Saints get better of Pats at practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Before a standing-room-only crowd that is likely to top the single-session training camp record – possibly as many as 17,000, if not more – the New England Patriots hosted the New Orleans Saints for a joint practice on Tuesday afternoon.

The biggest takeaway from the full-pads practice: The Saints owned it.

The Patriots’ offense was not sharp in drills when the teams faced each other. Quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted twice – once in 7-on-7 drills in the red zone (by linebacker Curtis Lofton), and another time in 11-on-11 work (by safety Malcolm Jenkins). At one point, after the offense stalled once again, Brady walked to the sideline dejectedly.

Overall, there were a lot of footballs on the ground when the New England offense was on the field, and too many missed connections. Coach Bill Belichick, who arrived 51 minutes late as he was attending the funeral of Andy Reid’s son Garrett, should be able to find plenty of teaching opportunities on the tape.

Meanwhile, the Saints’ offense, led by quarterback Drew Brees, generally had its way with the Patriots’ defense. The Saints looked like they had a much cleaner operation.

Rocker Jon Bon Jovi’s presence added a celebrity aspect to the joint practice, as Bon Jovi signed autographs and visited with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Saints owner Tom Benson. Bon Jovi is a longtime friend of Belichick. Boston College men’s hockey coach Jerry York, also a close friend of Belichick, was also on hand to watch from the sideline.

A few other quick-hit thoughts:

Great scene. Overall, just a terrific scene here at Gillette Stadium. Saints defenders wore black jerseys, while their offense players wore white. The Patriots’ defenders were in blue, while the offense players wore white. It was neat to see the different colors on the field, and to take in sights such as Patriots left guard Logan Mankins chatting with Saints quarterback Drew Brees during practice.

Jones’ length shows up. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones (6-5, 260) stands out from a length perspective, and it showed up in 11-on-11 drills when he batted down a Drew Brees pass by getting his hands in the air.

Spikes out again. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes remained out of practice for a third straight day. Elsewhere on the injury front, safety James Ihedigbo was the notable player returning to practice, while rookie receiver Jeremy Ebert (7th round, Northwestern) was in full pads for the first time.

Kasay addresses both teams. In a moment at the end of practice, both clubs took a knee and listened to the longest-tenured NFL player on the field, Saints kicker John Kasay. Also, Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said some words to both teams, before everyone kneeled in prayer.

More observations to come.