The Rear View Mirror – Game Two

The Patriots picked up their first win of the season when they defeated the Saints 36-20 in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. New England’s offense efficiently put up 30 points in the first half and their defense marginally improved in game two by keeping New Orleans’ offense below 500 yards gained (429).

Johnathan Jones saves a touchdown by out muscling Ted Ginn, Jr. for the ball.

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Nine Observations from Game Two…

1. Cornerback Johnathan Jones – a special teams star from the 2016 season – made two noteworthy pass breakups to help thwart potential touchdown drives: On a third down pass to Ted Ginn, Jr. at the goal line in the 2nd quarter, and pass deep up the right sideline in the red zone to Brandon Coleman in the 3rd.

2. The Patriots gave up seven “big” plays of 20 yards or more, including two Drew Brees’ pass plays in the 2nd quarter that involved cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Brandon Coleman broke untouched out of three receiver “trips” formation – thanks to tight end Coby Fleener knocking down Gilmore on the jam with Patrick Chung – for a 42 yard reception up the right sideline. Gilmore later allowed Micheal Thomas to run past him on a two-man pick play up the left sideline for 33 yards.

3. Defensive tackle Adam Butler pushed over tackle Andrus Peat and slid down the line to tackle running back Mark Ingram, blunting the Saint’s first drive of the game. Rough day for Peat as Patriots' defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. beat him with a speed rush to sack quarterback Drew Brees (27 of 45, 356 yards, two touchdowns) on third-down early in the second half.

4. Kyle Van Noy deftly side stepped left guard Senio Kelemete’s block attempt and brought down Mark Engram on an otherwise well executed screen pass in the 1st quarter. In the 2nd, the Patriots’ linebacker was instrumental in stopping a pitch to the left when he fought through receiver Brandon Coleman’s block and neutralized tackle Andrus Peat, allowing Trey Flowers to tackle Mark Engram for minimal gain.

Tom Brady was nearly perfect at locating the mismatches and accurately delivering the ball.

Photograph via Getty Images and published by

5. A nice bounce back game for quarterback Tom Brady (436 yards, 77% completions, and three touchdowns), who executed the offensive game plan nearly perfectly in the first half. New England put the ball in the hands of their running backs on seven of the ten plays in their first drive of the game. Brady continually found his running backs – and once Rob Gronkowski on his 53 yard touchdown – matched up against linebackers for big gains.

6. Over the past few years New England’s offense has a reputation of relying on the center of the field to pass the ball. To this observer, the 2017 Patriots have made an effort to attach the edges of the defense. As an example, wide receivers Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Brandin Cooks have combined to run six (6) “jet sweeps” (end around, misdirection plays) this season for 30 yards.

7. In a sign that Nate Solder may still be working himself into game shape, the left tackle got man handled by defensive end Cameron Jordon, who tackled running back Mike Gillislee for a loss in the 1st quarter. Soldier also gave up a sack on speed rush from linebacker Hau'oli ikaha on a third-and-eight play in the 2nd quarter.

8. Behind Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason on the right side of the line the Patriots averaged 5.1 yards on eight carries, twice the average on the left side (2.3 yards over nine carries). Half of Mike Gillislee’s 69 game yards came on just four runs to the right (18 carries overall).

9. Interesting play design on display at midfield on the Patriots’ fourth touchdown drive in the first half. With two wide receivers and two running backs to the left of the center, New England pulled guard Joe Thuney and faked a misdirection hand-off to the right. Brady then pump faked the running back screen to the left before passing the ball to receiver Chris Hogan on a in-cut. Hogan had slipped free when the New Orleans’ defensive backs bit on the screen pass.

…And One Comment about Game Three.

On Patriots’ first third-down play against the Saints, Cameron Jordan used a swim move to get past center David Andrews and raced to Tom Brady in (unofficially) 2.4 seconds – fortunately just a step slower than it took Brady to find running back James White in the left flat for a completion. Unlike New Orleans, the Houston Texans have more than one effective pass rusher to throw at the opponent. New England’s offensive line will have to be effective against inside pressure from Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, Jadeveon Clowney, and J.J. Watt to win in Foxboro.

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