Giants-Patriots Preview Review

Giants-Patriots Preview Review
August 30, 2013, 1:30 am
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(AP Photo)

FOXBORO – With their most vital players out of harm’s way, the Patriots subdued the Giants 28-20 Thursday night. If it was Tim Tebow’s last dance on an NFL field, he went out in style, his final throw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Quentin Sims with 10 seconds left and the Patriots ahead by one. New England could have taken a knee. They may instead have been throwing Tebow a bone.
 
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
Shane Vereen needs to redeem. So does Brandon Bolden. Both fumbled last week as did Zach Sudfeld. Look for some early reps to those two running backs – more for Bolden as he fights for his spot – than Vereen. Whether Tom Brady plays hasn’t been established. If he does, it will be a cameo. Same for the rest of the starters. Players to watch would be Bolden, Leon Washington, Tim Tebow, fullbacks Ben Bartholomew and James Develin, George Winn, Julian Edelman, Quentin Sims, Johnathan Haggerty, Jake Ballard and offensive linemen Josh Kline, Chris McDonald, Luke Patterson, Matt Stankiewich. And you know if you’re watching the performance of the offensive linemen in the second half of the fourth preseason game, you are a hardcore individual.
 
Nary a carry for the backs perceived to be battling for a roster spot. LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden both stayed in the shop. George Winn got the bulk of the load with 14 carries. Marcus Cannon got his first work of the preseason and Dan Connolly was on the field for the second straight week, good signs for their health as camp closes down for good. Ryan Mallett threw the ball exceptionally well on a few throws and his overall performance – while not outstanding – has gotten progressively better during the preseason. He hit Josh Boyce for a 40-yard touchdown, using his eyes well to move a safety then coming back to Boyce down the left sideline where Boyce was dusting Terrell Thomas. Boyce also looked good on a pair of end-arounds, showing his speed on the first and cutting ability on the second. Aaron Dobson caught three balls but three of the eight passes thrown to him were intercepted. One was an awful underthrow by Tebow. Another came on a short throw by Mallett on which Dobson was hit as the ball arrived. The third was a fade on which Dobson allowed himself to be ridden to the sideline by Prince Amukamara, who was then able to play center field on an underthrown ball by Mallett that didn’t let Dobson use his size advantage. The second offensive line gave Tebow no protection at the start and he took four quick sacks before getting some time and settling in a little.
 
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
Tom Coughlin hasn’t seen enough this preseason from his offense so he’s rolling them out there Thursday night for 12 to 15 plays. Curious to see if he sticks to that if Eli and the Boys go three-and-out a couple of times and are still short of the intended goal into the second quarter. Mark Sanchez got squished in the latter stages of the third preseason game. An Eli injury in the fourth preseason game would provide back page fodder for days. Defensively, there’s more to see from some of the defensive line depth. Joe Vellano showed well last week. Interested to see how he’s deployed this week. Jake Bequette continues to be just…there. I like Justin Francis as the backup RDE to Chandler Jones. He was down last week but – if good to go – should get some reps Thursday. The linebacker crop is set at the top. Special teams play likely being the separating measure there. In the secondary, I’m looking at the safety deployment. Last guys on the field could be the ones getting discouraging news.
 
No first-teamers were in for the Patriots defense either. They held up pretty well against the Giants starters, forcing punts on the first two series before Eli Manning got the Giants into the end zone with a minute left in the first quarter. After that, it was backups against backups. Marquice Cole had a nice game starting at one cornerback spot. He’s a valuable and versatile player for this defense. Jamie Collins, Steve Beauharnais, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan all got extended play for the rookies as did Michael Buchanan who came up with 2.5 sacks. Dane Fletcher  - as he should being a veteran – continued his steady work. Adrian Wilson was on the field a long time, often not a great sign for depth-chart standing. Tavon Wilson eventually came in for Adrian Wilson in the fourth.
 
THE KICKING GAME
Lot of moving parts in the kickoff return game last week as LeGarrette Blount was back deep at the start and Leon Washington was on punt returns as Julian Edelman took over for Danny Amendola in the regular offense. Zoltan Mesko seems to have locked down the punting job. The coverage work has been a little inconsistent this preseason. That will be a focal point for Belichick and special teams coach Scott O’Brien.
 
The punt team allowed a 30-yard return but was otherwise very good with four of eight punts downed inside the 20 between Zoltan Mesko and rookie Ryan Allen. Leon Washington was a mixed bag on punt returns – not his normal gig since he’s usually a kickoff guy – he fumbled one away and returned another 43 yards.
 
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Not getting anyone hurt.
 
Success, it seemed.
 
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP ...
The Giants first offense. If they’re coming out for 12 to 15 plays bent on rolling downfield and getting done, that’s a direct challenge to the defense. And an expectation that they will do so is a “screw you” to the Patriots.
 
Pretty good job, as mentioned earlier. The Giants had to work against the Patriots backups before Eli Manning strung together a touchdown drive late in the first.
 
GIANTS GOTTA STOP ...
Tebow. Even though I’ve come to realize I will miss him if he’s gone.
 
THAT SUMS IT UP, PATRIOTS STYLE
“As a football team, there are things we have to work on regardless of who we play. There are things we have to work on for the Giants and also looking ahead to the regular season. A lot of balls in the air this week but that’s the way it normally is this time of year.” – Bill Belichick

More than anything, the Patriots seemed bent on working on getting the game done, using some of their younger players to get live reps and get out of Dodge.
 
THAT SUMS IT UP, GIANTS STYLE
 “Those 12-15 plays gotta be crisp and on point. We’ve got to produce a score at the end of it. Whatever it is, however we punch it in, we’ve just gotta make sure we’re crisp.” – Andre Brown, Giants running back on what his team’s mindset is in its limited action.
 
The Giants did ultimately punch it in. And Brown, unfortunately, broke his leg.  
 
THE WINNER IS...
Giants 22, Patriots 20: Tebow jump-pass picked off on two-point conversion attempt with 0:00 left on the clock after he stampedes 43 yards for the late touchdown to up the drama.
 
Almost NAILED IT!