NEW ORLEANS -- For the last 18 seasons, the mantras of the New England Patriots -- drummed into them by head guru Bill Belichick -- have been "next guy up" and "winning, not stats, is all that matters."
Sunday's 36-20 pasting of the Saints -- in which the Patriots jumped out to a 20-3 first-quarter lead behind Tom Brady's three touchdown passes -- was simply more evidence of Belichick stamping his personality on a team that doesn't sweat the small stuff -- like injuries, headset snafus and individual statistics.
The Patriots (1-1) are already down two big-play receivers: Julian Edelman was lost for the season in training camp with an ACL tear, and slot receiver Danny Amendola missed Sunday's game with a concussion and knee injury.
New England dressed only three receivers Sunday, and at one point in the second half, Chris Hogan was limping noticeably before returning. At the end of the game, Belichick was flanking out running backs as wide receivers.
Still, Brady threw for 447 yards and completed 30 of 39 passes. In addition, the Patriots played without linebacker Dont'a Hightower, a high-volume tackler.
"Well, we'll do the best with what we have available to us," Belichick said.
Running back James White is the prototype Patriot. With time to survey the field, Brady threw eight times to White for 85 yards, and he gained another 11 yards on two carries. Nothing splashy, but it got the job done.
"Every time he touches the ball is important," Brady said of White. "He's so dependable and consistent. He shows up every day doing his job. He's got the best attitude -- it's team-first all the time. He's just a great teammate. I've played with a lot of great teammates, and James is right there at the top. I love his effort and style."
Belichick mentioned the communications problems that prevented both sides of the ball from hearing about plays or calls from their coordinators. It didn't matter.
The only thing the Saints "won" Sunday was keeping wide receiver Brandin Cooks, their former No. 1 pick who was traded to the Patriots in the offseason, under control. Cooks caught just two passes for 37 yards while being well covered by rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Belichick almost laughed at the suggestion that Cooks might have wanted to have a big game against his former team.
"We came down here to try to win -- that's what we came down for," Belichick said. "I'm not really concerned about the stats. We came down to win, so it was a good trip. We're not anywhere close to where we need to be, but we made good progress from last week."
That's the Patriots way.