Patriots faceplant in loss to Saints ahead of meeting with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It was a good thing the Patriots decided to honor Julian Edelman at halftime on Sunday. At least it gave fans inside Gillette Stadium something to cheer about.

Other than honoring the recently retired wide receiver, there wasn’t much celebrating on this day. Simply put, the Patriots looked horrible in this 28-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints. With a matchup against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on deck, this was the last thing anyone in New England wanted to see in Week 3.

Even when the Pats looked like they might have a chance – down 21-13 with 9:22 to go – the Saints executed a clock-killing, game-securing scoring drive with Taysom Hill running in a touchdown with 2:37 left. It was a sloppy afternoon in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where mistakes and poor play helped drop the Patriots to 1-2.

Mac Jones finished 30-of-51 for 270 yards to go with a touchdown and three interceptions. The rookie quarterback is going to be sore after this one. Here are the three main takeaways from the Patriots loss:

The Patriots offensive line looks horrible

The Patriots have been without Trent Brown (calf) for most of the season and the response has been abysmal. On Sunday, Jones was hit 11 times and sacked twice. The team also averaged 2.9 yards per carry.

The Pats need Brown back, but the rest of the offensive line also has to step up.

The offense went three-and-out on three straight drives to start this contest. The team was clearly losing the battle up front. On the first series, on third down, Tanoh Kpassagnon blew through the left side of the offensive line to force Jones to make a quick throw that fell incomplete. The second series started with a sack when C.J. Gardner-Johnson easily got by Damien Harris. The Pats couldn’t get out of the third-and-16 hole. The third series started with a Harris run for -2 yards. On third down, the pocket collapsed and Jones' pass attempt fell incomplete.

At 2:56 of the second, the lack of pass protection cost the Patriots. Here, on third-and-10, Jones was hit by Kaden Elliss as he threw the ball. That directly led to Jones’ first-career interception by Saints corner P.J. Williams. He returned the ball 46 yards to the Saints 9-yard line. That led to another Saints touchdown, Jameis Winston to Marquez Callaway, to put New Orleans up 14-0.

At one point, in the fourth quarter, the offense had more quarterback hits allowed (10) to points scored (six).

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones releases a pass under pressure from Saints defenders.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones releases a pass under pressure from Saints defenders.

This was one of the sloppiest performances in recent memory

You could sum up the Patriots performance on Sunday by the first play in the third quarter.

At 14:51 of the third, Jones hit Jonnu Smith in the hands. The tight end, however, bobbled the pass, knocking the ball up in the air. That made for an easy interception for Malcolm Jenkins, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 21-3 lead.

It was a disastrous Sunday afternoon for the Patriots. Errors piled upon errors. Embarrassing play after embarrassing play. The Patriots played sloppy and they paid the price.

Smith had an awful day. Jones started 0-for-5 with an interception when targeting the high-priced free-agent acquisition. The tight end finished with one catch for four yards.

The Saints even struck first due to a defensive breakdown. At 7:35 of the first quarter, it was third-and-7, from the 11-yard line, when Jameis Winston easily hit Alvin Kamara for an 11-yard touchdown. On this play, the Pats somehow forgot to cover the best player on the field. Kamara was wide open and waltzed into the end zone untouched.

On top of that, we saw a Jake Bailey punt get blocked in the second quarter. Then a Bailey kickoff landed out of bounds in the third quarter.

Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith, left, can't hold onto the ball as Saints defenderMalcolm Jenkins breaks up the play in the second quarter.
Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith, left, can't hold onto the ball as Saints defenderMalcolm Jenkins breaks up the play in the second quarter.

The James White injury hurts more than you might think

The Patriots first, first down came at 11:34 of the second quarter when James White ran for six yards on third-and-3. The cause for celebration very quickly turned into disappointment. On that play, White suffered what appeared to be a serious hip injury. The back was carted off the field and immediately ruled out of the game.

It was a scary moment for a player who’s been very important to the Patriots success over the years. White is an outstanding third-down back. He’s excellent in blitz pick up and has reliable hands during the most important moments in the game. Losing him, especially when you have a rookie quarterback is a gut punch.

Last week, White led the Patriots in receptions (six), receiving yards (45) and added a rushing touchdown. Jones even talked about how much White has helped him due to the veteran’s knowledge of the offense.

When White left Sunday’s game, it led to more playing time for Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor. Bolden’s first three carries went for zero yards, zero yards and a loss of a yard. Taylor caught two passes for three yards. The Patriots will need all the backs – Damien Harris, Taylor, Bolden and Rhamandre Stevenson to step up with White out.

Losing the 29-year-old only makes life more difficult for Jones and this struggling offense.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Patriots faceplant in loss to Saints ahead of meeting with Tom Brady