FOXBORO - Jimmy Garoppolo's night ended better than it began in the one half of action he saw against the Saints in Thursday night's preseason opener at Gillette Stadium.
The third-year quarterback, who will serve as Tom Brady's replacement and New England's starter for the first month of the season, completed 11-of-18 passes for 168 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in the exhibition start.
Considering he didn't have any help from Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan or Dion Lewis -- all of whom were unavailable Thursday -- Garoppolo's day could be considered solid though not spectacular.
"You never know who you’re going to get in the preseason," he said. "That’s just how it is around here, but we do a great job at practice of mixing and matching all the guys. You get a little bit of experience with everybody and I think everybody came out to play today. It was a pretty good result."
The first drive of the game began ominously for Garoppolo. He completed his first attempt to Martellus Bennett for seven yards but seemed to leave the throw behind his intended target, limiting Bennett's chance at picking up yards after the catch. On the next play, Garoppolo was sacked by Saints defensive end Kasim Edebali.
Garoppolo was 3-for-7 to start, but he eventually found his footing and completed eight of his final 11 passes for 135 yards.
"Yeah, it wasn’t our best start, no question," he said after the game. "We started a little slow, which we never want to do, but that’s going to happen sometimes. You’re not going to always start the right way, and it’s just how you react to that.
"It was a good experience tonight just being put in a difficult situation and then just seeing how the guys responded, how everyone responded. I think we reacted in the right way."
Garoppolo continues to show a quick release when he decides to pull the trigger, and his best throw of the game was a 24-yarder to rookie Malcolm Mitchell down the left sideline that showed some touch. Garoppolo also made an impressive toss with Saints safety Roman Harper bearing down on him, getting the football to James White for a 56-yard catch-and-run.
"He made a tremendous play," Garoppolo said of White. "Actually, a lot of guys made tremendous plays on that. The linemen got downfield, had some nice cut blocks and everything, and it was a well-designed play. I thought he was in, personally, but tough call."
Mitchell and Garoppolo appeared to have good chemistry together, hooking up for a team-high four times for 55 yards before Mitchell left the game with a gruesome-looking elbow injury that has been reported by the Boston Herald as a dislocation.
Garoppolo took two sacks on the night, the second of which came after he attempted to scramble away from pressure and lost 14 yards.
Garoppolo used his legs for a positive gain at one point in the second quarter when he picked up four yards in a fourth-and-two situation to extend a drive that eventually resulted in a Stephen Gostkowski 38-yard field goal.
"The scramble play, it didn’t make the sideline very happy," Garoppolo said. "But it was fourth down, and I don’t know, the football player inside me kicked in, I guess. In the future, I’ll hopefully slide in that situation, but I wanted to get the first down."
Patriots rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett took over for Garoppolo to start the second half. He went 7-for-13 for 63 yards. Brissett also flashed some athleticism by scrambling for 19 yards on two carries.