New England quarterback Tom Brady was the star of the show, completing 30-of-39 passes for 447 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski rebounded from a quiet game to catch six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.
The Saints aren’t the league’s most-heralded team right now. Even still, the Patriots’ convincing victory shows that they aren’t suffering a Super Bowl hangover. Here are some key takeaways from the game against New Orleans and what to look for in next week’s contest.
1. Tom Brady was Excellent
Much was made about Brady’s age following his performance against Kansas City. He threw for 267 yards and no touchdowns against the Chiefs. This had many wondering if the 40-year-old quarterback is entering the twilight of his career.
If so, you certainly wouldn’t know it by how Brady played against New Orleans. Beyond the eye-popping stats, he had some incredible throws. Examples include a touch pass to Rex Burkhead, a flat-footed touchdown TD throw to Gronk, and another perfect ball to Gronksowski that was dropped.
This performance was a far cry from last Thursday, when Brady consistently overthrew players. But we can give him a break since he lost over half of his starting receiving corp (Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola) before and during the game.
2. New England Played with More Emotion
Brady wasn’t happy with his teammates following the loss to Kansas City. He questioned the Patriots’ attitude and competitiveness following the contest.
“We just didn’t make a lot of plays tonight, actually,” said Brady. “So we just have to be better in a lot of areas, starting with our attitude and our competitiveness. We have to do a lot better than tonight.”
New England heard his message loud and clear because they played with a lot more energy against New Orleans. Gronkwoski started flexing after he scored a 53-yard touchdown.
The team got excited after a big special teams tackle by Harvey Langi. And Brady himself celebrated after throwing a TD to Chris Hogan.
3. Gronkowski Had a Great Game – But He was also Injured
Rob Gronkowski is trying to get back to the top of his game after an injury-plagued season in 2016. And he certainly got things going against the Saints. He looked like the old Gronkowski on his 53-yard TD, out-running and out-juking New Orleans defenders.
The only problem is that Gronk was slow to get up after his sixth-and-final catch. He headed off the field afterward and went to the medical tent.
The good news is that he didn’t aggravate the back injury that kept him sidelined half of last season. The bad news is that he hurt his groin and didn’t play any more snaps. Gronkowski did at least ride the exercise bike on the sidelines while watching the rest of his team’s victory.
GET. OFF. HIM.
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2017
4. Other Patriots Got Injured Too
New England hasn’t had much luck with injuries this season. As mentioned before, three of their top receivers have already been injured, with Edelman (ACL) done for the year.
The New Orleans didn’t bring much relief in this department. Rex Burkhead, playing in his first game as a slot receiver/running back hybrid, headed back to the locker room. Newly acquired receiver Phillip Dorsett went to the medical tent late in the contest. And Hogan was limping at various points during the game, although he remained on the field.
Amendola was forced to miss this game with a concussion and knee injury. Mitchell has been placed on IR, meaning he’ll miss at least 8 games, and Edelman won’t see the field until 2018. That said, New England can’t afford many more long-term injuries.
5. Burkhead could Play a Big Role Moving Forward
After getting just 4 touches against the Chiefs, he had 5 touches in the first quarter against the Saints. This included a 19-yard touchdown.
With Amendola out, Burkhead ran some routes out of the slot and also shared the field with fellow running back James White on occasion.
Starting Green Bay running back Tim Montgomery had a similar role last season until breaking out. We doubt Burkhead will get as much action as Montgomery when considering all of New England’s running backs. But he’s definitely a player to look for moving forward.
The only question is what kind of injury he’s dealing with, and if he’ll have to miss any time.
Patriots Betting in Week 3
New England hosts the Houston Texans next week on Sunday. Houston is coming off a narrow 13-9 road victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. That said, I don’t see the Texans contending with New England in Gillette Stadium.
This isn’t to say that Houston can’t be competitive. But they’ll be starting rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson in a road game against one of the NFL’s top teams. I look for New England to win the game 31-17.
The one X-factor could be the Patriots’ injuries. If Amendola isn’t cleared and any of the other players we discussed miss time, then this will be a much tougher game for New England than expected.
But don’t bet on this happening until any more injuries are confirmed for the Patriots.