Final, Patriots 30-27: This one’s over. The Saints tried to get tricky on the kick return and the Patriots recovered it. Patriots win in a crazy one.
Fourth quarter, :05, Patriots 30-27: Wow. Tom Brady drove down the field and hit Kenbrell Thompkins for a 17-yard touchdown. Now the Patriots’ special teams has to stop New Orleans.
Fourth quarter, 1:13, Saints 27-23: Shockingly, the Patriots could still come back to win this one. The Saints went three-and-out and the Patriots have the ball at the 28.
Fourth quarter, 2:15 Saints 27-23: Well, that was a brief drive for the Patriots. Brady threw an interception on the first play of the drive. He chucked a deep ball to a double covered Julian Edelman. The pass fell right into Keenan Lewis’ arms.
Fourth quarter, 2:24, Saints 27-23: The Patriots did it. They held the Saints to three, but now New England has to score the touchdown.
Alfonzo Dennard made the drive-saving pass breakup on third down.
Fourth quarter, 2:46, Saints 24-23: The Patriots took a huge risk on fourth-and-six and it didn’t pay off. Dobson couldn’t hold onto the ball.
The Saints have the ball at the 20-yard line. The defense has to hold them to a field goal.
Fourth quarter, 3:29, Saints 24-23: There was very little the Patriots could have done about that touchdown. It was just a perfect pass from Drew Brees into Kenny Stills’ waiting arms. The Patriots’ offense has struggled since the first half. They’ll need to come up big with just 3:29 left on the clock.
Fourth quarter, 8:34, Patriots 23-17: The Patriots really could have used a touchdown in the red zone there, but settled for a 23-yard field goal. They just can’t get anything going inside the 10-yard line.
It’s up to the Patriots’ defense to stop New Orleans now. The Saints may not have Jimmy Graham. He’s being tended to on the sideline.
Fourth quarter, 12:10, Patriots 20-17: Drew Brees is not having his best game out there. He overthrew Jimmy Graham and the ball wound up in the waiting arms of Kyle Arrington. It’s amazing this game is so close.
Fourth quarter, 13:43, Patriots 20-17: The Patriots couldn’t get much going on offense. Brady took another sack on third down to end the drive.
Austin Collie played his first snap as a Patriot on third down.
End third quarter, Patriots 20-17: That was a very big defensive stand for the Patriots. They held the Saints again and have great field position at their own 42-yard line.
The Patriots just made the announcement. Danny Amendola will not return. He has a head injury.
Third quarter, 1:36, Patriots 20-17 More injuries news for the Patriots: Danny Amendola looked like he got knocked out on a helmet-to-helmet hit. He got up wobbly and went straight for the locker room.
We’ll likely see a heavy dose of Julian Edelman and possibly some Austin Collie moving forward.
The Patriots took the lead on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
Third quarter, 6:19, 17-17: All of a sudden, the Saints are right back in this one. Aqib Talib played just one snap on that drive. He’s in the locker room with Dr. Gill right now.
Khiry Robinson scored from three yards out to tie the score at 17. The Patriots have to keep this one close to win it. Once the Saints get going, they’re tough to stop.
Third quarter, 10:26, Patriots 17-10: A push off by Aaron Dobson and an overthrow by Tom Brady negated what could have been a decent drive by the Patriots. Brady really struggles on those deep passes.
The Saints get the ball back at their own 33-yard line.
Third quarter, 11:31, Patriots 17-10: The Patriots bent, but they didn’t break. Ben Watson had the biggest play of the drive, a 32-yard catch. Aqib Talib continues to shut down Jimmy Graham and Alfonzo Dennard is doing a great job against Marques Colston.
End half, Patriots 17-7: The Patriots are playing their best football of the season so far in this game. They have been moving the ball on offense and dominating the Saints on defense.
Aqib Talib, Stevan Ridley, Aaron Dobson and Tom Brady have been the stars of the game so far. Jimmy Graham? Still doesn’t have a catch.
Second quarter, 2:00, Patriots 17-7: The Patriots just got a hometown call from the refs. Joe Vellano jumped early, causing the Saints’ offensive line to also jump. It should have been encroachment by New Orleans, but the refs ruled it a false start by the Saints. New Orleans was going for it on fourth-and-one and were forced to punt.
Jimmy Graham still doesn’t have a catch.
Second quarter, 4:49, Patriots 17-7: The Patriots couldn’t get much going on that drive. Aaron Dobson had a drop and Brady took a sack on third down. The drive opened promisingly enough with a big Brandon Bolden run.
Second quarter, 6:10, Patriots 17-7: It’s not normal for the Saints to go three-and-out this much. Just so everyone knows.
Talib continues to do work against Jimmy Graham. He’s putting on a show again.
Second quarter, 7:36, Patriots 17-7: The Patriots’ offense is looking pretty damn good right now. Brady is slinging the ball, Ridley is powering through rushing lanes. It’s going pretty well for New England against the less-than-extraordinary Saints defense.
Brady is 16-for-20 with 163 yards right now. Dobson had five catches for 57 yards.
Second quarter, 12:28, Patriots 10-7: Aqib Talib is basically accomplishing the impossible right now. He had completely shut down Jimmy Graham.
The Saints went three-and-out on that drive. The Patriots’ defense really might be for real.
Second quarter, 13:00, Patriots 10-7: The Patriots are back on top. Stevan Ridley (remember him?) got a one-yard touchdown after Keenan Lewis was flagged for pass interference in the end zone while covering Aaron Dobson.
Dobson’s having a great game after a drop on the opening drive.
End first quarter, Saints 7-3: After one quarter, the Saints lead 7-3, but the Patriots are driving down the field again.
Stevan Ridley got 18 yards on his first carry of the game. He has explosion off the hand off that Blount and Bolden don’t possess. Brady is also relying on Dobson heavily early.
First quarter, 1:46, Saints 7-3: The Saints didn’t have much trouble moving down on the field on that drive. The big plays were by Ben Watson, who made a 25-yard catch while covered by Brandon Spikes, and Pierre Thomas, who had a nice catch and run.
First quarter, 7:20, Patriots 3-0: Well, that was quick. The Patriots passed the ball twice and ran with Bolden. Bolden came up a yard short of the first down. The Saints have the ball at their own 27. The second drive was nowhere near as impressive as the first.
First quarter, 8:55, Patriots 3-0: The Saints couldn’t do anything against the Patriots’ defense on the first drive, going three and out. New England was throwing out some crazy looks on defense, including opening up in a nickel defense with four corners and one safety. Brandon Spikes was in for Dont’a Hightower.
On third down, Michael Buchanan was playing an interior role next to Chris Jones. Ninkovich and Chandler Jones were outside.
Aqib Talib shadowed Jimmy Graham. On the Patriots’ punt return, Edelman tried to throw a backwards pass to Aqib Talib, his arm got hit and the ball went flying backwards. Talib fortunately recovered it.
First quarter, 9:54, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots dusted off the no-huddle offense on that drive and looked better than they have all year. There were some rough plays, like Aaron Dobson’s brutal drop and Brady’s sack on third down in the red zone, but overall the Patriots looked very good.
We didn’t see Stevan Ridley on that drive. Blount and Bolden were the go-to backs. Julian Edelman took a backseat to Amendola, Dobson and Thompkins.
The best plays of the drive were some runs by Brady.
First quarter, 15:00: The Saints won the toss and chose to defer. The Patriots will receive.
Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount are back for the kick.
4:03 p.m.: This may not even mean anything, but Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins were lined up with the starters in 7-on-7s over Danny Amendola. Brandon Bolden was also in over Stevan Ridley.
The Patriots will likely be playing in three-receiver sets all game anyway. And they’ll swap their running backs all game.
3:08 p.m.: Danny Amendola and Austin Collie are down on the field catching passes from Ryan Mallett. Based on Collie’s active status, it appears he has picked up the system well. He’s been talking to Brady a lot during portions of practice open to the media.
2:57 p.m.: The inactives are in. Tommy Kelly, Matthew Slater, Chris Barker, Josh Boyce, Rob Gronkowski, Leon Washington and Tavon Wilson are inactive for the Patriots.
That means Austin Collie will be making his debut. There was some (very little) speculation that Wilson could help out on Jimmy Graham this week. He won’t.
12:48 p.m.: I just got down to Gillette Stadium. It’s perfect football weather outside. A little bit brisk, a little overcast but not too cold.
It’s not official yet, but it looks extremely likely that Rob Gronkowski will not be playing for the sixth straight week, according to reports. That means it will be on Amendola, Edelman and the rookies to get it done once again with Brady.
The offensive line will have to be on its A-game once again, too. The Saints have two good edge rushers in Cameron Jordan and Junior Gallette. They have seven sacks between them.
The Saints usually set up in a 3-4 in the base defense, but like most teams, they switch to a four-man front in nickel and dime packages. Jordan is effective at getting after the passer from both looks.
8 a.m. ET: The Patriots got Danny Amendola back last Sunday. They’re expected to have their starting running back, Stevan Ridley, on the field against the Saints. But one key offensive playmaker is still missing.
Rob Gronkowski is expected to take another week off after not being cleared by Dr. James Andrews. The All-Pro tight end has yet to play this season after he underwent offseason forearm and back surgeries.
The Patriots’ offense has struggled without Gronkowski. Tom Brady especially has been down. And that dates back to last season.
Chris Wesseling of NFL.com wrote a column in June that basically summarized that the Patriots quarterback is Andy Dalton without Gronkowski. Brady completed just 58.9 percent of his passes without Gronk last season with 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and 7.1 yards per attempt. Those are very un-Brady-like numbers.
They’re even worse this year. Brady’s completion percentage is just 56.6 without his star tight end. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and three interceptions and his yards per attempt sits at 6.2 — 1.3 below his career average.
There’s no one thing that stands out about Brady’s game that he appears to be specifically struggling with. His accuracy is certainly off and he appears to be hesitating at times when throwing to his young receivers. But if anything, it seems like his struggles could just be directly linked to a lack of top-end targets.
Brady lost Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch over the offseason. He’s been without Shane Vereen since Week 1, he’s had Amendola for just two games and Ridley missed last week. Julian Edelman has been the only constant holdover Brady has had.
Brady almost looked like himself against the Falcons, who also happen to have the worst defense the Patriots have faced this season. The Saints don’t have as poor of a defensive unit as Atlanta, but they’re probably the second worst defense New England has faced this year.
Unfortunately, the Saints also have the best offense the Patriots have faced this season. So, in order for New England to keep up, the offense is going to have to score points early and often.
With Ridley back, the Saints should have to respect the Patriots’ run game more than the Bengals did last week. That means that at least New England’s play action will be more effective.
For the Patriots to win, Brady, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Michael Hoomanawanui, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, James Develin, Matthew Mulligan, Amendola, Ridley, Edelman and New England’s entire offensive line will have to step up. They’ll have to be on the same page and stop thinking about what their offense could be with Gronkowski and Vereen and start accepting what the unit is without them.
The defense will also have to prove they’re the top-10 unit that stats say they are. They’re allowing just 14 points per game so far — second best in the NFL. That number will likely rise after Sunday’s game, but limiting New Orleans would go a long way towards a victory.
Stay here on NESN.com for all the updates throughout the day from Gillette Stadium, where we’ll be reporting live.
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