The New England Patriots' preseason opener may have provided fans with their first look at Jimmy Garoppolo, but it was the defense that answered the call with two touchdowns and four forced turnovers despite an extensive test against the New Orleans Saints.
Jamie Collins opened the scoring just three minutes into the game with a 47-yard interception return off of Garrett Grayson, while Trey Flowers recovered a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown after sacking Luke McCown in the fourth quarter. Cyrus Jones recovered a fumble and Cre'von LeBlanc recorded an interception of his own, yet the Pats' defense allowed 369 yards against the Saints and lost the time of possession count by eight minutes.
Mark Ingram scored the Saints' first two touchdowns of the game, at 6:09 of the first quarter and 14:22 of the second quarter, briefly giving the Saints (0-1) a 16-8 lead. He finished with 18 yards on seven carries, while Marcus Murphy led the way with 22 yards on seven carries.
First-year Saint Reggie Bell caught the lone touchdown pass of the game, from McCown at 13:39 of the fourth quarter.
LeGarrette Blount and Tyler Gaffney each added rushing touchdowns for the Patriots (1-0), with Gaffney's coming on a 44-yard run in the third quarter. James White provided the Pats with a successful two-point conversion on their first touchdown, but missed the boat on two more.
Garoppolo looked sharp in the first half, completing 11 of 18 passes for 168 yards. Third-yard draft choice Jacoby Brissett followed up with seven completions for 63 yards.
Fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell was beginning to impress in his Patriots debut, but left in the second quarter with a gruesome-looking elbow injury. He finished with four catches for 55 yards, and was targeted a team-high five times.
Stephen Gostkowski was flawless, going 2-for-2 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra-point opportunities. Both of his field goals were completed from 38 and 45 yards, respectively.
Starting at tight end over Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett was targeted four times. He finished with three catches for 33 yards.
McCown looked sharp in his first game since missing the bulk of the 2015 season with a back injury, completing 18 of 27 passes for 143 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Grayson completed 10 of 16 passes for 133 yards and one interception.
The Pats' preseason continues next Thursday, as they welcome the Chicago Bears to Foxboro.
Follow Rob Riches on Twitter @Riches61