Pats start hot, fizzle late, fall to Giants 18-17

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Pats start hot, fizzle late, fall to Giants 18-17

By Jimmy Toscano
CSNNE.com

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."

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

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Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”