Saints defer to second half for second week in a row

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the second straight week, the Saints won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half and kick off to the New England Patriots.

Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, who played six seasons with the Patriots from 2004 to 2009, was given the honor of calling the toss by quarterback Drew Brees. Watson was filling in as an offensive captain for tackle Zach Strief, who had an ankle injury and was inactive.

After Watson won the toss, the Saints kicked off and the Patriots marched down and kicked a field goal for a quick 3-0 lead.

COMING UP EMPTY: The Saints had to punt on their first possession, which was the first time since the season opener they failed to score points on the opening series.

After punting on their first series against the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints’ offense opened the next four games by sandwiching two field goals around two touchdowns.

GOING BYE: The Saints will have a bye next weekend before returning to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for an Oct. 27 game with the Buffalo Bills.

With a 30-27 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, the Saints are now 6-2 in the game prior to a regular-season bye since Sean Payton took over in 2006.

STRIEF OUT: After not practicing all week because of an ankle injury, Strief was inactive for Sunday’s game with the Patriots.

Strief, who apparently was injured in last week’s game with the Chicago Bears, was listed on Friday as questionable. He was replaced in the starting lineup by second-year pro Bryce Harris.

INACTIVES: In addition to Strief, the Saints’ other inactives were WR Lance Moore (hand), SS Roman Harper (knee), RB Mark Ingram (toe), DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), LB Martez Wilson (ankle) and CB Rod Sweeting.

Inactives of note for the Patriots were TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back), DT Tommy Kelly (knee), WR Matthew Slater (wrist) and RB Leon Washington (ankle).

INJURIES: Saints DE Cameron Jordan injured his right leg in the fourth quarter, but returned, as did TE Jimmy Graham, who suffered a leg injury in the final period.

Patriots G Dan Connolly left in the first half with a head injury, CB Aqib Talib was sidelined in the third quarter with a hip injury and WR Danny Amendola left after taking a shot to the head in the third quarter. None returned to the game.

BAD CALL: The Saints were driving at the Patriots’ 38 late in the first half when they lined up to go for it on fourth-and-1.

One of the Patriots’ defensive linemen jumped into the neutral zone, causing right guard Jahri Evans to react, and two other New England defenders also penetrated the neutral zone.

But the officials huddled up and flagged Evans for a false start, much to the chagrin of Payton, and the Saints had to punt the ball away.

LAGNIAPPE: Payton is now 16-10 against AFC teams, losing for only the third time in his last 17 games. … Brees had his streak of games with at least 20 completions end at 57 when he had only 17 Sunday. … Graham had an NFL record-tying streak of four straight 100-yard games for a tight end snapped when he failed to catch a pass for the first time since Oct. 31, 2010. … The Saints have lost in their last three trips to Foxborough (2001, 2005, 2013) after three wins in a row here (1989, 1992, 1995). … The Patriots, who lost at Cincinnati last week, are now 31-4 after a loss since the start of the 2003 season.