Garoppolo mostly solid in debut as Pats beat Saints 34-22
Jimmy Garoppolo made his preseason debut, spreading the ball around for 168 yards, and Jamie Collins added a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown as the New England Patriots beat the New Orleans Saints 34-22 on Thursday night.
Garoppolo played the entire first half as he preps to start the first four games of the regular season in place of Tom Brady, who will be serving a suspension for his involvement in the "Deflategate" case. Brady was not in the building Thursday, excused by the team to attend memorial services for a family member.
Saints running back Mark Ingram had an early fumble, but also had two 1-yard touchdown runs in an extended night that saw him play most of the first half. Second-year quarterback Garrett Grayson threw an early interception, but completed a few long passes to finish 10 for 16 for 133 yards.
After a slow start, Garoppolo completed several long passes and finished 11 of 18. He converted a fourth-down run.
Trey Flowers added a 17-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, scooping up the loose ball created by his sack of Luke McCown.
Patriots: It wasn't all good news for New England's offense. It likely lost rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell for the foreseeable future after he sustained a left elbow injury late in the second quarter.
Mitchell, a fourth-round draft pick out of Georgia, caught a pass near the sideline. But as he was dragged down from behind by Saints cornerback De'Vante Harris, Mitchell's arm bent awkwardly as he landed on the ground. He held his elbow as he was helped to the locker room by trainers.
Saints: WR Michael Thomas was targeted five times in the first half. He caught four for 67 yards, including a long of 28.
Patriots: CB Cyrus Jones, New England's top pick of the second round, had a fumble recovery and started in the base defense while handling the early punt return duties. Undrafted free agent CB Cre'von LeBlanc might have had the defensive play of the night, intercepting McCown's pass in the end zone with one hand. LG Joe Thuney also was in the starting lineup.
Garoppolo's extended night was in contrast to a very short one for Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He played in only the opening series of the game before taking a seat. He made the most of it, completing a 37-yard pass to Brandin Cooks on the first offensive play of the night.
Martellus Bennett, who New England acquired from the Bears in an offseason trade, was Garoppolo's favorite target early on. He was targeted four times and had three receptions for 33 yards.
Saints: "I think that was important. I really came out and the first play, I said, `Hey, got to set the tone. Start the game off right,'" Edebali said. "I thought (the defense) was able to do that, and we just have to continue to be better."
Patriots: "The scramble play, it didn't make the sideline very happy. But it was fourth down, so the football player inside of me kicked in, I guess," Garoppolo said of his 4-yard run in in the second quarter to pick up a first down.