Football returned to Foxboro on Thursday night, but it wasn't pretty by any means. Penalty flags flew seemingly without end, passes were off target, and frustration abounded. At the end of the mess, the Patriots took a 7-6 victory over the Saints in their preseason opener.
Tom Brady and Drew Brees saw limited action, as anticipated, with Brees connecting on 1-of-4 passes for four yards and Brady throwing for 30 yards (4-for-7), but he also fumbled.
Both sides had unproductive opening drives, with both Brady and Brees failing to complete their first two passes. The Patriots' second drive ended with a turnover after Brady was sacked by Will Smith and fumbled the ball, leading to John Kasay's 46-yard field goal at 8:35 in the opening quarter to break the scoreless tie, putting New Orleans on top, 3-0.
Stephen Gostkowski missed a 53-yard field goal attempt, wide left, at the end of the second quarter, keeping the Saints up three points heading into halftime. New England would finally post a successful offensive drive early in the third quarter, when Brian Hoyer (8-for-15, 45 yards) led the Pats on a 14-play, 97-yard drive spanning 5:21 that ended with a three-yard touchdown strike from Hoyer to receiver Britt Davis, his only catch of the night.
Garrett Hartley made a 27-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter, making it a 7-6 game, but New Orleans couldn't come any closer. Kasay had a chance to put the Saints in the driver's seat late in the fourth, but his 41-yard field goal sailed wide right with 3:07 left. The Saints would get the ball back, but couldn't convert, and the Patriots ran out the clock.
Ryan Mallett led all Pats quarterbacks with 89 passing yards on 8-of-19 passes, but was picked off. Shane Vereen rushed for 64 yards on 11 carries and Stevan Ridley had 40 rushing yards on eight carries. Eleven different receivers caught passes for New England, which was led by Julian Edelman (four catches, 36 yards). Jeff Tarpinian had six tackles to lead the Patriots defense, which lost linebacker Dane Fletcher to a reported ACL tear.
Luke McCown threw for 86 yards and Chase Daniel registered 62 passing yards to lead New Orleans, which totaled one more total yard of offense than New England at 280. Joe Banyard rushed for a team-high 27 yards on seven carries and Courtney Roby had five catches for 85 yards. Jonathan Casillas recorded seven tackles to lead New Orleans.
Between the two teams, there were 15 penalties (10 for New Orleans) and four turnovers.
New England hosts the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 of preseason play next Monday.