FOXBOROUGH — They couldn’t script a comeback on Julian Edelman day.
The Patriots fell to 1-2 — 0-2 at home — after dropping a 28-13 decision to the Saints Sunday before a sun-splashed and packed Gillette Stadium crowd that had little to cheer over the first 30 minutes but came alive during the halftime ceremony for Edelman, one of the most decorated players in franchise history.
“It’s going to be a hell of a story,” Edelman famously told teammates during the Patriots improbable comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
His former teammates were unable to pen a memorable sequel.
The Patriots were beaten in every phase of the game, and to add injury to insult, they lost running back James White in the first half to a hip injury.
The Saints (2-1) took advantage of an uncharacteristically sloppy New England squad that was again victimized by turnovers, drops, untimely penalties, an inability to convert in the red zone, and mistakes on special teams.
“Give the Saints credit. They certainly were the better team," said Bill Belichick. “We had some chances, but in the end, we just couldn’t get it done. It’s disappointing. There’s no magic sauce here. We just have to go back to work and do better."
New Orleans got on the board first when Jameis Winston hit Alvin Kamara, who had slipped to an open area vacated by blitzing linebackers, with an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The visitors doubled their lead, capitalizing on Mac Jones’s first career interception, which was returned to the New England 9-yard line by P.J. Williams.
It looked as though the Patriots defense might hold the Saints to a field goal, but Winston’s ill-advised throw was snagged by Marquez Callaway in the back of the end zone.
On the play, Winston was being dragged down by Kyle Dugger and blindly threw it in the direction of Callaway, who was being draped by Jonathan Jones.
“I was trying to throw that ball away," said Winston. “Marquez went up there and snatched it. So, touchdown good guys."
The Patriots showed their first signs of life on the ensuing possession, with Jones hitting shots to Kendrick Bourne (31 yards), Nelson Agholor (13), and Jakobi Meyers (7).
New England was poised to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Saints’ 22, but Hunter Henry sprinted offside and the club had to settle for Nick Folk’s 45-yard field goal just before halftime.
Hoping for a quick start after Edelman’s highlight video and speech breathed new life into the crowd, things couldn’t have gone much worse for the home team.
Jones’s pass on the first play from scrimmage went off Jonnu Smith’s hands and landed in Malcolm Jenkins’s at the 34 and the safety had a clean route to the end zone for a 21-3 lead.
The Patriots answered with another Folk field goal — his 26-yarder was his 35th straight, equaling the seventh-best streak in NFL history — and headed into the fourth trailing, 21-6.
They would cut it to a one-score game midway through the quarter when Jones hit Bourne with a 22-yard TD. Folk’s PAT made it 21-13.
It was the best play of the day for the Patriots, with the acrobatic Bourne sidestepping falling cornerback Paulson Adebo, walking the sideline tightrope and stretching the ball over the goal line.
New England’s defense was sharp for most of the second half — the Saints mustered just 86 total yards over the final 30 minutes — but when push came to shove, New Orleans showed a little more muscle.
Taking over with just over nine minutes left, the Saints chewed through the clock and the Patriots defense, marching 75 yards, converting a pair of crucial third downs, and scoring the dagger TD, a 4-yard run by Taysom Hill to make it 28-13.
“It came down to we needed one more stop, and we didn’t get it," said Devin McCourty. “That’s what it comes down to in this league. We needed to get our offense one more opportunity … and we didn’t get a third-down stop and they were able to run it, get in the red area and score, that killed us."
Jones, who completed 31 of 50 passes 270 yards with the one score and three interceptions, was sacked twice and hit 11 times. Falling behind early, the Patriots were forced to pass and the Saints were relentless in their pursuit of the rookie quarterback.
“When you’re having to throw every down, it’s never a good position to be in," said Belichick. “We don’t ever want to be in that situation."
Jones, who reported his “body feels good," said he needs to improve his red-zone performance.
“When I have a chance to, I need to take what they give me, but also take some chances,” he said. “A lot of the plays, I could have stuck with them instead of changing them or whatever, and I’ll get better at that. We’ll improve the red zone. We have to improve. We’ve got to put points on the board. We can’t just continue to not do that. We’ve just got to flip the page on today and learn from it, watch it, and just identify the problem because you just have to fix the problem and try and find ways to make that better.”
More Patriots-Saints coverage
▪ Ben Volin | Instant Analysis: Patriots are a disjointed mess in dispirited loss to the Saints. And now Tom Brady is coming to town
▪ Chad Finn | Unconventional Review: Patriots loss to Saints was a rare debacle for Bill Belichick era, and other things we learned
▪ Patriots notebook: Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne has a career day in loss to Saints
▪ Ben Volin | On football: Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, where are you? Patriots aren’t getting good return on free agent investments