Patriots Edge Saints in Preseason Opener

Brandon Lloyd, Tom Brady #12, and Jabar Gaffney #10 of the New England Patriots chat from the sideline in the second half during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 9, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

In a meaningless August preseason game between two of the NFL’s normally most potent offenses, the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots struggled with Patriots pulling out a 7-6 win at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Thursday night.

The Saints got on the board first in the opening quarter when Patriots QB Tom Brady was sacked, as he seems prone to do, coughed up the ball.  If there’s one thing about Brady in the “negative column” for me it’s the sacked/forced fumble stat.

After the fumble recovery the Saints were pretty much stymied offensively and had to rely on a 46-yard field goal by John Kasay to give them a 3-0 lead.

That slim margin lasted until the half.  It nearly didn’t but a missed 51-yard field goal attempt by New England’s Stephen Gostkowski went wide and the Saints took the lead into the locker room.

The worst news of the first half came early in the second half when the NFL Networks Ian Rappoport learned that Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher tore his ACL.  If the report is accurate, and I believe it is, he is done for the season.

In the third quarter, with back up QB Brian Hoyer directing the New England offense they went 97 yards in 14 plays in just over 5 minutes with Hoyer hitting WR Britt Davis with a 3-yard pass for the score and a 7-3 Patriots lead.

New Orleans opened the 4th quarter with a Garrett Hartley field goal this one from 34 yards to cut the lead to 7-6.

With just over three minutes to go Kasay was brought on to try a field goal from 41 yards out and he pushed wide right.

The Saints got one more crack at it but a sack and forced fumble by Trevor Scott nearly got the ball back for New England but the Saints recovered and after a 3 and 18 chance were forced to punt.  The Patriots then ran the clock out on their first win of the preseason.

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Game Notes:

The Patriots did not dress 19 players, among them were:

LB Brandon Spikes

G Logan Mankins

G Brian Waters

T Sebastian Vollmer

DL Jonathan Fanene

DL Gerard Warren

WR Deion Branch

Among the Saints not dressed for the game were:

RB Mark Ingram

TE Jimmy Graham

WR Nick Toon

CB Jabari Greer

There were scouts on hand at the game from 13 different NFL teams and 2 CFL teams.  Among the teams represented were the Dolphins, Jets, Ravens, Raiders and Steelers.

Patriots started first round picks DE Chandler Jones and LB Dont’a Hightower on defense.  They are projected as opening day starters as well.

On the Patriots scoring drive second year RB Shane Vereen was gained 79 of the 97 yards on the drive.

The offensive line needs some work but that was to be expected with the retirement of T Matt Light and G Brian Waters excused from camp, G Logan Mankins recovering from an ACL and T Sebastian Vollmer not dressing for the game.

New England leads the preseason series, 6-4.

This was the fifth time the Patriots have opened their preseason against New Orleans.  The others being 1968, 1985, 1994 and 2010.

Next Game

The Patriots host the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday August 20th at Gillette Stadium.  Kick off is at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMichaelsII

photo credit: getty images