First-half analysis

NEW ORLEANS -- Critical mistakes -- namely a Tom Brady interception that the Saints converted into a touchdown and a blown coverage on a 75-yard touchdown catch and run -- have put the Patriots in a tough spot.

The Saints lead 24-10 and have been the more consistent team, sometimes forcing the Patriots into their errors. They deserve credit for coming to play in a statement-type game.

The turning point of the first half was Brady’s interception, which came on the first play of the team’s second drive. The Patriots held a 7-3 lead and Wes Welker’s long punt return set them up in great position.

After pounding the ball with two tight ends on nine plays of their 14-play scoring drive, the Patriots came out in an empty set. Brady was moved out of the pocket and fired the pick to Mike McKenzie.

The tide turned from there.

Brady struggled to consistently find his rhythm, affected by the Saints’ pressure as the protection has broken down too often. The combination of the Saints’ tight coverage on Randy Moss and Welker helped the Saints win more snaps. Moss was held without a catch until 49 seconds remained in the half and appeared frustrated at times.

The Patriots’ pass-catchers aren’t getting separation, forcing Brady to work the ball into tight spots.

Defensively, the Patriots found themselves out of position, their fundamentals breaking down at various times. The Saints struck their desired balance on offense, which set up their lethal play-action game.

The Patriots get the ball to start the second half. They need a dramatic U-turn to have a chance in this game.