Inactive for the New England Patriots were: Julian Edelman, Brandon Lafell, Aaron Dobson and Bryan Tyms.
Jimmy Garoppolo moved the Patriots into field goal range in the final minutes. WR Jonathan Krause caught his sixth pass to open the drive. A six yard run by RB James White put the ball at the Saints' 17. On fourth down, K Stephen Gostkowski converted a 35 yard field goal to give the Patriots its first lead, 26-24.
The Patriots cut the lead to 24-23 following a Stephen Gostkowski 36 yard field goal. New England hoped to pin the Saints deep in their own territory. The strategy worked to perfection with New Orleans going three and out. An excellent punt return put the Patriots in Saints' territory at the 45 at the two minute warning.
A poorly thrown pass by Jimmy Garoppolo set the Saints up at the New England 15 following the interception return by S Pierre Warren. Fourth string QB Garrett Grayson had two passes batted down in the endzone. The Saints had to settle for a 27 yard field goal by K Dustin Hoskins to increase the lead to 24-20.
New England RB James White ran six yards for an early fourth quarter score. The two point conversion was batted away at the goal line, and the Saints still led, 21-20. Jimmy Garoppolo completed all seven passes on the drive.
The Saints opened the third quarter with a drive into New England territory. A solid pass rush by DE Jabaal Sheard forced a third down incompletion by third string QB Ryan Griffin. The 55 yard field goal attempt by K Dustin Hoskins sailed wide left. The Patriots took over and quickly moved into Saints territory. A key fourth down completion kept the drive alive. New Orleans helped the New England drive with a roughing penalty and a 12 men on the field call. RB Dion Lewis ran 11 yards up the middle for a TD. K Stephen Gostkowski booted the extra point slicing the lead to 21-14.
The third quarter came to a close with the Patriots at the Saints' 23 yard line. Jimmy Garoppolo continued his stellar play with a sparkling 19 for 22 passing for 189 yards. His final pass of the third quarter was a short toss to RB James White which was good for 20 yards.
New England stalled on its first drive of the game when WR Joyce Boyce could not handle a short pass from QB Tom Brady. The Patriots were forced to punt to the Saints. New Orleans quickly moved into New England territory behind the passing of Drew Brees. The drive stalled and Dustin Hoskins of the Saints booted a 27 yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
The Patriots continued their woes on offense resulting in a second drive of three and out. The Saints were in sync and scored on a 10 yard pass from Drew Brees to former Patriots' TE Ben Watson. The Saints went for two points on the conversion, but were stopped short of the goal line for a 9-0 lead.
Tom Brady had his third down pass intended for WR Danny Amendola broken up. For the third straight series, the Patriots were forced to punt. The Saints wasted little time in extending the lead with a 45 yard bomb from Drew Brees to WR Brandin Cooks. New England S Duron Harmon was beaten badly on the play. The two point conversion was incomplete on an overthrow by Drew Brees. With one minute 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Saints led 15-0.
Tom Brady's night was complete with only two completions in five attempts for 13 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo replaced Tom Brady, but not before New England needed to use a timeout following the touchback on the kickoff. Garoppolo's first pass was a pass interference on the Saints. The Patriots were able to complete a third down pass to RB LeGarrette Blount for its second first down as the first quarter came to a close.
The struggles continued as the Patriots had their running game stifled early in the second quarter. A 57 yard field goal attempt by K Stephen Gostkowski had the distance, but sailed wide left.
Drew Brees gave way to Luke McCown at QB for the Saints. Brees finished eight for 10 for 159 yards and two TD's. The Patriots had a resurgence on defense forcing the Saints to punt twice in a row.
New England moved into Saints' territory, but a fourth down illegal formation penalty on Cameron Fleming ended the drive. The Saints took over and marched 70 yards in just five plays. QB Like McCown hit wide open TE Josh Hill for a six yard TD, and a 21-0 lead. For the third straight time, the two point conversion was unsuccessful.
Jimmy Garoppolo avoided a sack with just 14 seconds remaining before halftime. His 24 yard TD pass to WR Chris Harper cut into the Saints lead at 21-6. The extra point by K Stephen Gostkowski made the score, 21-7 at halftime. Garoppolo finished the half with 11 of 13 completions and 113 yards. The Patriots only mustered 26 yards rushing.
Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire. .
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