Game recap: Patriots 34, Saints 22

Photos from the Saints vs Patriots first preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 11th, 2016.

Photos by Layne Murdoch Jr/New Orleans Saints

Foxboro, Mass. - The New Orleans Saints left Gillette Stadium on Thursday night with plenty of items to work on in the final three preseason games but the No. 1 issue is clear: ball security.

The Saints turned the ball over four times - two of which were returned for touchdowns - as the New England Patriots won the preseason opener for both teams 34-22.

The trouble started on the Saints' first possession when running back Mark Ingram fumbled in New England territory, squandering great field position delivered by a 37-yard Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks bomb. It got worse on the next possession when quarterback Garrett Grayson's first attempt was picked off by linebacker Jamie Collins and returned 43 yards for a touchdown.

Luke McCown replaced Grayson to start the second half and had an excellent drive wiped out by an end zone interception by Cre'von LeBlanc. The final turnover provided the Pats their final touchdown as McCown was sacked-stripped by Trey Flowers who rambled 17 yards with the ball for a touchdown.

Scattered among the Saints turnovers were periods of good ball movement and some outstanding play by rookie receiver Michael Thomas (four catches for 67 yards), good pressure from defensive end Kasim Edebali (two sacks) and some excellent coverage by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and safety Kenny Vaccaro. The Saints defense gave up just one explosion play, a 44-yard touchdown run by Tyler Gaffney in the third quarter.

Grayson finished 10 of 16 for 133 yards while Ingram had two 1-yard scores on seven carries for 18 yards. Brees was a perfect 1 for 1 before leaving after the opening series.

New England star quarterback Tom Brady didn't play leaving all the snaps to backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. Garoppolo was 11 of 18 for 168 yards.

A number of Saints players did not dress for the game including receiver Jake Lampman, cornerback Keenan Lewis, cornerback Damian Swann, fullback Austin Johnson, cornerback Delvin Breaux, tight end Garrett Griffin, left tackle Terron Armstead, defensive tackle John Jenkins and defensive end Cam Jordan.

The Saints return to the practice fields at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., on Saturday before traveling to Houston for two days of joint practices with the Texans and a preseason game Saturday, Aug. 20.

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