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Ups & Downs: Garoppolo Leads Patriots To Comeback Win Over Saints

BOSTON (CBS) -- The preseason is a funny thing. A horrible loss, and you chalk it up to it being preseason. A great comeback win, and you want to overreact just a little.

So that's what we'll do, and enjoy the Jimmy Garoppolo-led comeback win for the Patriots. The second-year quarterback was fantastic Saturday night in New Orleans, leading the Patriots to a 26-24 win over the Saints.

He was surgical at times, completing 10 straight at one point, and really made just one mistake on the evening. It's exactly what we wanted to see out of Garoppolo, who was also pretty good in the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers last week despite modest numbers in the box score.

Saturday night's numbers were anything but modest, but we'll save all of that for the Ups & Downs from New England's first win of the (pre)season:



Showing off some growth from last week's preseason opener, Garoppolo completed 28 of his 33 passes on the evening for 269 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His lone touchdown came in the final minute of the first half, a beautiful 24-yard pass to rookie Chris Harper. It's a play that happened because he avoided a sack with a nice spin move and bought himself a few extra seconds before throwing the perfect pass:

Garoppolo was picked off in the fourth quarter on a pass he shouldn't have thrown, but overall showed some poise and made some big throws, a big step in the right direction.

Dion Lewis

The 5-foot-8 running back is making a case to be New England's third down back, and it's not just the No. 33 on his back. Lewis caught five passes for 35 yards, including a nice one-handed grab late in the first half on New England's first scoring drive. He also ran the ball three times for 12 yards, including a hard-fought 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Lewis has bounced around in the NFL since being a fifth-round pick by the Eagles in 2011, but is making a case to take over for the departed Shane Vereen.

Chris Harper

The undrafted rookie receiver continues to impress, catching six passes for 68 yards, including Garoppolo's 24-yard touchdown before halftime. He also had a 28-yard punt return to set up the game-winning field goal at the end of the game.

With some major health concerns at receiver (Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell) and the depth chart thin, Harper could find his way onto the roster to start the regular season.

Good Situational Learning

Garoppolo put together a great scoring drive with only 1:08 left in the first half, going 5-for-5 for 65 yards, and then a 28-yard drive to set up the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter. Granted, the Saints weren't playing their top (or second team) defense on those drives, but Garoppolo no doubt has a few notes for the future.

They also experimented with Devin McCourty at corner, but more on that soon.


Three-And-Outs Make Up Brady's Night

Tom Brady was on the field for three series, and each of them ended in three-and-outs. Brady finished the night 2-for-5 for just 13 yards.

Secondary Struggles

Drew Brees had fun against the Patriots "first team" defense, which saw safety Devin McCourty starting at right corner. Brees tossed a pair of first quarter touchdowns, including a 45-yard bomb to Brandon Cooks. The receiver faked out McCourty on his route, and safety Duron Harmon couldn't get a hand on the ball as it fell into Cooks' hands in the end zone. It's a play that likely wouldn't have happened if McCourty was at his usual position. Brees finished the night 8-for-10 for 159 yards.

Overall the coverage was not very good in this one, as a quartet of Saints quarterbacks threw for 373 yards.

Blount Doesn't Do Much

LeGarrette Blount got the start in this one, and managed just 15 yards on 13 carries. Two of New England's first quarter drives started with Blount getting stopped for a loss.

Brandon Gibson Limps Off

The receiver had a solid night with eight receptions for 68 yards, and was looking like a solid No. 4 option on the depth chart. But he limped off the field and into the locker room on his last reception of the game, potentially thinning the position even further. Josh Boyce did not see the field Saturday night, but that could change if Gibson is sidelined.


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