By Danny Cox
Defense is not something that the New Orleans Saints have been known for in a very long time, but there were flashes of hope during the preseason in The Big Easy. Those hopes were dashed a little bit in an opening season loss to the Minnesota Vikings and in Week 2, Tom Brady may have completely crushed them as he put on a clinic in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Not only did Brady lead the New England Patriots to an impressive 36-20 victory over the Saints on Sunday, but he did it with most of his starting pass-catchers out of the game.
Tom Brady could have been standing out there without a single soul coming after him, passing to receivers during passing drills, as that is what it seemed like he was doing. He finished the day with 447 yards on 30-of-39 passes, but he did have only three touchdowns. But those three touchdown passes came in the first quarter, and he didn’t need to do much else throughout the rest of the game.
Rob Gronkowski led the team with 116 yards and one touchdown on six receptions before leaving the game with a groin injury. Gronk didn’t talk to reporters after the game, but said he would be fine. The Pats didn’t have a lot of yards on the ground, but running back Mike Gillislee had 69 of them and one touchdown to keep the Saints guessing.
The ever-dangerous offense of the Saints was held in check with 429 total yards, but some of that came on the final drive of the game, which padded the numbers a bit. Drew Brees was held in check during the first quarter, but he played very well throughout the rest of the game. One good thing, though, is that the Pats were still able to force a number of Saints’ drives to stall.
New Orleans’ running game was also held in check as Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, and Alvin Kamara combined for just 81 yards on 17 carries. Twenty-eight of those came on one of the final plays of the day as Ingram broke through the line, and by then, the game had long since been decided.
The gold star of the day goes to Patrick Chung, who had eight total tackles and appeared to be involved on almost every single play of the day. No matter where a Saints player was tackled on the field, Chung was involved directly – or at least could be found nearby.
Special Teams: C
If there was any aspect of the Patriots’ day that didn’t live up to the hype, it was special teams. There were no kick returns and a mere single punt return for no yards.
Ryan Allen punted three times for an average of 37 yards while Stephen Gostkowski started the day off quite rough with a missed extra point. After that, he hit his other three extra point attempts and all three field goal tries.
Bill Belichick’s play-calling may have been off last week and his team may have seemed a bit rusty, but that all changed this time around. Everything worked perfectly – from pick plays at the line and slant patterns that left receivers wide open to a running game that broke up the monotony. This was a perfectly-called game that could have been much more of a blowout if the coach hadn’t called off the dogs.
The New England Patriots looked like the team that many people expected them to look like this season, but it appears as if they just needed to get one loss out of the way. Now, the stress of the perfect season is off of everyone’s shoulders, and if they keep playing like this, they may end up with just the single blemish on their 2017 record.