of things will need to go right to hit this number. The Saints will have to magically figure out how to play some offense, because right now, I don’t know if they’re capable of scoring more than 14 points. I also don’t see the Patriots scoring more than 21 points on our defense, so to hit that 40 number, the Saints would also have to put up around 20 points.
The only world I see these two teams hit 40 points is if there are some special teams or defensive touchdowns. I think both squads have a good defense and an offense that can struggle to move the ball. It should be a defensive battle, so I’m smashing the under all day.
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