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Game breakdown: Patriots 7, Saints 6

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  August 11, 2012 03:52 PM

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Ok, here’s a look back at some of what we saw while watching the TV copy of the game. No positional grades, like we do in the regular season. Just some observations, good and bad. Basically, I’m looking for plays where a player does more than just his job – a “plus” play in my amateur tracking – or less (minus play).

QUARTERBACK

On Tom Brady’s first pass, he wanted TE Rob Gronkowski to bend his seam route but the TE stayed up the line. Thought Gronkowski read that right. … Great pass by Brady on the botched snap with Dan Koppen. Brady put it right on the money to Brandon Lloyd should have had the back-shoulder throw, even if it was unexpected. … Brady should have led Lloyd more on the deep pass that was broken up by Johnny Patrick at the last second. It was a good pass, but just a little more air and it would have been a touchdown. Looked like that ball came out a little funny out of Brady’s hands. … Nothing stood out one way or the other about Brian Hoyer. The group he played with wasn’t very good. … Had Ryan Mallett for two plus plays, and five minus, including the interception. … Nice play by Mallett to step up against the rush and find the outlet in Tyler Urban. Did the same before end of the half. … Mallett should have eaten the ball on his interception. Saints were blitzing and he should have felt the pressure better. That’s where Mallett has shown little development over the past year: he has surprisingly little natural feel for the game at this point. He’s way too mechanical and you can see him thinking through just about every play. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has to find a way to get Mallet to cut it loose, which he did in one practice during camp. … Bad throw on a simple out to Gaffney. Have to complete it. McDaniels didn’t look happy.

RUNNING BACKS

FB Eric Kettani was dipping his head at the snap. Wasted movement and shows the lack of polish. Will be nice to get Spencer Larsen in there. Kettani, after extended military service, is really rusty. … Wasn’t crazy about Stevan Ridley’s decision to cutback for 3 yards on first play after the punt penalty on the Saints. … Ridley has to find a way to avoid DT Brodrick Bunkley on an aborted screen pass with 10:43 left in the first quarter. Brady got after Ridley. … Overall, Ridley had some terrible blocking in front of him…. Shane Vereen’s best run was his 14-yarder, made a nice cut outside and then faked out Jerico Nelson for another 5 yards. … Vereen’s 5-yard loss late in the third quarter was just terrible blocking, with Nick McDonald getting shoved into the backfield, and then it appeared WRs Jesse Holley and Britt Davis blocked the wrong guys.

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Great job by Gronkowski (vs. Cameron Jordan) and Aaron Hernandez (Will Herring) holding the point on Ridley’s 8-yard run on second play of the second series. … Talk about a bad start for DE-turned-TE Alex Silvestro. He missed blocks on his first two plays (the second of which picked off the pulling Dan Connolly) on runs of 1 and minus-2 yards. …Britt Davis, who made a very nice catch on the TD, has to get out of his breaks faster and cleaner if he wants to play in the NFL. That was a drop on opening possession of second half. … Thought Jeremy Ebert did some very nice things that the Patriots coaches will love, including blocking down field and breaking a tackle. He did have a drop.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Oh baby, what a mess (until the fourth quarter). Let’s go with our tabulations right off the bat.

13 total quarterback pressures allowed: Marcus Cannon 6, Nate Solder 3, Dan Connolly 3, Donald Thomas 1.
One sack allowed by Cannon.
Nine total hurries: Cannon 3, Solder 3, Connolly 2, Thomas 1.
Three knockdowns: Cannon 2, Connolly 1.
Stuffed runs allowed (3.3 total): McDonald 2.3, Derek Dennis 1.

Danny Woodhead should have had a big run on the 3rd-and-2 but Donald Thomas or Wes Welker failed to properly block CB Johnny Patrick. Sloppy. … Koppen snapped before Brady was ready on fourth play. Cannon didn’t react to the ball and got beaten for a hurry. … Koppen didn’t get out on Lofton on Ridley’s 2-yard run. That will only encourage questions about Koppen’s footspeed at age 32 coming off foot surgery, although Donald Thomas didn’t help either. … Ticky-tack hold on Nate Solder during Brady’s missed opportunity down field to Brandon Lloyd, but Solder was definitely beaten by Will Smith. And he was on the next play. Just minor technique stuff, like setting too hard to the outside. Nothing that can’t be fixed. … The sack/fumble on Brady was solely the fault of RT Marcus Cannon, who was beaten easily by DE Junior Galette. Solder did fine against Smith, as did Connolly against Cameron Jordan, it’s just neither expected Brady to wind up 7 yards deep and 5 yards wide of the designed throwing spot. … Ryan Wendell had a clean sheet. Continued to do what we’ve seen in practice. … Didn’t see the false start called on Cannon. If anybody moved, it was Welker. … Solder missed a run block against Curtis Lofton on a 4-yard run by Ridley. … Borderline holding call against Solder vs. Ellis. Have definitely seen worse go uncalled with regular officials. … Solder got pancaked by Turk McBride on second series of second quarter. … Connolly had a real tough time holding up third-round DT Akiem Hicks (6-5, 324), and allowed him to hit Mallett on his interception. … Cannon completely missed a chop block on first play of second half. … Thought Darrion Weems continued to look good.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • 16 total QB pressures: Chandler Jones 4, Trevor Scott 3.5, Rob Ninkovich 2.5, Jermaine Cunningham 2.5, Brandon Deaderick, Marcus Forston, Justin Francis, Tim Bulman 1/2.
  • Two sacks: Scott, Francis 1/2, Bulman 1/2.
  • 10 hurries: Jones 4, Ninkovich 2, Cunnigham 2, Deaderick, Forston.
  • Four knockdowns: Scott 2.5, 1/2 each for Ninkovich, Cunningham, Francis.
  • 5.133 stuffed runs: Forston 1.5, Kyle Love 0.833, Jones, Marcus Harrison, Scott 1/2, Wilfork 1/3.

Amazing how strong Vince Wilfork is. Opening play of the game he stands up RG Jahri Evans and then pulls RB Pierre Thomas to the ground with one hand. … On the play where Chase Daniel took off and was tracked down by Jones from behind, Daniel had a pocket and he panicked for no reason. … Deaderick should have drawn a holding call against RG Fenuki Tupou with 12:48 left in the second. … Cunningham should have drawn a hold on Chung’s INT. … Further showing how ridiculous sack stats are, Jake Bequette (who looked solid with good technique) got credit for one in the fourth quarter but it really should have been split between Justin Francis and Tim Bulman. … I think we’ve covered Chandler Jones (though I need to go back and figure out whether Jones had 5 QBPs, which I tabulated at the game, or four from the game review). … Francis didn’t show as well as he has in practice.

LINEBACKERS

Dont’a Hightower (half knockdown) actually started as the WLB, which is usually Jerod Mayo’s spot. … On the first play in the middle after subbing for the injured Dane Fletcher, Hightower did a nice job avoiding the block of LG Ben Grubbs to take down Darren Sproles for a 2-yard gain with Jerod Mayo. … Outstanding play by Mayo to track down Sproles for a 4-yard gain on third-and-8. … Hightower didn’t fit the run properly on Pierre Thomas’ 13-yard run. Hightower drifted a little and got caught in the wash. He got caught on the next play as well leaning too far outside, and exhibited he doesn’t have the quickest feet. He’ll probably play faster when he feels better about what he’s doing. … Hightower cautious. Not playing very fast. He finally cut it loose with 5:15 left in the second quarter when he saw a lane toward Ivory and exploded to knock him back for 2 yards. That’s what Hightower’s expected to do. He was playing WLB at that time, but played all three spots. … Mayo and Arrington had a coverage mixup on the 16-yard pass from Daniel to Higgins early in the second quarter. Mayo didn’t look happy with Arrington. Could have been Chung out of position as well. Impossible to know. …. Hightower was probably a little too deep in his drop on Roby’s 12-yard catch across the middle early in the second. … Two terrific plays by Mayo back-to-back to end opening drive of the second quarter. He wrecked FB Korey Hall and then took down Chris Ivory, and then he read the eyes of Daniels before tipping the ball to Gregory for an INT. … Mike Rivera started slow but showed well with a knockdown and a pass breakup. ... Bobby Carpenter (half stuff, knockdown) was solid.

SECONDARY

Thought the secondary looked much better outside of some spotty play from Kyle Arrington (shared bad cover, holding penalty, 13-yard missed tackle opportunity), Sterling Moore (pass interference on a very strange coverage call. He had no help and wasn’t playing Cover 3. Curious), and Patrick Chung (two bad angles). … Chung took a bad angle on an incomplete pass on the Saints’ first series, and he likely should have been in position to clean up the third-and-22 pass from Daniel to Roby for 30 yards. The safety has to read that quicker and not allow the pass over the top of Cover 2. … Tavon Wilson played LB on first third down and wound up on RB Darren Sproles and did well. That’s a lot better athlete than the Saints are used to seeing in coverage against Sproles. Wilson was really active in a variety of roles. A good start. … Saints TE (and former Patriot) David Thomas isn’t a big test, but Wilson sure did cover him well on one play. … Ras-I Dowling (run tackle, two pass breakups) did a very good job but wasn’t overly challenged. … Same goes for CB Devin McCourty (1.5 stuffed runs). He was back to giving great run support, so he must be healthy.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Zoltan Mesko was unreal, as was his coverage unit. Kickoff coverage was great as well. … On the first kickoff return, Nate Ebner (who combined with Niko Koutouvides on a good punt tackle) had a tough time holding up FB Korey Hall, who made the tackle on Danny Woodhead. … Not a perfect snap (by backup Rob Ninkovch) or hold by Mesko on Gostkowski’s 53-yard miss before halftime. … Edelman must have thought he touched the second-half kickoff because if not, that was not smart to bring it out. Edelman made some curious decisions in this game. …. Matthew Slater continues to be unblockable in coverage. … Marquice Cole had a nice tackle but also committed a penalty.

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