Observations from the Week 3 matchup at Gillette Stadium.
Here’s a glance through what went into it as New England turns the calendar from September to October with a 1-2 record.
Jones picked off three times
Through two NFL starts, Mac Jones had completed 73.9 percent of his passes. That rate would fall on Sunday. The first, second and third drives all ended in three-and-outs for the rookie quarterback in charge of New England’s offense.
Jones finished 30-of-51 for 270 yards against New Orleans. He finished with the first three interceptions of his career. P.J. Williams corralled a pass intended for tight end Hunter Henry before intermission. The defensive back’s subsequent return sent New Orleans to the doorstep of the end zone. And the next pick surfaced in the second half on a pass off the gloves of fellow Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith. Tenured Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins ran it back 34 yards for a touchdown. In the closing seconds, cornerback Marshon Lattimore made it a trio.
Jones took shots downfield. He found wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne for his best glimpses in the passing game. Bourne totaled 96 yards on six catches, toe-tapping the sideline for a touchdown that made it 21-13 midway through the final quarter. And Meyers reeled in nine catches for 94 yards on a team-high 14 targets.
Patriots captain carted off with hip injury
Patriots running back James White converted the offense’s initial first down at the 11:34 mark in the second quarter. The captain remained down after the pickup of six yards. The cart then came out for White, who was embraced by teammates while being loaded on.
White would be ruled out by the organization with a hip injury moments later.
Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor stepped into change-of-pace, hurry-up roles for New England’s backfield after his departure.
Second week without a towering tackle’s protection
Trent Brown resided on the injury report as questionable after practicing in a limited capacity. But the right tackle, who exited seven snaps into the season opener due to a calf strain, would be scratched 90 minutes prior to Sunday’s kickoff.
Yasir Durant had started last week at the bookend spot previously occupied by the 6-foot-8, 380-pound starter. Against the Saints, however, it would be 2020 sixth-round pick Justin Herron getting the nod with incumbent linemen to his left.
New England conceded only two sacks to New Orleans, beginning with safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson in the first quarter and continuing with defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon in the fourth quarter. But the pressure was felt in a myriad of hits and hurries on the Alabama product under center. And not just from the right side of the line, where Herron encountered NFL All-Decade selection Cameron Jordan.
Facing a prototype back in Kamara
“I feel like if you were to maybe try to build a perfect back, I mean, he essentially has everything you need,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said leading up to the meeting with Saints running back Alvin Kamara. “Vision, balance. He’s strong. He’s tough. However you want to give him the ball, you can give it to him.”
New Orleans did on Sunday. Kamara touched the ball 28 occasions against New England. Those occasions became 89 yards rushing and 29 yards receiving as the perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro traveled into the A-gaps as well as open space.
Two carries during the game’s opening drive became a single yard for Kamara. But he got the ball in his hands a handful of times on the next drive, scoring an untouched touchdown reception from 11 yards out. No. 41 had 83 yards from scrimmage by intermission.
Judon leads Uche-less pass rush with 2.5 sacks
Josh Uche went to the inactives list after being a Friday addition to the injury report due to a back issue. And without the sophomore outside linebacker, who had racked up three sacks through two games, the Patriots aligned a defensive captain in Hightower off the edge to begin Sunday while Chase Winovich rotated in for extended snaps.
New England’s front accounted for three sacks versus by game’s conclusion. March signing Matt Judon from the Baltimore Ravens was no small part in why.
Judon got the first sack on a naked bootleg. It was preceded by heat from rookie Christian Barmore and veteran Kyle Van Noy on a third-down stunt. It was followed by a Deatrich Wise Jr. split with Judon, who tallied 2.5 sacks worth 16.5 lost yards altogether.
Against the grain of the Saints’ ground defense
The Saints landed in New England having allowed 66 rushing yards per game and 2.8 rushing yards per carry. Those numbers ranked second behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, respectively, on the season.
And it would be up to Damien Harris to make those numbers climb behind an overmatched line. New England’s lead running back turned his first handoff into a gain of seven yards. But Harris went on to rush five times for 13 yards by the half. He rushed only once more.
The New Orleans defense had allowed a long of 16 yards on the ground through two contests. That held true on Sunday.
Winston limits mistakes in initial visit to New England
Jameis Winston hadn’t crossed paths with head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots since Oct. 5, 2017. The former No. 1 overall pick out of Florida State was a Buccaneer then. And one who would turn to the air 46 times at Raymond James Stadium.
He visited Foxborough as a Saint on Sunday. From there, the quarterback would go 13-of-21 through the air for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Winston found the aforementioned Kamara for a score and was at the wheel for three consecutive third-down conversions in the opening quarter. He then hit wide receiver Marquez Callaway on an above-the-rim throw in the end zone against nickelback Jonathan Jones. There was patience through off-coverage looks. There were no turnovers through under-pressure scrambles.
Blocked punt ends one streak as another continues
Reigning Patriots first-team All-Pro punter Jake Bailey would have a punt blocked in the second quarter on Sunday. Saints linebacker Andrew Dowell got his hand on the football as New Orleans took over at midfield. And for Bailey, who later had a kickoff roll out of bounds, it marked the first time he had a punt blocked since entering the league in 2019. It marked the 146th opportunity.
As one streak ended for New England, another continued.
A week after setting a franchise record with 33 consecutive field goals made, kicker Nick Folk made it 34 before halftime and 35 soon after. Those tries sailed through the uprights from 45 yards and 26 yards away.