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Patriots look vulnerable, but Saints can’t overlook them

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It’s easy to get stoked for what New Orleans’ offense might do to New England next week. Almost too easy.

NEW ORLEANS, LA: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints defense as defensive lineman Cameron Jordan (94) brings pressure at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
NEW ORLEANS, LA: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints defense as defensive lineman Cameron Jordan (94) brings pressure at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

In case you were tuned out, the New England Patriots got shellacked by the Kansas City Chiefs during the NFL’s season-opener. Despite a 10-minute pregame humblebrag by Mark Wahlberg on behalf of tens of thousands of Bostonians celebrating the team’s many Super Bowl wins, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt shoved the Patriots firmly into the AFC East’s basement to start the 2017 season. One way or another, they’ll go into Week 2 with the same win-loss record as either the New York Jets or the Buffalo Bills.

Smith threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns without turning over the ball, a feat no quarterback has repeated against Matt Patricia’s lauded defense since Drew Brees shredded them back in 2009. Hunt rebounded from a fumble on his first pro rushing attempt to rack up 246 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns. As a team, the Chiefs gained 537 yards while ceding just 371 to the Patriots. The jokes have been flying fast and furious: so this is what it looks like when Tom Brady is shackled to a defense like Drew Brees has dealt with most of his career?

Now let’s tap the brakes. The Saints posted 480 yards of offense and 38 points in that stunning Monday Night Football win back in 2009, but the Patriots went on a tear afterwards They won three of their last five regular season games, allowing just 335 yards from scrimmage and 16 points per game before exiting the playoffs early against the Baltimore Ravens.

The following year, the Patriots lost an improbable game to the Cleveland Browns with a score of 34-14 and allowed 404 total yards, including 230 rushing yards. They didn’t lose a game for eight consecutive weeks, allowing a hair over 15 points per game and racking up 37 points per game on offense.

The story holds up year after year. New England lost back-to-back games to the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants in 2011, then won out all the way to a crushing Super Bowl loss to that same Giants team. A Week Six loss to the Seattle Seahawks in 2012 converted into a ten-game winning streak broken by one misstep against Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers.

The Patriots dropped seven 30-points-plus games on hapless following-week opponents to recover from losses between 2013 and 2016, including the infamous “we’re onto Cincinnati” harbinger following a September 29th loss of 41-14; they soundly beat the Bengals by 43-17, not losing again until November 30th against the Green Bay Packers.

It’s likely the Saints are squarely in their vision now. Despite an encouraging preseason performance, the defense only looks good on paper and needs a strong showing this Monday night versus the Minnesota Vikings. If Sam Bradford is pressured early and often and Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph are contained, maybe Saints fans can earn their eager looks towards Week Two. For now, let’s try to not outkick our coverage and keep our enthusiasm measured.