]()New England dropped to 1-1 in the preseason with a 37-27 loss to the Saints at Gillette Stadium Thursday night.
After leading in this one 24-16 at the half, the Patriots defense had a difficult time keeping the Saints from chipping away. Finally, the Saints took out the hammer when last week's story, Matt Cassel was sacked for the third time, fumbled and watched the ball returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Pre-game scratches for the Patriots were David Terrell, P.K. Sam, Randall Gay, Duane Starks, Chad Morton, Corey Dillon, Guss Scott, Cedric Cobbs, Andre Torrey, Mike Vrabel, Brandon Gorin, Bethel Johnson, Jed Weaver, Santonio Thomas and Ty Warren. Deion Branch dressed but did not play.
Brady opened the game in very un-Bradylike fashion by tossing a sideline pass directly to New Orleans' Dwight Smith, intended for Kevin Faulk. The Saints converted the turnover into three points on a 23-yard John Carney field goal.
]()Faulk started the game in place of Dillon.
Undaunted, Brady bounced back on his next series, connecting with Tim Dwight on a 45-yard bomb just as he was hit releasing the ball downfield. The play came right after a 10-yard run by Faulk to open the series.
On first and goal from the Saints 2, Patrick Pass pounded it in behind Dan Klecko for the score and a 7-3 Patriots lead.
Things got a little chippy on the Saints next series between Willie McGinest and Jammal Brown but what was really hurting the Saints were penalties. Miscues put them in a third and 15 hole that they almost climbed out of with a 14-yard Aaron Stecker run. Once again, run defense was an issue for the Patriots as several players, including Jarvis Green and Chad Brown, missed chances to bring Stecker down. Only a questionable spot at the end of the run forced the punt for the Saints.
Tim Dwight showed the speed that attracted the Patriots with a 19-yard return and Brady continued sharpshooting down the field with a 12-yard pass to Dwight and 16 to Troy Brown on a first and 20 play from the Saints 29. A nice run by Pass up the middle for 8 yards gave New England a first and goal from the 5. From there, though, Brady came up empty three straight times and Vinatieri made the score 10-3 with a 23-yard field goal.
New Orleans evened the score with a 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Mike Karney up the middle. A 25-yard completion from Aaron Brooks to Donte Stallworth got the Saints out of a third and 7 jam early. Later, it looked like the New England defense would force a field goal after New Orleans was first and goal from the 8 but a Rodney Harrison hold on third down negating a McGinest sack gave new life to the drive and two plays later, Karney ran it in.
The Patriots punted on their next possession and Miller's kick was a beauty, downed on the 3-yard line.
After earning one first down on a 9-yard Deuce McAllister run on third and 7, Brooks looked to Joe Horn. The ball bounced out of Horn's arms, off of Chad Scott and into the hands of Harrison who returned the interception to the Saints 3. Kyle Eckel did the rest of the work with a fullback carry for the score.
]()Doug Flutie was in at quarterback on the play as Brady's night ended with the previous series. His numbers: 6 of 11 for 105 yards and the pick.
McAllister continued running well into the Saints next series (15 carries for 68 yards in the first half) and Carney brought his team within four at 17-13 with a 33-yard field goal.
Flutie then got a chance to run the Patriots two-minute drill and looked like the seasoned vet he is.
After Ellis Hobbs made a nice return of the kickoff for 53 yards, Flutie hit Dwight for 12. On the very next play, he looked to the left and Jason Anderson who made a terrific play to outleap his defender and snatch the ball out of the air for the touchdown, his second scoring catch of the preseason.
The quick strike gave New Orleans time to answer and with :36 left they were already on the New England 24 with a second down. A Michael Lewis 37-yard return of the kickoff was a big part of the drive and another Harrison hold also helped.
The Saints had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Carney to make the halftime score 24-16, Patriots.
The Saints had 125 yards on the ground in the first half alone. As the second half opened and the Patriots defensive seconds took the field, the run defense began to improve slightly. Enough at least to stop the Saints to open the third quarter.
Patrick Pass bounced off the pack and rumbled down the sideline for 49 yards on New England's first try of the second half but other than a 6-yard Kory Chapman run, the drive stalled. Vinatieri made good on a 32-yard attempt and the score was 27-16.
With Aaron Brooks still in the game, he took advantage of the Patriots second and third stringers to the tune of a 34-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson to make the score 27-22. On the play, Hobbs gambled by going for the ball and lost, leaving no one to stop Henderson on his way to the score. The Saints failed in a two-point conversion try.
]()Flutie ended 3 of 4 passing for 52 yards and a touchdown. He gave way to Matt Cassel with around a minute left in the third quarter.
This time around, the rookie had more of a rookie performance.
Scoring pretty much ground to a halt until the Saints managed a late touchdown to take the lead, 30-27. Most of plays came from quarterback Todd Bouman and wide receiver Nate Poole. It was Poole who caught the 9-yard touchdown pass, diving in the air and breaking the plane of the goal with the ball. The Saints again tried for the two-point conversion and this time were successful.
That left 1:50 to play and an excellent situation for Cassel to show something.
The drive started at the Patriots 9 after an illegal block in the back by Monty Biesel on the kickoff.
Matthew Clark was called for defensive holding on the first play and the ball moved to the 14. On the next play Cassel was sacked for the third time in the game. This time he coughed the ball up and Jimmy Verdon recovered from 9 yards out and returned it for a touchdown.
Cassel looked better in his next series as time ran out with completions to Chapman for 8, Bam Childress for 12 and Eugene Baker for 23 yards to the Saints 10. Two false starts hurt the drive and Cassel was unable to get a legitimate look at the end zone. He ended the night 7 of 11 passing for 69 yards.
Notes: Ellis Hobbs had a few nice kickoff returns including his 53-yarder. He averaged 27.8 yards on 4 returns. On defense he had 7 tackles and a sack but made some rookie mistakes, one costing a touchdown. ... Rodney Harrison led all Patriots with 10 tackles. He looks ready to start the season. ... Albeit in scrub play, Wesley Mallard looked very active from his linebacker position with 4 tackles and half a sack. ... Tully Banta-Cain also had a good game on defense with 5 tackles. ... Chad Brown seemed where he needed to be but was unable to finish the play a number of times. ... Patrick Pass ran well with 11 carries and 88 yards. ... Wide receiver Jason Anderson continues to impress. He had 2 catches for 34 yards and his second touchdown catch. ... Tim Dwight led Patriots pass catchers with 3 grabs and 69 yards. ... New England's offense only had the ball for around 22 minutes, converting 2 of 9 third downs.