NEW ORLEANS -- Not often can this be written: The New England Patriots were in over their heads.
The Patriots head back to Foxborough with a gut check ahead.
They are 0-4 in true road games and won't have the opportunity to record a signature victory the rest of the way. They still have a handle on the AFC East. Only one of their remaining opponents has a winning record, the 6-5 Jacksonville Jaguars.
But New England has a lot of question marks. The defense was pitiful, the offense mostly pedestrian.
The Patriots looked decent on the ground. Laurence Maroney rushed 15 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns, but the Saints were superior all around.
Not on this night, when they got caught watching Brees' long aerials sail over the heads and land in the mitts of this Saints guy and that Saints guy and the other Saints guy. Brees completed 18 of 23 passes for 371 yards and five touchdowns to five teammates.
Brady was less than phenomenal. His streak of consecutive 300-yard games ended at five, one shy of the NFL record.
He was 21 of 36 for 237 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. The first was costly at a time the Patriots could have asserted themselves -- a 7-3 lead and one play after Wes Welker returned a punt 41 yards into Saints territory. Brady threw another bad one in the fourth quarter to kill any hopes of a comeback.
Brady completed only one pass to Randy Moss in the first half, two in the second, although they connected for 47 yards to set up Maroney's second touchdown.