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Halftime analysis from Patriots-Saints

08.12.10 at 8:55 pm ET
By

FOXBORO — Just reached halftime here at Gillette Stadium in the preseason opener between the Patriots and the Saints. Here are a few quick notes:

•The Patriots have gone predominantly with BenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back throughout most of the first half, and he has responded nicely, finishing with 11 carries for 34 yards and one touchdown. (Laurence Maroney got some run at the end of the second quarterback and tacked on a touchdown of his own.) Green-Ellis was a beneficiary of a tight-end heavy offense — the Patriots played three tight ends at the start of the game. Without Wes Welker in the lineup, Julian Edelman has seen a lot of time and he has responded nicely, finishing the first two quarters with five catches for 78 yards, as well as a 40-yard punt return in the first quarter.

•Through the first two quarters, left guard Dan Connolly was a bit of a mixed bag. He was dominated on a pair of back-to-back plays — one, where he was tossed aside by New Orleans defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, and a second where he swung and missed on a block on Al Woods. But he bounced back on that same drive, delivering a pair of key blocks — the first on a five-yard run by Kevin Faulk and the second on a six-yard touchdown run by Ellis where he took Jonathan Vilma out of the play. Connolly came out of the game just over halfway through the second, giving way to Ryan Wendell.

•The Saints were able to put together an impressive 20-play, 86-yard drive late in the first and into the second quarter that saw them convert several third down opportunities. It was a bad stretch for the New England defense, which struggled to contain the New Orleans starting offense. (The Saints cashed in when Reggie Bush went around left end on a two-yard touchdown run that made it 10-7 with 9:32 left in the second quarter.)

•The Patriots did answer that with a 10-play drive that took 79 yards and consumed 4:24, and ended with a five-yard touchdown run from Maroney with 5:08 left in the half to give New England a 17-7 edge. The highlight of the series was a 25-yard completion from Brian Hoyer to Edelman.

•On defense, the Patriots played mostly a 3-4, sticking with the following lineup for most of the first quarter and a half: Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork and Mike Wright up front, Tully Banta-Cain and Marques Murrell on the outside and Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes on the inside. In addition, it was rookie Devin McCourty and Darius Butler at corner and Pat Chung and Brandon Meriweather at safety. The two rookies — Spikes and McCourty — more than held their own in a quarter and a half of action. Spikes played 25 snaps (he came off the field on 3rd and long situations) and McCourty was on the field for the first 27 defensive snaps of the night.

•The Patriots’ starting defense was able to generate some heat on New Orleans starting quarterback Drew Brees (who was yanked in favor of Patrick Ramsey late in the second quarter), with Murrell collecting an 11-yard sack on the first series of the evening.

•Tom Brady went 5 for 8 for 67 yards in preseason opener, taking 17 snaps in all and turning the offense over to backup Hoyer roughly midway through the second quarter. Brady ended up with three passes of 20-plus yards, including a 23-yarder to Randy Moss and a 20-yarder to Brandon Tate, the latter of which included a nice tip-toe job along the sidelines by the receiver.

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