Live Blog: Patriots at Saints

Live Blog: Patriots at Saints Final: Saints 38, Patriots 17: The Saints improved to 11-0, and the Patriots fell to 7-4. Any thoughts of winning the AFC East title next week in Miami have been put on hold.

Bill Belichick ranted and raved all last week about how much respect he's got for the Saints, particularly head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, and Belichick spent more time than usual at midfield saying congratulations to his counterparts. The Patriots took a rare beating, and it showed how much work they've got to do in the next five weeks. Stick with for more postgame analysis.

Fourth quarter, 2:00: There was a lot made about this being the Patriots' first trip to the Superdome since their Super Bowl XXXVI victory against the Rams. But this game looked more like their 46-10 loss to the Bears in Super Bowl XX, which was also played in New Orleans.

Fourth quarter, 5:26: The Patriots have waved the white flag. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer is in the game for Tom Brady, who completed 21-of-36 passes for 237 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Fourth quarter, 5:26: John Carney missed a 37-yard field goal, meaning the Patriots don't need three touchdowns and three two-point conversions. They just need the three touchdowns and three extra points. So they've got that going for them, which, I think, is nice.

Fourth quarter, 7:04: I have no idea who Tom Brady was targeting on that last play — I mean, no idea — and Darren Sharper picked him off for the Saints' second interception of the game. This thing is O-V-A.

Saints 38, Patriots 17, fourth quarter, 7:49: Drew Brees threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game, this one a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Marques Colston. The rout is on, and the Patriots are on the wrong side of a butt-whooping unlike one they have received from an NFC team in a long, long time.

Fourth quarter, 13:07: The miscommunication between Tom Brady and the offensive line is the single most disturbing trend of this game. Before the snap, it's up to Brady to identify where the pressure is coming from, and then center Dan Koppen and the rest of the line call out their responsibilities. With all of the unblocked rushers, someone is messing up badly on seemingly every play. The Pats went three-and-out, and the Saints take over at their own 25-yard line.

Fourth quarter, 14:47: The Patriots' defense forced Drew Brees to throw his third incompletion of the game, and they'll take over with a long field in front of them. If you really miss John Madden on these Monday night broadcasts, I'll fill in here: The Patriots need to score quickly on this possession.

End of third quarter: The Saints have a key third-and-12 coming up on the other side of the break.

Third quarter, 4:08: The Patriots are overmatched, and they know it. They burned a timeout and went for it on fourth-and-4 at the New Orleans 10-yard line, but Tom Brady's pass to Randy Moss was swatted aside by Mike McKenzie. With the way New England's defense is playing at the Superdome, it's tough to argue against the aggressive fourth-down call, but the Patriots look nearly as overmatched on offense.

Third quarter, 6:07: I jumped the gun on the last post. Sam Aiken knocked aside cornerback Mike McKenzie and ran ahead for a first down to preserve the Pats' drive.

Third quarter, 6:30: The Saints' secondary is having a nearly perfect night in the tackling department.

Saints 31, Patriots 17, third quarter, 9:02: This is an offensive clinic. The Saints look like they're playing with two extra guys on every offensive play, and the Pats defense looks as unprepared as I can remember. Give a ton of credit to the Saints, who are disguising their offense with multiple sets and personnel groups, but the Patriots are letting players just get wide open on almost every play.

Saints 24, Patriots 17, third quarter, 10:24: Forget the fumble — Laurence Maroney came to play on Monday night. Maroney forced a fumble earlier in the drive to reclaim possession, and he punctuated New England's drive with his second touchdown of the game to cut the Saints' lead in half. I loved the fact that Maroney scored, quickly gave the ball to the referee and got off the field quickly. He understands the situation, and this drive might be a perfect indication of how much he has grown and matured this season.

Third quarter, 14:40: The Patriots caught a break after Laurence Maroney's third fumble in the last three weeks. Sedrick Ellis picked up the fumble, but in San Diego Chargers fashion, he lost it during the return. New England resumes control deep in its own end. (Sean Payton challenged the play, but it will stand, based on TV replays.)

Start of second half: The Patriots have been outscored 47-10 in the second half of three games in other teams' stadiums this season. So if you're thinking about a comeback, they've got to buck that trend in a major way.

Halftime, Saints 24, Patriots 10: Stephen Gostkowski hooked a 50-yard field goal before the half, and the Patriots' opening 30 minutes comes to an ugly conclusion. Two things stick out: The Pats' offensive line had an embarrassing performance, and the Pats' defense had an embarrassing performance. 

I've highlighted the two major defensive breakdowns below, and they could be a result of the Saints' numerous offensive looks, which the Patriots said last week they'd have trouble preparing for everything in Sean Payton's offense. Clearly, that has shown in the first half. Two major breakdowns is one thing, though. Continuous pressure on Tom Brady is the glaring issue that needs to be corrected, first and foremost.

Second quarter, 1:15: Just went back to look at Robert Meachem's touchdown, and it was another terrible job by the Patriots' defense. The Pats rushed five guys and left six in coverage against Meachem, tight end Darnell Dinkins and running back Mike Bell, who stayed in the left flat. Somehow, three players followed Dinkins, who has ZERO catches this season, and Jonathan Wilhite was left alone on Meachem. Two Patriots shaded toward Bell's side of the field, but they were so far downfield that Bell would have gained 10-15 yards if Brees went in his direction. Six on three, and the Saints get a touchdown on single coverage? That's bad stuff.

Saints 24, Patriots 10, second quarter, 1:50: Jonathan Wilhite got beat yet again for a touchdown. He was left in single coverage on Robert Meachem, who hauled in a 38-yard strike from Drew Brees. The Saints left a ton of time for Tom Brady, though, so we'll see if he can generate a key scoring drive before the break.

Saints 17, Patriots 10, second quarter, 4:14: Stephen Gostkowski capped off a chaotic drive with a 36-yard field goal, and the Patriots might consider themselves lucky to walk away with points after that strange possession. The Saints are just generating way too much pressure on Tom Brady, and he's scrambling for his life. The ugly of it is it's coming without many blitzes, and the offensive line is playing its worst game since Week 2 against the Jets. New Orleans is really playing with momentum on defense, and even without its two starting cornerbacks, it looks really impressive to this point.

Saints 17, Patriots 7. Second quarter, 9:53: The Patriots spent all week talking about holding the Saints to short gains, but they just messed that one up to a high degree. Drew Brees hit Devery Henderson for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the series, and Bill Belichick has called a sideline meeting with the entire defense.

Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite was lined up on Henderson, but Wilhite blitzed, leaving linebacker Jerod Mayo and safety Brandon Meriweather to cover Henderson's zone. Mayo stayed home, but Meriweather broke to the other side of the field for some reason and Henderson broke free for the long score.

Second quarter, 10:02: Tom Brady looks a little uncomfortable in the pocket, and it could have something to do with the revolving door along the offensive line. The loud building will really mess with the pre-snap protection calls — which go silent on a night like this — and you have to wonder if Brady is confident in their ability to recognize the pressure and keep him upright.

The Pats punted again, and New Orleans takes over at its own 25-yard line.

Second quarter, 12:00: The Patriots have run a couple of plays with an unbalanced line so far. On the first play of this drive, Ben Watson was lined up at the left tackle spot and three linemen were to the right of center Dan Koppen. Also, Mark LeVoir is back at left tackle on this series, and Dan Connolly took over for Stephen Neal at right guard after Neal got hurt. The Patriots' offensive line depth is being tested early in this one.

Saints 10, Patriots 7, second quarter, 12:55: Derrick Burgess, Darius Butler, Vince Wilfork and Jonathan Wilhite all missed tackles along the right sideline, and Pierre Thomas turned a short pass out of the right flat into an 18-yard touchdown. The first turnover of the game cost the Patriots, and the Saints gambled with a fourth-down conversion of their own on the play before the touchdown. This is a coaching war between two friends in Bill Belichick and Sean Payton.

Second quarter, 14:48: I just went back to look at the interception one more time, and Mark LeVoir was in at left tackle during the play — not Matt Light. Also, as poor of a job as Tom Brady did with the throw, former Patriots wide receiver Donte Stallworth Tweeted that part of the blame should be on Randy Moss for the route he ran.

End of first quarter: The Patriots are clinging to a 7-3 lead after one, as the Saints have pushed into New England territory. Pierre Thomas closed the quarter with a 26-yard run to the Pats' 29-yard line.

First quarter, 1:02: Well, so much for that strong start. Tom Brady was intercepted on the first play of the drive by newly-signed Mike McKenzie. The good news for the Patriots is the Saints didn't score their eighth defensive touchdown of the year after the pick. The bad news is the pressure came from a three-man rush. Will Smith and Charles Grant each beat the Pats' tackles to force Brady to step up in the pocket, and Brady made a lazy throw in Randy Moss' direction.

First quarter, 1:14: The Saints blinked first and punted it away after picking up a lone first down on their last series, and Wes Welker made them pay for it even more with a 41-yard return to set up the Patriots on the New Orleans 46-yard line. The Pats have started fast yet again on the road, and a touchdown on this drive would suck the air out of an insanely loud Superdome.

Patriots 7, Saints 3, first quarter, 3:34: Fourth down? No problem. The Patriots converted twice on fourth down on their opening drive, and the second one resulted in a four-yard touchdown run from Laurence Maroney. The offensive line and tight ends did a great job opening up a hole for Maroney. The line pushed hard to the right side, and they received help from tight ends Ben Watson and Chris Baker. With the great blocking and Maroney's hungry run, the Saints had no chance there.

That was a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 7:40. With how quickly the Saints moved down the field on their first possession, the long drives for New England will be instrumental in picking up a victory.

First quarter, 3:45: I love Jon Gruden's enthusiasm on the Monday night broadcasts, but even he should know Tom Brady only sneaks the ball when there is no defensive help over center.

First quarter, 7:30: It didn't take too long for Bill Belichick to go for it on fourth down, and he went with his favorite short-distance running back. Sammy Morris took the hand-off out of the fullback position and got three yards on a fourth-and-2.

By the way, the Saints' defense is very active before the snap, but they haven't made much noise afterward.

First quarter, 8:15: Two things to note during the Pats' opening possession. First, Laurence Maroney is running really strong against a Saints defense that looks helpless against the run. Second, Tom Brady didn't gamble and throw one long to Randy Moss, who sprung open after a fake end-around to Wes Welker. Maybe the noise, road pressure or ball-hawking Saints defense is too much to think about this early in the game.

Saints 3, Patriots 0, first quarter, 11:14: John Carney banked a 30-yard field goal off the left upright, but he got a home-field bounce. The Saints looked dangerous at the start of the drive, but the Patriots' defense held up in the red zone to hold the Saints to three points.

First quarter, 12:00: Drew Brees got away with one. He should have gotten picked off by Brandon Meriweather, but Leigh Bodden didn't see his safety help and collided with Meriweather before an interception could be made.

First quarter, 14:48: Not an ideal start for the Patriots. Courtney Roby returned a short kickoff to the Saints' 35, and Drew Brees hit Devery Henderson for a 33-yard gain down the left sideline on the first offensive play. New Orleans puts immediate pressure on the Pats. New England knows that field goals aren't bad in this one.

8:40 p.m.: According to those in New Orleans, the Patriots won the coin toss and will kick off to start the game. The game's most important matchup — the Pats' defense against the Saints' offense — will start this thing off right.

7:51 p.m.: Running back Fred Taylor is missing his seventh consecutive game with an ankle injury. Defensive lineman Ron Brace is missing his first game with an ankle injury and his fifth game overall. Left tackle Sebastian Vollmer is missing his first game of the season with a head injury. He suffered the injury in the first half last week against the Jets and returned in the second half. Vollmer did not practice last week. 

Linebacker Junior Seau and cornerback Kyle Arrington are missing their first game of the season, and neither were on the injury report. Offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, who saw the first action of his career last week, was also not on the injury report and is missing his 10th game of the season. Defensive back Shawn Springs is missing his third consecutive game. He was again listed on the injury report with a knee injury, but he hasn't missed any practice time in awhile now. Wide receiver Julian Edelman is on the inactive list for the fourth time this season, but he is designated as the third quarterback. You can read more on his status below.

Additionally, wide receiver and special teams captain Sam Aiken is returning after missing the Jets game with a hip injury. Defensive end Jarvis Green is returning after missing three games following knee surgery. Running back Sammy Morris is back after missing four games with a knee injury. Matt Light will start at left tackle after missing five games with a right knee injury. Stephen Neal is expected to start at right guard after missing one game with a head injury. And linebacker and special teamer Rob Ninkovich is back after missing a game with a knee injury.

7:31 p.m.: The Patriots have finally announced their inactive list. Running back Fred Taylor, defensive lineman Ron Brace, left tackle Sebastian Vollmer, linebacker Junior Seau, cornerback Shawn Springs, cornerback Kyle Arrington, guard Rich Ohrnberger and wide receiver Julian Edelman (third quarterback) are on the list.

As the designated third quarterback, Edelman cannot play until the fourth quarter. If he does play in the first three quarters, both Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer cannot play the rest of the game.

Matt Light will be back at left tackle, and Stephen Neal presumably returns to starting right guard. Defensive end Jarvis Green and running back Sammy Morris are also back in the lineup. I'll have a little more on the inactive list in a few minutes.

7:17 p.m.: The Saints have announced their eight inactive players for Monday's game, and it's a newsworthy list. Running back Reggie Bush, who is a huge threat in the passing game, will not play. Starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter are also out. Slot receiver Lance Moore will miss the game, too. However, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and safety Darren Sharper are both back in the lineup.

1:30 p.m.: The New England Patriots have spoiled themselves with some big games at the Louisiana Superdome, and they've found themselves in another one Monday night. Surely, it's no Super Bowl, but Monday's anticipated clash with the undefeated Saints is just about as good as it gets in the regular season.

Leave the defenses at home because this one features the two most prolific offenses in the game, and they'll give NOLA a show that could rival anything you'll run into on Bourbon Street. Sit back and enjoy this one throughout the night with Games like these don't come around very often.

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