Sunday’s forecast called for a rock fight. Only there was no fight.
Here’s a glance back on the largest home shutout loss in franchise history as head coach Bill Belichick’s side moves forward with a 1-4 record for the first time since 2000.
From benched to benched
A week removed from three turnovers becoming two touchdowns and a benching against the Dallas Cowboys, Mac Jones needed to clear the air. The air got worse.
Beginning with “11” personnel and a three-and-out, New England’s starting quarterback had his initial three throws fall incomplete. Climbing the pocket as defensive end Carl Granderson collided, his next went the other way on a 27-yard pick returned for six by safety Tyrann Mathieu. Another deficit of double digits. And 69 unanswered points dating back to what transpired at AT&T Stadium.
Jones completed 12-of-22 passes for 110 yards with two interceptions on Sunday. The offense averaged 2.9 yards per play by halftime. A pitch high and behind led to a fumble after it. And a catch bobbled out of ex-Saint Ty Montgomery’s hands landed in linebacker Pete Werner’s soon after. In stepped backup quarterback Bailey Zappe with 13:03 to go. By game’s end, there were eight punts against a New Orleans defense allowing a 59 percent completion rate this season.
Douglas and Smith-Schuster depart out wide
Demario Douglas provided New England’s lone offensive bright spot.
The rookie wide receiver went up and came down with 24 yards on third down to move the chains in the first quarter. The ruling of a catch was challenged and upheld. But in the process came a penalty for unnecessary roughness on New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Douglas, whose explosiveness was seen in the prior blowout on a catch-and-run of 42 yards, exited for the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion in the second quarter. The Liberty product was downgraded to out on an afternoon JuJu Smith-Schuster also departed for the blue medical tent following a helmet-to-helmet hit. The March signing did not return.
Offensive line starts same five to same result
The Patriots entered Sunday behind the rest of the NFL in ESPN’s pass-block win rate. More pressure arrived on nearly half of the plays. A pair of sacks came on one drive with under a minute to play before intermission. And around both bookends via the Saints’ Granderson, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Cameron Jordan.
The offensive line featured Trent Brown at left tackle, Atonio Mafi at left guard, David Andrews at center, Mike Onwenu at right guard and Vederian Lowe at right tackle. It marked the first time New England had started the same combination in back-to-back games. The results remained unchanged.
Veteran Riley Reiff, who cleared injured reserve the afternoon prior, rotated in at both guard spots. That move was made with Cole Strange again going from questionable to inactive due to a knee injury. It was also made with Onwenu, New England’s 2022 snap leader, downgraded to out due to an ankle injury.
Patriots’ pair of backs average 3.1 yards from scrimmage
The New Orleans defense entered Sunday having allowed 3.59 yards per rush and 7.84 yards per reception to opposing running backs this fall. And no touchdowns. All of which held true.
Rhamondre Stevenson handled eight carries for 24 yards. Spelling the starter, Ezekiel Elliott added eight carries for 21 yards and four catches for 17 yards.
Losses were among them. And with 25 minutes to go, the Patriots called upon rookie Bryce Baringer to punt. It was fourth-and-3 from the Saints’ 40 in a matinee that saw kicker Chad Ryland miss his lone attempted field goal.
Carr to Kamara
A week after turning to his decorated running back 24 times, Derek Carr went back for more on Sunday.
The Saints quarterback found Alvin Kamara for 17 receiving yards and 80 rushing yards over the course of 25 touches. A touchdown run was logged at the goal line in the second quarter. It put the Patriots down 14-0. There was little resistance at the line of scrimmage against an offense that ranked last in the league in red-zone efficiency.
Carr went 18-of-26 through the air for 183 yards during his visit with the Patriots. The outing included a touchdown to wide receiver Chris Olave in the back of the end zone and also a shovel score to tight end Foster Moreau.
Jackson’s second act in New England’s secondary
The news of the trade with the Los Angeles Chargers arrived Wednesday. And by Sunday, J.C. Jackson was back in the secondary he called home for 25 interceptions from 2018 through 2021. Wearing No. 29, the former Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection debuted on the second drive and had one tackle.
The returning Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant started at cornerback. Shaun Wade stepped in as the nickel and broke up an early pass downfield intended for wideout Michael Thomas, who finished with a Saints-high 65 receiving yards through four catches and seven targets.
New England moved NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month Christian Gonzalez, who suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum versus Dallas, to injured reserve on the eve of the kickoff.
Two sacks mark the lone stops for loss in Judon’s absence
Matthew Judon has yet to be placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair a torn lower bicep tendon. But with December the reported target for his return, New England’s replacement plan proved to be a multiple one.
On Sunday, Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche started off the edges in the absence of the perennial Pro Bowler. Deatrich Wise Jr. put his hand down on the interior next to the defensive tackles. And rookie second-round pick Keion White spelled in at the spot normally occupied by No. 9.
Two sacks were registered by game’s end. No additional quarterback hits or tackles for loss were. Blitzing inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley got the first takedown on third down to end New Orleans’ initial drive. And from the cornerback spot, Bryant got the second on a coverage sack.