The Patriots have been waiting for this day for months; the start of a new season with a new arsenal of players and talent. Thursday evening was first game of the preseason, the official kickoff of the 2010 season for both New England and the New Orleans Saints. The matchup was witnessed by a sold out crowd at Gillette Stadium.
After joint practice sessions earlier this week, both teams had an up close look at the fundamental schemes of their opponents. Even with time to target specific weaknesses of the Patriots, the Saints were unable secure the win.
The Patriots won the preseason battle with a final score of 27-24.
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots looks to pass during the preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 12, 2010 in Foxboro. Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Offense and Red Zone Emphasis
Tom Brady and the majority of the first team only played the first part of the game. As expected, rookies Aaron Hernandez, Ron Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty were all listed on the starting lineup.
Brady completed five of eight passes for a total of 67 yards. He had two passes for 20 yards or more to Randy Moss and Brandon Tate. Second year back up Brian Hoyer took over for Brady early in the second quarter and was on target for 8 of 13 passes for a total of 106 yards. Rookie quarterback Zac Robinson struggled in his NFL debut by completing just 3 of his 8 attempts.
The major offensive standout of the game was second year receiver/punt returner/kick returner Julian Edelman whose 40 yard punt return in the first quarter set the stage for the first score of the game; a 35-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. In one of his bast games to date, Edelman caught every ball directed at him. With six catches for 90 yards, Edelman averaged at least 15 yards per reception.
After the game, the youngster talked about his involvement in the offense and the importance of getting the ball into the end zone.
“It’s always an emphasis to execute in the red zone,” Edelman remarked. And we ran the ball pretty well.”
Wide receiver Darnell Jenkins made a crucial 52-yard catch from quarterback Zac Robinson to set up the game-winning kick by Stephen Gostkowski.
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis got the majority of the snaps for the Patriots ground attack. He finished with eleven carries for 34 yards and one rushing touchdown. Laurence Maroney also found some success, finishing with 8 carries for 30 yards. More important that th yardage, two of the carries led to rushing touchdowns.
Interesting note: Offensive lineman Dan Connolly was reported as an eligible receiver during the play that ended with a Green-Ellis touchdown.
Defense Shows Progress
The Patriots defense showed quickness and appeared to be more aggressive than last season. Linebacker Eric Alexander had the sole interception of the game whiloe rookie Brandon Spikes amassed three solo tackles and assisted in five others.
Free agent linebacker Marques Murrell, who suffered minor cramps early at training camp, set the tone defensively. On one play, Murrell exploded through Saints offensive line to haul quarterback Drew Brees to the ground giving Murrell his first sack as a new Englander.
Murrell spoke after the game about the play, “...Felt good to get pressure and to get a sack in the first series...” Murrell also explained that it was important to remain focused. “Adrenaline is pumping pretty good, but I still gotta remember it’s a preseason game and after the four games, the slate is wiped clean and gotta start all over again.”
Special Teams Produce Results
| Gostkowski makes the winning kick against the Saints (Jim Rogash/Getty images)
Devin McCourty has gained collegiate football notoriety for his versatility on special teams. As a pro, he’s off to a good start in maintaining that reputation. McCourty led all specialists by recording three kickoff returns for 111 yards, with a long of 52 for an impressive 37 yard avg. Last sdeason New England ranked 15th in the league with just a 22.7 avg and a long of 52 yards.
Punter Zoltan Mesko performed efficiently in his debut with five punts averaging 43.4 yards, 3 of which inside the opponent’s 20. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was also perfect with both field goals made from 35 and 28 yards out.
The special teams backup squad struggled with coverage, allowing Saints’ kick returner Larry Beavers to bring back one kickoff for a 97-yard touchdown.
The Patriots will hold two additional training camp sessions in Gillette Stadium’s practice fields that will be open to the public
Sunday, August 15th : 2:30 PM (a 10:00AM walk through practice is schedule but will not be open to the public.)
Monday, August 16th: 10:00 AM - this is the final practice for the Patriots that will be open to the public.
The Patriots will make their way south to face the Atlanta Falcons for their second preseason game on Thursday, August 19th, kickoff is set for 8:00 PM.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check in all camp long for regular updates by Kisha from Foxboro