|Snap Judgments: Patriots win preseason opener, lose Dane Fletcher||08.09.12 at 10:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots won their preseason opener with a 7-6 win over the Saints, but lost a bit of their defensive depth in the process.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, linebacker Dane Fletcher tore his ACL on a first-quarter Patriots punt. Fletcher had 32 tackles and one forced fumble in 10 games last season.
The Patriots trailed, 3-0, at halftime, but Britt Davis reeled in a three-yard touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer to cap a 97-yard drive in the third quarter and give the Pats a lead they would keep the rest of the game. John Kasay (46 yards) Garrett Hartley (27 yards) each had field goals for the Saints. Kasay missed a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter that would have given New Orleans the win.
Tom Brady played two drives for the Pats, completing four of seven passes for 30 yards. Brian Hoyer completed eight of 15 for 45 yards and the touchdown to Britt, while Ryan Mallett completed eight of 19 passes for 89 yards and an interception.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- Shane Vereen didn’t play until the second half — undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden got carries before him in the first half — but he made the most of his opportunity when it came. The 2011 second-round pick led all Patriots running backs with 64 yards on 11 carries, including an 18-yard run in the Patriots’ third-quarter touchdown drive.
- Free agent signing Steve Gregory came up with an interception early in the second quarter thanks to a tip from Jerod Mayo. The veteran linebacker got a hand on Chase Daniel’s pass before Gregory batted it around before finally hauling it in. In addition to the interception, Gregory had a pair of tackles on the night. Patrick Chung had New England’s other interception, picking off Canfield.
- The Patriots saw two of their drives extended by penalties from Saints linebacker Martez Wilson on 4th-and-1. The first of the two gifts came in the first quarter when Lawrence Wilson was flagged for encroachment, with Wilson later running into Zoltan Mesko on a second-quarter punt. None of the extended drives led to points for the Patriots.
- The Patriots got a nice showing from their high-profile rookies on defense in Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Though he was blocked well on a play to open up a hole for a 13-yard scamper for Pierre Thomas, Hightower made a very good impression for the Pats. The first-round pick out of Alabama started and was plenty disruptive (especially on a second-quarter play in which he forced a bad throw from Saints backup quarterback Sean Canfield). He finished the night with four tackles.
Jones, meanwhile, was disruptive from the get-go, forcing a bad throw from Drew Brees on the Saints’ first passing play of the night and later running back into a play to take down Travaris Cadet after a one-yard gain.
- Speaking of rookies on defense, third-round pick Jake Bequette didn’t get into the game until the second half but came through with a fourth-quarter sack of Luke McCown. The Arkansas product had 10 sacks in 10 games last year as a senior.
WHAT WENT WRONG
- One of the biggest storylines entering the game was the status of the offensive line, and its performance left onlookers with just a many questions as the tackles struggled mightily. Nate Solder, who ran his fair share of laps in training camp, had two holding penalties in the first quarter. Additionally, Marcus Cannon had a false start and allowed a first-quarter strip-sack of Brady. The rest of the line wasn’t much better (see below).
- There were plenty of plays between the two teams suggestive of being a preseason game, but the Pats took the cake on a first-quarter play that showed confusion between the line, quarterback and receiver. Brady clearly wasn’t anticipating the snap when it came from Dan Koppen, and Brandon Lloyd over-ran the pass, reaching back to nearly reel it in but dropping it. The play was one of two times Lloyd was targeted, with the other coming back on a Solder penalty. Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald also saw time at center.
- Steven Gostkowski had the opportunity to tie the game at the end of the first half but missed a field goal wide left from 53-yards out. Gostkowski had hit both of his attempts from 53 yards in warmups.
- Danny Woodhead had just one carry for three yards. He hauled in three passes for 26 yards, including a 20-yard play from Ryan Mallett late in the first half to set up Gostkowski’s field goal attempt.
- Sterling Moore didn’t exactly sparkle for the Patriots. He was beaten a couple of times down the sideline, including a third-quarter pass interference penalty that advanced New Orleans 46-yards after the defensive back got tangled up with Joseph Morgan. The penalty positioned the Saints well in New England territory to set up Hartley’s 28-yard field goal.
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