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Patriots notebook: With Saints up next, defense tunes in to watch Drew Brees’ offense struggle in season-opening loss to Vikings on Monday Night Football

September 13, 2017

Members of the Patriots defense intently watched Drew Brees and the vaunted New Orleans Saints offense essentially tamed by the Minnesota Vikings defense Monday night.

The Pats watched as the Saints had to settle for four field goals and just one touchdown in a 29-19 loss to open the season.

Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe, who along with several other players were on hand at one of the Bridge Over Troubled Waters facilities in Brighton yesterday to put the finishing touches on a playground provided by the team and the NFL, said the defense will be ready on Sunday for a Saints offense that’s much more prolific at putting the ball in the end zone.

“The Vikings did a great job with the game plan they had for the Saints,” Rowe said. “But I just know (coach) Sean Payton is not going to let the Saints play like they did two weeks in a row. I’m not expecting the team that showed up Monday night to show up against us.”

Brees was 27-of-37 passing for 291 yards and a touchdown. His offensive line didn’t give him much time to throw the football, even though the quarterback was sacked just once. Drives, however, stalled in the red zone.

“I’m sure they’re as hungry as us,” Rowe said. “We’re both 0-1 now. They’re going to get to work. It’s their home opener. Whatever I saw on Monday night, I don’t expect to see that. Drew Brees is just like Tom (Brady). I expect them to be explosive, just like they always are.”

On the flip side, Pats running back Rex Burkhead also was expecting to see a better effort from the Saints defense, which didn’t have much luck containing Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford.

“It’s the NFL. Any given week, things can change,” Burkhead said.

“We definitely have to be ready, be prepared come Sunday.”

Hybrid model

Safety Jordan Richards, who lined up closer to the line of scrimmage in a hybrid linebacker-type role during the season-opening loss to the Kansas Chiefs, plans to be ready if the situation arises again down the road for the Pats defense.

“I’m just continuing to learn, whether it’s learning from the good things I did or learning from the mistakes I had on Thursday night,” Richards said. “That way, I’ll be able to play in any role that’s asked.”

Richards said it had been a while since he had played that close to the line of scrimmage, or in the box, as the Pats went with a dime package, utilizing more defensive backs against a West Coast-style offense.

“I have great coaches and great teammates helping me out,” Richards said. “I just tried my best to perform at the highest level. Whether it’s down there or it’s in (the middle of the) field playing safety, either way, you’re just playing and competing.”

Back for more

The coaching staff is well aware of the Saints’ three-headed monster at running back, starting with Adrian Peterson. The Pats had Peterson, who gained just 18 yards on six carries against his former team in his New Orleans debut, in for a visit during free agency.

The Saints also have rookie Alvin Kamara, a third-round draft pick, and Mark Ingram as weapons in the backfield.

“They’re all dangerous, but they all have their different skill sets,” Pats coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call. “You see Kamara out of the backfield more than Peterson for example. They’re all productive, and I’m sure that New Orleans (will) do a good job of trying to get those guys opportunities in the things that they are good at, things that they do well. They’re all hard to tackle. Peterson and Ingram have a lot of power, really good balance, good lower-body strength. Kamara’s got that, but maybe not quite as much, but very elusive.”

New guy fits in

In his second game with the Patriots, wide receiver Brandin Cooks will be playing against his former team for the first time. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spoke highly of the newcomer.

“He’s been a guy that his teammates really enjoy being around, the coaches enjoy being around,” McDaniels said. “He’s a guy that you look forward to coming to work (with) every day and having an opportunity to work with, just like most of our guys. So he’s been really a great addition, and we’re looking forward to building as we go through the season.”