September 29, 2016

New Orleans at Patriots Game Review: An Uneven Performance

The Patriots pulled out yet another needed, yet imperfect win Sunday against the New Orleans Saints in Foxboro. It was imperfect due to the uneven nature of it. At times, the offense was excellent, particularly in the first half. The defense also was very good for most of the first half. But, unfortunately, some breakdowns on both sides of the ball left the Patriots barely hanging on at the end. But, that being said, a win is a win as they say and anytime you can get one of those in the NFL, it outweighs all else considering the alternative.

On offense, the Patriots featured a balanced attack most of the day. The running game featured the dual tandem of Patrick Pass and Heath Evans and clicked early on. The passing game was also on fire in the first half with quarterback Tom Brady hitting tight end Ben Watson repeatedly and finding some nice rhythm with Pass and receiver Deion Branch as well. A number of drops by tight end Christian Fauria were disappointing and slowed down the Patriots attack some.

However, as the game wore on, the offense became less effective. The pass blocking had some problems, particularly at right tackle where Brandon Gorin was filling in for the injured Tom Ashworth. Brady had some trouble as well, missing on some long passes in which the receivers appeared open. They did hit on one long one, a 60-yarder to Andre Davis, but the timing seemed off on most of the others. This may be in part attributable to the fact the Patriots were missing three of the six receivers on their roster.

On defense, the Patriots played a very solid game most of the first half. Willie McGinest had easily his best game of the year, forcing Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks to rush his throws, defending the run well and getting out in coverage and causing havoc there as well. Others who looked good early on were defensive lineman Richard Seymour, lineman Vince Wilfork and safety Michael Stone.

But as the game progressed, the Patriots did have some breakdowns on defense. The running game for the Saints never really got moving, but they did get their passing game moving and the pressure from the front of the Patriots defense wore down late in the game. Brooks with time made some good throws and hit Dontae Stallworth twice for TDs and nearly brought the Saints back for the tie until throwing an interception to Eugene Wilson in the end zone on the last play of the game.

The special teams were good today for the Patriots and featured nice kicks and coverage as well as a few decent returns. This was a positive factor in the game.

Overall, it was a decent performance for the Patriots but still one that left you unconvinced of their long term prospects. GDRV did not see the progress over the whole game hoped for from the previous week. It started out good, but went downhill as it moved along. That was disappointing and, at best, they merely maintained their level of play from the previous week rather than increased it.

Still, its a win, their first two game win streak of the season. They are now firmly in first place without any of the other teams in the division appearing to have much of a chance to challenge. They’ll continue to get players back from injury (and they were missing an alarming number of significant ones against the Saints). So, in that respect, they are still on target for the playoffs. It also isn’t terribly significant what their level of play is this week, it will be significant what it is in December and January. Consistent improvement towards that is a must, however, and they’ll need to increase that level significantly if they are to pull out a win this coming week in Kansas City.

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