- Chris Forsberg, Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- It's not a particularly rare occurrence for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to find himself on the sideline in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game. After all, Brady's backups combined to appear in a total of 12 games during New England's record-breaking 2007 season.
But Brady found himself bench-bound Monday night in New Orleans for all the wrong reasons as the Patriots found out what it's like to be on the opposite side of a lopsided contest.
New England's offense wasn't terrible -- the Patriots piled up 366 yards, registered 23 first downs and made just as many treks into the red zone as their opponent. But as quarterback Drew Brees' 158.3 passer rating confirmed, the New Orleans Saints were just about perfect and Brady couldn't afford to be anything but.
He finished 21-of-36 passing for 237 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His 55.0 passer rating confirmed the disparity between the New England and New Orleans offenses.
Asked if he saw a bit of the 2007 Patriots in the 2009 Saints, Brady kept the focus on his own team.
"That was so long ago, we're a totally different team than we were then," Brady said. "It's good to be in that position, I'll say that. It's fun when you win games like that. They played really well -- played a really good game. In order to beat them tonight we would have had to play well also, and we didn't do that."
It might have been an understatement and Brady, in particular, could be blamed. With the Patriots on top 7-3, he threw one particularly ill-advised and costly pass that was intercepted late in the first quarter. New England never seemed to get its momentum back.
The Saints used that turnover to score the first of three second-quarter touchdowns. The Patriots would find the end zone just once after that.
In fact, facing a 14-point deficit with less than two minutes to play in the first half, the Patriots essentially abandoned the balanced, ball-control attack that had much success early in the game.
As the deficit grew, the Patriots' offense couldn't afford to make mistakes, yet it endured missteps at every turn. The result showed on the scoreboard.
"We put pressure on ourselves [to be perfect], it's just more so when you play a team like [New Orleans]," said left tackle Matt Light, who returned to the field for the first time since a Week 5 loss to Denver. "We have to get better in every aspect of what we're doing."
The Patriots offered no simple solution to Monday's offensive woes. Even after a particularly disastrous second quarter in which New Orleans opened a 24-10 advantage, New England had a chance to make it a game, but sputtered at the end of its two-minute drill and Stephen Gostkowski missed a long field goal before the break.
The Patriots rebounded by scoring on its opening possession of the second half, but New Orleans answered in three plays and 1:22. Unable to settle for anything less than touchdowns, New England watched Brady's pass toward Randy Moss on fourth-and-4 from the New Orleans 10 get batted down by Mike McKenzie -- the player signed off the street this week by a Saints squad with a depleted secondary and who registered one of the two interceptions against Brady.
"There were some self-inflicted wounds out there on both sides of the ball," Moss said. "[The Saints] took advantage of them, and we didn't. We got our butts beat by a good team, and you can't let a good team like that take advantage of missed opportunities."
Brady wouldn't take the field again after being intercepted by Darren Sharper with 7:04 remaining. While the Saints didn't bring overwhelming pressure, they clearly forced Brady to throw quicker than he wanted to and it showed in his numbers.
On passes of 10 yards or more, Brady was 4-of-12 for 102 yards -- which included a 47-yard strike to Randy Moss on blown coverage -- with the two interceptions and a passer rating of 25.7.
Brady was 17-of-24 for 135 yards on throws of less than 10 yards, but those short passes weren't enough when the Saints were hitting big plays on what seemed like every possession.
"It's a collective effort ... it's not like one thing," Brady said. "It's little things -- things we're consistently not doing well enough. Interceptions, you can't do that. We had the opportunity to score in the red area, and to not get anything out of it, you can't do that. I need to focus on what I need to do to get better and I certainly need to play better than I did tonight."
The Patriots take solace in knowing they can fix those problems starting Wednesday, which comes extra quick after a Monday night game.
"We got beat up in every phase, but we've got great veteran leaders, guys that understand there's a problem and we need to fix it," Light said. "Sure, it won't be easy, but we've got to get back after it come Wednesday."
Added Moss: "I look forward to a hell of a Wednesday. A hell of a week, really. It's back to the drawing board, to see if we can put this thing back together, get it going in the direction we need it to."
If the Patriots truly believe they're a Super Bowl-caliber team, there's plenty of work to be done. Asked if it was an understatement to say New England felt the exact opposite of how it felt the last time it walked out of this building -- with a 20-17 triumph over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI -- Light smile and confirmed, "Just a bit."
Chris Forsberg is a roving reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Tom Brady was out of sorts, and out of place on sideline vs. the Saints.