- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: This was a devastating way to lose, with the Saints giving up a 17-yard touchdown pass with five seconds remaining. But I imagine they'll take some positives out of the way they fought back from a sloppy start to almost pull off the victory. The Saints showed perseverance after the Patriots (5-1) did an excellent job of taking away some of their go-to offensive weapons (Jimmy Graham had zero catches, Marques Colston had only one).
Brees contained: Quarterback Drew Brees also didn't have his best day (17-of-36, two touchdowns, one interception). But the Saints fought back from an early 17-7 deficit thanks in large part to their run game, some great defensive stands and a touchdown pass from Brees to Kenny Stills. Ultimately, though, the defense couldn't make the final stand. Tom Brady threw a beautiful score to Kenbrell Thompkins over cornerback Jabari Greer.
Graham stymied: It was a rough day for the Saints' star tight end, who was held without a catch for the first time since 2010 and left with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter (severity not immediately known – though he did briefly return to action). Early in the game, the Patriots used the rare tactic of matching physical cornerback Aqib Talib up against Graham, which worked well. After Talib got hurt, the Patriots mostly used safety/former cornerback Devin McCourty, as well as double teams.
Brees probably tried to force the ball to Graham a few times too many (once resulting in an interception that set up a field goal in the fourth quarter). But the Saints did a better job of staying patient with the run game in the second half.
Stock watch: The Saints' rookie offensive weapons came up big while some of the veterans were struggling. Stills made the biggest offensive play of the game with his leaping touchdown grab in double coverage on third-and-20 late in the fourth quarter. Running back Khiry Robinson ran for 53 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries -- all in the second half.
Up next: The Saints head into their bye week at a good time after falling to 5-1 -- especially with some new injuries to deal with (defensive end Cameron Jordan also left the game temporarily with a lower leg injury). They'll have a good opportunity to resurrect their momentum with a home game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 8.