The New England Patriots will be just fine if Jimmy Garoppolo has to take meaningful snaps in 2015.
With Tom Brady’s four-game suspension perpetually in the news, there’s a lot of stress on Garoppolo to perform this summer. The second-year pro didn’t let the pressure get to him Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints — literally or figuratively.
Garoppolo was able to make quicker decisions, which led to improved offensive line play and a much higher completion percentage. It was Garoppolo’s best showing in a Patriots uniform, and the performance ended appropriately, with a fourth-quarter comeback straight out of Brady’s playbook.
Check out what stood out in our film review of the Patriots’ 26-24 win over the Saints:
— The Saints quarterbacks did a nice job of getting rid of the ball quickly, which made it difficult for the Patriots’ pass rushers to penetrate the pocket.
— Chandler Jones led Patriots defenders with two hurries early in the game. It looks like the weight he added over the offseason is helping him get after the quarterback so far.
— Jabaal Sheard and Malcom Brown found themselves in the backfield multiples times. Those could turn into sacks against a team that gets rid of the ball a little slower.
— The Patriots didn’t record any sacks, but Sheard beating rookie offensive tackle Andrus Peat for a QB hit was the most definitive pressure of the night.
— Check out the Patriots’ pass-rush stats here.
— The Patriots’ secondary struggled mightily until Drew Brees came off the field. Brees had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 while going 8 of 10 for 159 yards with two touchdowns.
— Cornerback Logan Ryan ran hot and cold like last week. He gave up two big plays for 36 and 28 yards, but he also had two pass breakups, including one on a two-point conversion. He’ll have to play more consistently to earn a starting role.
— Cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Tarell Brown only played against Brees and weren’t targeted. Butler manned left cornerback while Brown stayed in the slot. Brown’s lack of playing time could be a good sign, as he fights for a starting role.
— Linebacker Jamie Collins gave up a 29-yard play to running back Mark Ingram on a wheel route. Collins is solid covering tight ends, but he still struggles to track running backs out of the backfield. He was bumped by wide receiver Brandin Cooks on the play, but it didn’t look to be enough to completely alter the play. It was a perfect pass and a great play design by the Saints, but Collins might need to pick up Ingram a split-second sooner. Safety Duron Harmon also could have been less hesitant on the back end of the play.
— Devin McCourty was in zone coverage on the 45-yard touchdown from Brees to Cooks. It looked like it was Harmon’s responsibility to pick up the speedy receiver over the top, but he was a split second too late. Harmon has been solid at free safety during his young career, so that could just be a lack of experience showing through.
— Check out the Patriots’ pass-coverage stats here.
— He’ll be fine, but Collins struggled in the run game at times, too. He missed a tackle on this 3-yard run by Khiry Robinson. Fortunately, Butler was there to make a very impressive stop.
— Butler made another standout tackle on a 7-yard reverse by Cooks. Defensive lineman Dominique Easley failed to set the edge, but Butler made up for it with a big hit.
— Defensive end Jabaal Sheard made two very impressive run stuffs for no gain, but he also has a tendency to overpursue at times and give up the edge.
— Defensive tackles Malcom Brown and Sealver Siliga had up-and-down performances. They typically held their ground against a single blocker but struggled against double teams.
— It was late in the game, but this play by defensive lineman Zach Moore, linebacker Darius Fleming and cornerback Logan Ryan stood out. Moore holds the edge, Fleming sends wide receiver Joe Morgan flying into the fullback, and Ryan overpowers his blocker to help make a play.
— Garoppolo did his offensive line a favor by making quicker decisions. He has a tendency to hold the ball for too long in the pocket during practice, but he made major strides in that area on Saturday night.
— It was unfortunate to see Brandon Gibson go down with an injury late in the game. He’s been the Patriots’ most consistent and dependable receiver all summer. He had another great game, catching eight passes for 68 yards.
— Running back Dion Lewis and James White each stood out in the passing game. Lewis made a crazy one-handed catch from Garoppolo as time ran out in the first half. He made his defender miss then wisely scampered out of bounds.
— White showed nice vision and patience on a 20-yard catch from Garoppolo late in the third quarter. Rookie guard Shaq Mason got away with being illegally up field a second too early, but credit goes out to center Josh Kline, tight end Jimmay Mundine and wide receiver Chris Harper for nice downfield blocks.
— Garoppolo held onto the ball for too long and made an ill-advised throw off his back foot on his lone turnover. Otherwise, he was nearly perfect.
— Tight end Jimmay Mundine showed off his impressive after-the-catch ability with a spin move on an 11-yard catch.
— Wide receiver Chris Harper continues to be consistent and trusted by Garoppolo to make tough catches for first downs. He had five catches for 69 yards — four went for first downs, and one was a touchdown.
— The Patriots’ offensive line protected Brady and Garoppolo much better than in their preseason opener. Garoppolo helped out by making quicker decisions.
— One of Garoppolo’s incompletions was caused by a QB hit let up by left tackle Nate Solder.
— Rookie guards Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson held up surprisingly well in the passing game.
— Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming was flagged for illegal formation twice. Belichick looked peeved at the officials on the first penalty, but he lit into Fleming the second time it occurred.
— Check out the Patriots’ pass-protection stats here.
— As good as the Patriots’ offensive line was in the passing game, they were just as bad early as run blockers. Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount had trouble finding any room behind the starting offensive line, which featured rookies Mason, Jackson and David Andrews.
— Mason and Andrews were overpowered at the point of attack too frequently. They show promise, but they might need to improve their playing strength. Mason immediately is on roller skates on this play, and Andrews loses his block.
— Fleming looked lost at times, whiffing on blocks, leading to blown up plays.
— New tight end Asante Cleveland struggled in the run game. We’ll see if he improves with more time in the Patriots’ offense.
— Kline and guard Ryan Groy were positive standouts as run blockers. Both players showed off impressive athleticism pulling and blocking at the second level. Lewis scored on an 11-yard run midway through the third quarter because of his ability to bounce off tacklers, but the play started with key blocks by Kline at center and a pull from Groy at left guard.
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images