Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of the Patriots' preseason opener against the Saints and offers some of his second-quarter observations:
1. Rookie ILB Brandon Spikes continues to show a good awareness of the play in front of him. On the first play of the second quarter, Spikes blitzed up the middle, but read the dump-off pass to RB Pierre Thomas. Shedding his blocker at the line, Spikes kept himself square to the line as he tracked the play outside. Safety Brandon Meriweather beat TE Jeremy Shockey to the outside, forcing Thomas to cut back inside. Spikes was still reading the play, and broke off a block from RG Jahri Evans to make the open-field stop.
2. The Patriots used more interior blitzing than they have in years past. On one play, ILB Jerod Mayo and OLB Marques Murrell put on a combination blitz, with Mayo splitting the RT and RG outside to pressure QB Drew Brees while Murrell stunted inside, but slipped before he could get to Brees.
3. On a fourth-down conversion attempt by the Saints, the Patriots used their only 7-man blitz of the game. OLB Tully Banta-Cain bull-rushed LG Carl Nicks to pressure Brees, while safety Brandon McGowan came in unblocked. Brees ended up overthrowing his ended receiver, but the play was called back on an illegal contact penalty by Patriots CB Darius Butler.
4. One of the biggest problems the Patriots’ defense seemed to have on the Saints’ 20-play drive was getting pushed back at the line of scrimmage. The Patriots’ defensive line for the drive – Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren, and Mike Wright – all got routinely beaten at the point of attack by the Saints’ big, physical offensive line. On the final play of the drive, however, Saints RB Reggie Bush was able to walk into the end zone after RCB Darius Butler was late to pull off the inside route by the lone Saints receiver on that side of the field.
5. On the Patriots’ first drive of the second quarter, rookie TE Aaron Hernandez lined up as a slot wide receiver, catching a screen pass/lateral from QB Brian Hoyer and proceeding to make the first defender to the ball – a defensive back – miss his tackle. Rarely is a tight end able to execute on a play designed for a wide receiver as Hernandez did.
6. The Patriots’ second unit at offensive line had a slow start to their night, with nearly every player along the line missing blocks on the first few plays. But by the end of their second quarter drive, the line hit their stride, with RG Rich Ohrnberger and C Ryan Wendell combining to clear a path for RB Laurence Maroney on his touchdown run.
7. On a Saints third down late in the second quarter, Patriots CB Jonathan Wilhite showed great timing on a slant pattern by Saints WR Courtney Roby. Just as the ball reached Roby’s hands, Wilhite hit Roby from behind and jarred the ball loose.
Check out all of Rodak's breakdowns for the Patriots-Saints game: