Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Saints and offers some of his first-quarter observations:
1. OLB Marques Murrell can thank fellow OLB Tully Banta-Cain for his sack of Saints QB Drew Brees on the game’s opening drive. Murrell beat Saints RT Jon Stinchcomb around the edge with a swim move, but lost his balance as he tried to get to Brees. It was Banta-Cain who bull-rushed LT Jermon Bushrod into the backfield, forcing Brees to step backwards and put Murrell back into position to make the sack.
2. Julian Edelman’s 40-yard punt return was not as much a product of good blocking as it was exceptional athleticism from Edelman. He was able to first break a tackle, then beat an unblocked Scott Shanle up the sideline before being pulled out of bounds by punter Thomas Morstead. Had Edelman broken free and tight-roped along the sideline, a downfield block from Sam Aiken was in place and a touchdown would have likely resulted.
3. On the second play of the Saints’ second drive, OLB Tully Banta-Cain worked the inside shoulder of TE Jeremy Shockey, instead of setting the edge and forcing RB Pierre Thomas inside. RCB Darius Butler was, however, able to hold his ground on the far edge and prevent Thomas from turning the corner. Rookie ILB Brandon Spikes read the play, avoided blockers and filled Thomas’ cut-back lane, allowing Butler to come off his block and make the tackle.
4. The Patriots featured the play-action pass heavily on their second drive, and the pass protection in each case was solid. This allowed QB Tom Brady time to sit in the pocket and make completions to wide receivers Randy Moss (23 yards) and Brandon Tate (20 yards).
5. Patriots center Dan Koppen had some difficulties in the running game, twice missing blocks on linebackers in the second level. Meanwhile, LG Dan Connolly, filling in for Logan Mankins, pulled to his right to make the key block on ILB Jonathan Vilma to put RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the end zone.
6. On a screen pass to Saints TE Jeremy Shockey late in the first quarter, safety Patrick Chung and LCB Devin McCourty were both hesitant to make a move to bring the tight end down. McCourty ended up diving at Shockey’s ankles and missing, requiring DL Mike Wright to hustle from behind and make the stop.
Check out all of Rodak's breakdowns for the Patriots-Saints game: