Impressions from the first half of the Patriots' 7-6 win over the Saints on Thursday night. On Chandler Jones' first pressure during the first drive of the night, he was very late off the snap but still got around Jermon Bushrod to force Drew Brees to throw it away. Devin McCourty was in great downfield position on Brees' long attempt to end the first Saints drive. The only caveat was that he was covering a tight end, Dave Thomas. Rob Gronkowski had an edge block on Stevan Ridley's first sweep that went for 8 yards.
The second-down play, a counter to Danny Woodhead was really well-designed and could have broken long if the pulling Donald Thomas had kicked out the corner and Woodhead had followed him. On the incompletion to Brandon Lloyd down the right sideline, Dan Koppen snapped the ball while Tom Brady was still gesturing to call out blocking assignments. The timing of the play was a mess. On the ensuing sweep to Ridley, Koppen got caught in the wash at the linebacker level, didn't get downfield and the middle linebacker Curtis Lofton croaked Ridley. When Dane Fletcher tore his ACL, he was trying to plant his left foot and it rolled just a little. Almost a non-contact injury. On the deep post thrown to Brandon Lloyd, the back judge was in the wrong place and practically in the way. Had Brady led Lloyd more, there would have been a collision. The timing on the early screen plays was bad. On the first one, Ridley got stuck in the line while trying to leak out and Brady had nobody to throw to. Randy Cross threw out a "Woodley" when referring to Danny Woodhead. On the strip sack of Brady, Marcus Cannon's missed block was more egregious than Nate Solder's. Jerod Mayo showed excellent coverage skills throughout. He had back-to-back good covers and tackles of Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. His tip that led to the pick by Steve Gregory was a very athletic play. One thing Ridley can do that BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't do much in 2011 - he makes the first guy miss. Watching the game again, you could see why Bill Belichick was somewhat pleased with his offense, run blocking. In the first quarter, several plays were very well blocked. Dont'a Hightower showed great power on two plays - one tossing the Saints tight end Higgins 20 feet out of bounds with a little shove, later meeting a Saints running back Chris Ivory hard in the hole and jolting him. Hightower did a poor job diagnosing a simple run through the middle by Pierre Thomas that went for 13 yards.
On the third-and-22 completion to Courtney Roby, Sterling Moore appeared to be trying to force Roby inside but Roby stutter-stepped on his release and got to the sidelines, putting Moore in chase mode where he doesn't have the speed to catch up. Ryan Wendell had a full-on whiff that got Brandon Bolden drilled in the first quarter. Ryan Mallett was just brutal on his first series but quite a bit better after that. He showed good pocket mobility on a couple of checkdown throws.