The New England Patriots began their season with an unexpected week one loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Since 2001, the Patriots were 38-11 following a loss. Today, they added one to the win column with a 36-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints. The game, touted by many as a shootout, was only the third time in NFL history two quarterbacks with over 50,000 career passing yards faced off. The Patriots ran away with this one early and didn’t look back. Here are three major takeaways from the Patriots week two trouncing.
Week Two New England Patriots Takeaways
Tom Brady Comes Out Strong
Following the lackluster performance put on by Tom Brady last week, Patriots fans heard echoes of week four of the 2014 season. From statements about Brady’s age to debates of the “Madden Curse,” we heard it all. Analysts around the league wondered if we were seeing the decline of the illustrious quarterback unfold right before our eyes. New England fans expected to see a more confident Patriots week two performance.
The Pats offense came out of the gates firing, in a performance unexpected by many. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the Patriots found themselves up 20-3. Brady’s three first-quarter touchdowns were a career high. Head coach Bill Belichick showed his savvy game-planning skills as the Patriots lit up the Saints for 177 passing yards in the first 15 minutes.
By halftime, Tom Brady has accumulated 302 passing yards, the second most of his career. Brady also managed to achieve a 155.3 passer rating, just three points shy of perfection (158.3). The 362 total offensive yards also added up to the second most in the Belichick-Patriots era. The coach-quarterback duo appeared to be up to their old tricks once again this Sunday.
Patriots Front Seven Shines
Among the issues coming from the Patriots’ week one loss to the Chiefs was their defensive struggles. The most surprising failure came from the rush defense, who allowed a total of 185 rushing yards including 148 yards to rookie Kareem Hunt.
Facing the trio of Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, the Patriots front seven appeared to take a step in the right direction on Sunday. The Saints backfield combined for only 81 total rushing yards in the game. Rookie defensive tackle Adam Butler had another good showing despite not recording a tackle, helping stuff ball carriers at the line.
However, the most notable of the rookie class today was Deatrich Wise Jr. The former Razorback came up with a big sack of Drew Brees, followed by a rush that resulted in Brees throwing the ball away on the next play. This game marked the second straight week of big plays allowed by the Patriots secondary. Nevertheless, the run defense held its own and played a huge contribution to the victory.
No Receivers, No Problem
The Patriots announced Friday that Danny Amendola was officially ruled out of Sunday’s matchup. New England’s offense was left with three active wide receivers to work with. The Patriots week two depth chart consisted of Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and newcomer Phillip Dorsett at the receiver position. Due to Julian Edelman‘s ACL tear, along with Malcolm Mitchell‘s IR placement, many expected the offense as a whole to feel the effects of a shallow receiving corps.
The Patriots offense came out of the gate and didn’t miss a beat. Brady completed nine throws to running backs and tight ends before finding Dorsett and Hogan on the Patriots third drive. Of Brady’s 447 passing yards thrown, 264 landed in the hands of skill players outside the receiver position.
Belichick and Josh McDaniels showed their coaching brilliance in the offensive game planning for this matchup. The Saints defense routinely saw tight end Rob Gronkowski line up outside, a scheme Patriots fans have come to love. Throughout the game, viewers saw a variety of skill players, from running backs James White and Dion Lewis to fullback James Develin, lining up as receivers in attempts to force a mismatch.
The showing of versatility in the offense is a huge sigh of relief for Patriots fans. Hogan finished the game off with a noticeable limp. Dorsett was forced out midgame with a groin injury, and Gronkowski reportedly injured his groin. With a long season ahead, it is reassuring for the New England Patriots to see that the all too familiar mantra of “Next Man Up” is still alive and well.