By Jimmy Toscano
It won't mean much in the grand scheme of things, and that's good, because the Pats lost this one, 18-17.
But there were plenty of positives to take from the exhibition loss to the Giants at Gillette Stadium in the final preseason game of the year, and if it's just the starters you care about, then maybe you're okay with how the game went.
The Pats took control fast in this one.
In fact, it took just 20 seconds for them to get on the board.
Back at their own 5-yard line due to an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, the Giants' David Carr, playing for Eli Manning, completed the first pass of the game to wide receiver Domenik Hixon at the 17 yard-line. But Hixon was stripped of the ball after the catch by Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. Patriots safety Pat Chung picked up the loose ball and returned it all the way to the 1-yard line.
It was then up to Tom Brady (5-for-9, 116 yards) and the gang to convert on their end, and it took just one BenJarvus Green-Ellis run to get the job done.
Talk about a short playing field.
That Giants turnover was one of three on the night, and pretty much summed up the first half for each team.
The Giants didn't play any of their usual starters, while the Patriots trotted out Brady, Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, and a number of other usual suspects for the first quarter and into the second quarter.
The decision to play the starters for a bit makes sense, seeing as the Patriots don't play until Sept. 12, and it would have been 15 days in-between game action for a number of players.
And the report, in short, should be a good one. Haynesworth, while visibly winded out there, commanded double teams regularly, and provided pressure on Carr. Ditto for Shaun Ellis.
"Yeah, we had several guys out there that havent played in preseason and we had a chance to play them today," Bill Belichick said. "It was good to get them a little action. Im sure that will benefit them."
Later in the quarter, the Pats were blessed with a short field again after a Devin McCourty interception and return to the Giants' 33 yard-line. They managed a field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The Giants answered with a field goal of their own to make it 10-3, but Brady got to work on the ensuing possession.
Starting at his own 10-yard line, Brady connected with tight end Aaron Hernandez twice for 7 and 15 yards, respectively. But it was a deep Brady pass to a wide-open Matthew Slater streaking across the middle that really broke it open. Brady connected with Slater, around midfield, and he ran it all the way down to the Giants 4.
Cue Green-Ellis again.
The Patriots would go up 17-3, and it would appear that this one was in the books.
But in the second half, it was all New York. Showing punt formation to start the fourth quarter, the Giants faked it, and instead called a direct snap to Da'Rel Scott, who flew past unsuspecting Patriots special teamers for 65 yards and the touchdown.
Then, it was payback for the Giants, who turned the ball over deep in their territory to start the game.
Patriots running back Richard Medlin fumbled it at the 11 yard-line, where it was picked up by the Giants' Brian Jackson and taken to the house for the score.
With the Giants down 17-16, they elected to go for two. The conversion was successful, as Ryan Perilloux found Jerrel Jernigan in the end zone.
With 9:40 remaining in the game, that would be the last score.
Brian Hoyer, in limited minutes, went 3-for-5 for 31 yards, while rookie Ryan Mallett went 6-for-16 for 57 yards.
Patriots rookie running back Shane Vereen led all Patriots rushers with 34 yards on 11 carries.
Newly acquired wide receiver Tiquan Underwood had four receptions for 52 yards, but a costly illegal formation penalty that cancelled out a Patriots special teams touchdown could be what stands out for him.
Saturday marks roster cuts in the NFL, and the Pats must go from 80 players to 53. If you think Bill Belichick was only scoping out the young guys tonight, think again.
"Were trying to evaluate everybody, including the veterans," Belichick said. "What veterans did last year, thats great, but thats last year. Its really where they are now and what they can contribute to this team, so I think they have to prove themselves just like the rookies do. They have an experience advantage, but they still have to go out there and show what theyre able to do and theyre competing for playing time as well as roster sports."