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Patriots-Saints Preview: Keys Remain the Same

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New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) runs against the Dallas Cowboys during an NFL Football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

After going through the New England Patriots keys to success each week, one starts to sound like a broken record. At this point what needs to be done is know. The question is, can the Patriots do it? A quick review of what needs to be done in order to secure a win against the New Orleans Saints this afternoon…

Start Strong

Against the Philadelphia Eagles the Patriots fell behind 16-0. In week two against the Miami Dolphins they trailed 10-0, then 17-3 at halftime. The Dallas Cowboys were up 10-3 after the first quarter and 28-3 at halftime. All three of their losses saw New England start slow and try to dig themselves out of holes too deep to climb out of. In their lone win against the New York Jets the Patriots never trailed.

The team to score first has won all four New England Patriots games this season.

Run the Ball Effectively

The New England Patriots have averaged 72.3 yards per game rushing in games they lost. They picked up 157 yards on the ground when they won. This is no coincidence.

Rhamondre Stevenson was the offense’s best and most consistent weapon a season ago. This year he is struggling to pick up yardage, with only 164 yards through four games. New England’s offensive line is part of the problem, but not all of it. Stevenson is making the wrong cut too often and failing to shed tacklers. This week he landed on the injury report with a thigh issue, which could be contributing to his issues. Stevenson either needs to revert to his old form or Ezekiel Elliott needs to start seeing more carries.

Establishing some sort of running game will also set up the play action pass, which the Patriots have not incorporated nearly enough in 2023.

Ball Security

After benching Demario Douglas earlier this season, Bill Belichick emphasized that nothing is more important than ball security. In the three games the New England Patriots have lost, their offense committed multiple turnovers. In the game that they won, the offense did not turn the ball over once. This is not difficult to see the correlation.

Quarterback Mac Jones in particular needs to do a good job limiting turnovers today. He had three ugly ones against the Dallas Cowboys last week, which led to two defensive touchdowns for Dallas. Anytime an offense is outscored by the opposing defense, it is really difficult to stay competitive, never mind win the game.

The New Orleans Saints defense has been getting a lot of positive attention this week, but last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they were beaten handily. Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield completed over 78% of his passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Although Mayfield did throw one interception, a defense that is touted as being excellent needs to do a better job slowing down a player of his caliber. Mac Jones needs to have a similar performance today.

Prediction

Instead of the usual six or seven keys to victory, this week will feature only those three. At this point in the season what needs to be done is known. In the New England Patriots three losses they failed to achieve any of these keys to success. In their lone win they nailed all three.

This is already the second “must win” game of 2023 for the Patriots. In their first such game they came out strong and held off the New York Jets for their only win. After the demoralizing defeat in Dallas last weekend, today they should be able to do the same against the Saints.

Final Score: New England Patriots 24, New Orleans Saints 13