How do I even recap a game like that and do it any kind of justice? There is no two ways around this one, that was a brutal loss. As bad as it gets. That one will sting for a long time, worse because we're now left with that taste in our mouth going into the bye. The Saints had two golden opportunities to put this game away, all that was needed was a first down. They couldn't get one, though, and Tom Brady put a miraculous drive for the ages together to rip out the Saints' heart with 5 seconds left in the game. Both teams are now 5-1 and the Saints will head into the bye week nursing some injuries, including those of Cam Jordan and Jimmy Graham (neither appeared to be too too serious). Some observations in this one:
- Brees was just off all game. Way off. The throw to Kenny Stills to give them the lead late notwithstanding, he missed numerous throws including a gimme touchdown pass to Nick Toon. He forced way too many balls to Graham and Sproles when other guys were open and he was fortunate to only have one interception. That pick was horrid, by the way.
- Two major mistakes by the ref crew in this one. The first was a false start called on Jahri Evans before haltime on 4th and 1. That was clear encroachment. The Saints had to punt instead of getting the first down. The second was that Brees clearly called a timeout two seconds before the ball was snapped and wasn't awarded one. After that non time out was Brees' interception on the same play. Two major game changing impact plays there. The officiating crew just has to be better than that. I didn't have an issue with the Malcolm Jenkins hit as much, there seemed to be helmet contact.
- The defense was by and large superb yet again, sacking Brady 5 times and getting an interception too.
- The offensive line had by far their best game of the season. They gave up just one sack and had fantastic protection all day long, and the Saints rushed for 131 yards at 5.0 yards per carry. Hard to believe the Saints got the best performance from their o-line this season and lost.
- Brees threw 18 of his 36 attempts to Sproles and Graham. He completed just 6 of them. When the other team knows where it's coming and covers it you have to go elsewhere.
- Jimmy Graham was owned by Aqib Talib, the Patriots' top cover man who they elected to cover Graham all game until his injury. But once Talib left, Graham was still useless. While the Pats did a good job stopping Graham, he had two awful drops and he still had chances out there… he just didn't seem to want to play. He injured his ankle late.
- Khiry Robinson needs to see the football more. He ran like a beast out there. Pierre did his thing, too.
- Kenny Stills had a crazy 34 yard touchdown catch to give the Saints a 24-23 lead on 3rd and 20! One of the few fantastic plays by Brees all day, but sick job by Stills to go up and make that play.
- Travaris Cadet had a random cameo with a 3 yard touchdown reception. Sproles got banged up so he saw a little more action.
- Jabari Greer was beaten with 5 seconds left on a throw to Kenbrell Thompkins from 17 yards out. The coverage wasn't awful, he just got outjumped to the ball. Brutal.
- Rafael Bush laid some nasty hits all game long. Malcolm Jenkins too. Those boys can hit.
- The Saints blitzed relentlessly in this game, kudos to Rob Ryan for always giving the Patriots' o-line a different look so they didn't get comfortable.
- Neither Tom Brady nor Drew Brees played well in this game. I thought both looked barely above average missing multiple throws that could have blown the game open.
- Stevan Ridley is the real deal. The Saints were good stopping the run on 1st and 10 but Ridley is a slippery back that hits the hole hard.
- I thought the Saints' tackling was suspect in the first half, better in the second.
- Akiem Hicks was all over the place. Great game by the young end.
- I know this comes off weird but for the Saints to come into New England and play as bad as they did, but stick around, get a huge performance from the offensive line and play like that defensively gives me huge optimism for the rest of the season. This team can go really far. This is a valuable lesson for them they can learn from.
The Saints are now on a bye week starting right away and will use the time off to nurse numerous injuries. Then, the Saints will return to the Dome for a VERY winnable game against the Bills. Hang in there Saints fans, still tons to look forward to this year. This is a great team and they showed it today. This was a horrible loss to experience, to be sure, but this team showed they can go on the road and beat anyone. Most importantly, this defense showed they can make the big stops. That's what this team will need to go far.