FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- First impressions following the preseason opener between the Patriots and Saints:
Overall effort positive. The Patriots played with solid intensity, the top units generally executed well for a first preseason game and the younger players got solid experience in a game setting. While there will be good teaching points for Bill Belichick (e.g., top red-zone offense was 1-for-2 on touchdowns), he had to be pleased with the team’s overall performance.
Edelman steals the show. If choosing one player as the star of the game, receiver Julian Edelman seems like the right choice. He had five receptions for 78 yards in the first half as well as a 40-yard punt return in the first quarter, setting the Patriots up at the Saints’ 19 on their opening drive.
Pressure on defense & return game are bright spots. The Patriots brought the heat on defense, blitzing often and creating good pressure for important stretches of the game. They also had positive results in the kickoff and punt return games, with Devin McCourty (kickoffs) and Edelman (punts) with the ball in their hands. These were two of the highlights of the contest for New England.
Green-Ellis gets the nod at running back. Of the team’s 31 snaps in the first half (not including the final kneel-down), running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was on for 21 of them. That was an unexpected twist, as Green-Ellis played more than any of the team’s other backs.
Butler’s penalty on the corner hurts. After putting together a strong training camp, cornerback Darius Butler had some struggles in the game. His fourth-down illegal contact penalty, which allowed the Saints to keep marching on their 20-play touchdown march in the second quarter, was one of the team’s more costly mistakes in the game.
Ventrone the lone injured player. The Patriots seemed to avoid the injury bug, with reserve safety Ross Ventrone the lone player to be knocked out of the game. Ventrone was hurt on a the Saints’ 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter.