Transitioning Patriots, Saints look for more offense

As the NFL’s highest-scoring teams over the past decade, the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints are in unfamiliar territory these days as they prepare to meet Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

Since 2010 they are the only teams to score more than 5,000 points, as the Patriots have scored 5,087 and the Saints have scored 5,021.

But both teams are going through an offensive transition, most notably at quarterback, and in this young season both teams are in the bottom half of the league in scoring.

The Patriots (1-1), in their second season since Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay, are led by rookie Mac Jones and rank 23rd in scoring (20.5 points per game).

The Saints (1-1), in their first season since Drew Brees’ retirement, have turned to Jameis Winston and are tied for 18th in scoring (22.5). Winston, notably, was released by the Buccaneers to make room for Brady, and became the first quarterback other than Brees to be New Orleans’ Week 1 starter since 2005.

Jones has been more efficient than bold in his first two games. He has completed 73.9 percent of his passes for 467 yards with just one touchdown but no interceptions, as New England ranks 25th in passing offense (213.5 yards per game, including sacks).

“There are some times that I watch the film and wish I threw the ball down the field more,” Jones admitted.

But ball security made a big difference last Sunday when Jones competed against fellow first-round pick Zach Wilson, who threw four interceptions as the Patriots beat the Jets 25-6.

“Sometimes, you need to know when to call it quits (on a play),” Jones said. “It’s all about trial and error … stick to my reads. Plays will come.”

Winston threw five touchdowns and no interceptions as New Orleans began the season with a 38-3 thrashing of Green Bay in Jacksonville, Fla., when Hurricane Ida forced the game to be moved from New Orleans.

But last week, Winston and the entire Saints team were overwhelmed in a 26-7 loss at Carolina. Winston completed 11 of 22 for 111 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was pressured throughout the game and was sacked four times.

“The biggest thing is being better in first-down and second-down efficiency,” Winston said. “Understanding just because you’re capable of making a play doesn’t mean you should make it.”

Despite the high-scoring game against the Packers, New Orleans ranks last in the NFL in passing offense (115.5).

“It’s the group in its entirety,” head coach Sean Payton said of the passing shortcomings. “It’s our offensive line, our quarterback. It’s also us, relative to a gameplan of having good answers. We need to have a better plan and that starts with me.”

The Saints were missing nine players due to injury against the Panthers, but center Erik McCoy (calf) was the only player to miss practice entirely Wednesday.

The Patriots got back linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who missed the game against the Jets because of a throat condition, but linebacker Matt Judon missed practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.

The Saints were missing eight assistant coaches against Carolina due to NFL coronavirus protocols. They stayed behind in Fort Worth, Texas, where the team has been practicing since evacuating ahead of Ida.

It’s unclear how many of them will be available for the game against the Patriots, though Payton said Wednesday that several of them will be available because they will be beyond the 10-day infectious period by game day.

The team is scheduled to return to their home practice facility in Metairie, La., after Sunday’s game and play their first game actual home game of the season in the Superdome on the following Sunday, Oct. 3, against the New York Giants.

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