Three things we learned Thursday night:
It didn't take long to see why so many are high on Patriots defensive end rookie Chandler Jones. Jones was one of the brightest spots to come out of the Patriots 7-6 win over the Saints Thursday night, seemingly being everywhere all at once. Jones caused fits for a Saints defensive line that was called for holding penalties on numerous occasions. He was up in the opposing quarterback's face one second, and chasing down the the Saints backs or receivers in the next -- sometimes in the same play. With Mark Anderson gone and Andre Carter not with the team, a player like Jones is just what the Patriots need to put pressure on the opposition. He got credit for two tackles, but his impact on the game went a lot further than that. Fellow rookie Dont'a Hightower also had a solid game, finishing with four tackles and a quarterback hit.
Bill Belichick was asked about Jones' night, but wouldn't pump the rookie's tires just yet.
"You know, I think really all the players that I saw – especially the rookies – some of them did some good things," Belichick said. "There’s a long way to go. We have a lot of work to do. I don’t want to get too up or too down on anything. We just want to keep working and getting better."
Double threat at RB?
The Patriots lost two running backs over the offseason, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk. Green-Ellis was the team's go-to guy for much of the season, but it looks like the Patriots are comfortable going forward with who they have. Stevan Ridley started things off for New England at the lead back position, and had a couple of nice runs including a nine-yard rush around the outside edge that showcased his explosion. Shane Vereen had a better night though. Vereen got plenty of snaps in the second half and made the most of them. He was the driving force behind the Patriots' lone scoring drive that ended with a short Brian Hoyer TD to WR Britt Davis. Ridley finished with 40 yards on eight carries while Vereen had 11 carried for 64 yards. Undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden had eight rushes for 23 yards.
"I just wanted to go out there and to be best I could for the team; it’s as simple as that," Vereen said. "I was excited because it’s been so long since I played with the injuries and everything, but I just wanted to go out and perform well as I could with the team."
O-line has work to do
Going into the game there was much question as to how the Patriots' offensive line would hold up. The verdict? Not well.
Nate Solder made errors as did fellow second-year lineman Marcus Cannon. The line's miscues led to a scary Tom Brady sack in the first quarter that actually ended up being a fumble. Brady was hit from behind and sandwiched between two Saints players as the ball came loose. New Orleans recovered and ended up scoring a field goal on the ensuing drive. New England is still without it's top three lineman, so if and when they return, Brady can feel a little safer in the pocket. All that said, the line did a decent job in creating space for Ridley and especially for Vereen in the second half.