Check out photos of the Saints and Patriots in Week 2 action at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Where to begin? To say New England had its way with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome would be understating. The Patriots scored on five of six possessions in the first half en route to 30 of their 36 points in a 16-point victory, held the Saints to 81 rushing yards on 17 carries – Mark Ingram's final carry of the game for the Saints accounted for 28 of those yards – and to 4 for 12 on third-down conversions, and generally made themselves at home in the Saints' 2017 home opener. The questions may be different than the ones that were presented in the aftermath of the Saints' season opener, but they may be as plentiful. New Orleans has yet to play complimentary football (the offense hasn't been on track, the defense hasn't forced any turnovers, the special teams hasn't done anything special). That's Priority 1 right now.
OFFENSE: This offense is having difficulty scoring. History says that it will right itself – the Saints have finished no lower than sixth in total offense since 2006, the year Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees joined the franchise – but right now, the struggle is real and it's compounded by the fact that the defense isn't leaving the Saints much room for error on offense. The third-down conversion rate (33 percent) against the Patriots was poor, and the inability to stay on the field means the Saints can't consistently get in a groove. The Saints were better in the red zone against New England (2 of 3) than against Minnesota (1 of 5), but, frankly, they needed to keep pace with the Patriots by scoring touchdowns on a day when the defense couldn't get stops. Brees had another 300-yard passing day (356 yards, two touchdowns) but it wasn't nearly enough, considering the Saints allowed 30 points in the first half.
DEFENSE: Through eight quarters, the Saints have allowed 65 points and six touchdown passes, and Sam Bradford and Tom Brady have combined to complete 57 of 71 passes (80 percent) for 793 yards. Brady was sacked twice, but he wasn't under duress nearly enough (defensive end Cam Jordan specifically lamented that Brady repeatedly was able to step up in the pocket, something the Saints specifically aimed to prevent). Jordan remains the consistent pressure player; he needs help. And for the second consecutive game, a couple of key defensive penalties hurt the Saints. On New England's opening drive of the third quarter, Brady twice was intercepted, by safeties Marcus Williams and Kenny Vaccaro. Each time, the pick was nullified by penalty – 12 men on the field for Williams' theft, and holding by Vaccaro on his. New Orleans had hoped for some carryover defensive success from preseason but so far, that hasn't happened.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Wil Lutz made two more field goals and while he missed a 49-yarder – it hit the right upright and bounced back into the end zone – it wasn't as critical as it would have been if the Saints had been able to remain within arm's length of the Patriots. There isn't much fault to be found with punter Thomas Morstead (three punts, two downed inside the 20, no yards allowed on one punt return) and the return game showed some spunk (a 16-yard punt return by Ted Ginn Jr. and five kickoff returns for a 22.8-yard average, including a 34-yard return by Alvin Kamara and a 27-yarder by Trey Edmunds). But, like the other units, the Saints need something spectacular – a forced fumble, a long return, a blocked punt. Each unit needs to find a way to create an opportunity, a momentum-changer.