Best and Worst: Patriots 36, Saints 20
After a 10-play 75-yard drive capped by a TD pass to Rex Burkhead, Stephen Gostkowski doinked his extra point off the left upright leaving the Patriots with a 6-0 lead.
FROM BAD TO GOOD
Midway through the second quarter, Tom Brady had all kinds of company in the pocket from the Saints and – as a last resort – flung a pass out to the right that perfectly led a redirecting Gronk downfield. After stepping out of a tackle at the 5, he cruised in for his 69th career touchdown.
Harvey Langi – who committed a 15-yard face-mask penalty on a previous kickoff – hustled downfield and mashed Saints kick returner Alvin Kamara.
The Patriots got their third touchdown with a well-executed rub route in which The Patriots got their third touchdown with a well-executed rub route in which Brandin Cooks worked inside and got a body on Saints linebacker Craig Robertson, freeing up Chris Hogan for a touchdown. Since the contact occurred within a yard of the line of scrimmage, the contact was legal and the Pats had their third touchdown in as many drives.
The Saints answered back with a nine-play drive that ended with a similar rub route on which Malcolm Butler couldn’t get around the traffic to stick with Brandon Coleman who scored an easy touchdown to make it 20-10.
Stephon Gilmore got his skis crossed on a third-and-9 resulting in a 42-yard completion to Brandon Coleman.
CAN’T LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE
After a 35-yard field goal by Wil Lutz, a flag flew on the Patriots for encroachment. The Saints took the points off the board and tried to draw the Patriots offsides on fourth-and-3. New England didn’t bite, the Saints took a delay of game and Lutz trotted out and kicked another 35-yard field goal.
TOO MUCH GINN?
The Saints had a fourth-and-3 at the Patriots 25 just before the two-minute warning and dialed up a deep throw to Ted Ginn who had a step on Pats corner Eric Rowe. But Brees threw wide and behind Ginn and the Patriots were able to hustle downfield and get a half-closing field goal.
The Patriots had 15 plays of 10 or more yards in the first half and rolled up 353 yards of offense.
AIN’T SAINTS DAY
Early in the third, Brady caught the Saints with too many men on the field and flung a pass toward Chris Hogan which was picked and returned for a touchdown. The moment of glee in the Superdome was short-lived as the officials realized there were too many humans. A few plays later, Brady was picked on a pass intended for Gronk and that flag was wiped out as well by a defensive hold.
COMING AT A COST
There was a steady flow of medical attention being dispensed on the sidelines as cornerback Eric Rowe, wide receiver Chris Hogan and Gronk all had issues at different points. Rowe left with a groin injury in the second half. Hogan was limping quite a bit in the second half and Gronk left the field and checked into the medical pop tent on the sidelines. Gronk was landed on by two Saints tacklers and didn’t have any limbs checked but appeared wide-eyed and concerned while talking to the doctors. Finally, Rex Burkhead made his way to the locker room in the fourth quarter.