FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Points have been hard to come by for the Saints and the Patriots.
Over the first four weeks, each team has scored 20 points only once. They enter Sunday’s matchup ranked in the bottom third of the league in points per game. New Orleans (2-2) is averaging 15.5, tied for 25th in the NFL. New England (1-3) ranks 30th at 13.8 points.
It’s a major fall-off for offenses once led by Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who rank first and second all-time in touchdown passes.
This latest meeting will feature a third-year quarterback in Mac Jones who has displayed only minimal improvement under new Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Jones understands he needs to bounce back from his worst performance of the season. He threw two interceptions, including a pick-6, and had a fumble returned for a touchdown in last week’s loss to Dallas. He was ultimately benched for Bailey Zappe.
Jones is confident he can return to form.
“Confidence is something that comes from years of practice, and it grows over time,” he said. “I think that’s what I have to look back on, is I’ve played well at times and I just have got to be more consistent. I know it’s there.”
The Saints are likewise hoping to see a lot more from veteran Derek Carr. New Orleans has managed just four offensive touchdowns, its fewest through four games since 1975.
New Orleans’ most recent loss to Tampa Bay also saw its streak of 11 consecutive games of holding opponents to 20 or fewer points end.
While Carr acknowledged the Saints are not playing to the level they expected, he said he’s leaning on the fact that he’s been through tougher times.
Carr pointed to his Raiders team starting 0-10 during his rookie season in 2014. “This,” he said, “is not that.”
“This is football. It’s tough. It’s hard,” Carr said. “Your back’s against the wall a little bit. What are you going to do about it? You going to fight? Are you going to quit? And so, I think we’re finding out a lot about our guys this week.”
The Patriots’ 38-3 loss to the Cowboys was the worst of Bill Belichick’s 29-year coaching career.
It also denied him a chance to join Don Shula and George Halas as the only coaches in NFL history with 300 regular-season wins.
He’ll get his second shot against the Saints, against whom he has a 5-2 record.
STUMBLING AND BUMBLING
The Saints average 87.5 yards rushing per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL. Improving that number has become a point of emphasis for New Orleans’ beleaguered offensive line, which also has allowed 15 sacks.
“We haven’t given people a reason to respect the run,” guard James Hurst said. “So, that’s a position we’re in and that’s something that we obviously have to get better if we’re going to be an effective offense.”
The return of Alvin Kamara from suspension in Week 4 offered a small measure of hope. Kamara rushed for 51 yards on 11 carries against Tampa Bay, a 4.6-yard average against a defense that ranks eighth in the NFL against the run.
The Saints entered the week ranked 23rd in yards per game (285.3) even after managing less than 200 last week. The bigger problem for the Saints has been stalling out inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.
They have attempted 10 field goals, nine of which have been made by rookie kicker Blake Grupe, who is the team’s leading scorer.
New Orleans’ red-zone conversion rate of 33.3% (4 of 12) ranks last in the NFL.
Even struggling New England has a far superior red-zone success rate of 62.5%.
“Everything happens faster in the red zone, and so the attention to detail has to be much improved,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “That’s what it’s all about down there is being able to play fast, make quick decisions and be extremely detailed in terms of where you’re supposed to be at and when you’re supposed to be there.”
The Patriots will be missing their most productive player on defense with linebacker Matt Judon sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his biceps. Judon suffered the injury late in New England’s loss at Dallas last week.
He led the Patriots with four sacks through four games.
Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez also likely will be sidelined after injuring his shoulder against Dallas. Gonzalez has a sack and interception and was named the league’s rookie defensive player of the month for September.