Monday night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots was dubbed a “championship game” by the media. Both teams had something to prove coming in. The Patriots wanted to prove they are still in the upper echelon of teams in the NFL and were legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl. The Saints wanted to prove they were the best team in the NFC and were ALSO legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl. One team succeeded in their goals, and unfortunately it was not the New England Patriots.
The Pats started the game well. Although they gave up a deep pass from Drew Brees to open up the game, they held the Saints to just a field goal. It would turn out to be one of their few successful defensive outings of the day. Tom Brady followed up the drive with a scoring drive of his own, which culminated in a Laurence Maroney rushing score. Maroney was by far the offensive star for the Patriots, little as that meant. If there was a weakness in the Saints defense, it was definitely their inability to stop the run. Maroney put up both of the New England touchdowns and was definitely responsible for keeping key drives going and eating up clock time. Unfortunately, you can’t rush all the time, and when the Patriots passed they looked terrible.
The Saints secondary proved how competent it was today. Nobody backed down in the face of New England’s strong wide receivers. If anything, it seemed to motivate them. Every pass was either blocked by a corner or tackled for a short gain by a safety. Everything was thrown underneath, making it difficult to gain yardage quickly. And the Saints D did a good job not giving Tom Brady enough time to find his deep receivers, who were never open anyway. Brady’s pick permanently shifted the momentum New Orleans’ way.
As for the Patriots defense, there was little good that could be said. They stopped the run well, I guess, but it seemed like every time the Saints ran it they were able to pick up four or five yards, as opposed to the Patriots one or two. This meant the Saints were always in second-and-short situations, which meant Drew Brees was free to push his offense. And push he did. Every weakness I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about the Patriots defense- no pass rush, mediocre cornerbacks, no big playmaykers- was exposed during Monday Night’s game. The secondary looked slow and confused. Whatever offensive formation Brees ran, he ran it perfectly. The defense just could not step up and stop them. It led to 5 touchdown passes against them, and some of those were ugly passes too (not by Brees, just in how badly they were defended). The Pats couldn’t cover in man, they couldn’t cover in zone, they just couldn’t cover, period.
The Patriots defense must improve in leaps and bounds if they want to be a factor come play-off time. Right now, both sides of the field are playing without rhythm or passion, and you need at least one of those to win a football game. The Patriots offense looks boring, and the defense looks anemic. This is nowhere near the Tom Brady teams of old. We gave him a grace period to recover from knee surgery and return to form, but that period has ended. He must either rally his team or this team will be one-and-done come playoff time.