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."

Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

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Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

When news broke on Tuesday of Buddy Ryan's passing, it wasn't very long before the NFL community at large paid tribute to one of the most well-respected defensive minds in the history of the league. 

Ryan, a longtime coordinator and head coach, leaves a legacy that includes two sons -- Rex and Rob -- who have carved out length careers spent on NFL sidelines. His legacy also includes a defensive scheme that confounded offenses, particularly in 1985, when the Bears '46' defense dominated all comers. With eight men in the box and just three defensive backs, Ryan's defense could be as confusing for quarterbacks as it was intimidating.

On the day of Ryan's passing, we can add to the list of Ryan rememberances a long quote from a Bill Belichick press conference back in 2012. The Patriots were getting ready to play Rex Ryan's Jets, but as the topic of conversation shifted away from the game itself and toward football philosophies, Belichick explained how Ryan's '46' defense changed the game, and where it can still be seen today. 

(To see the video of the press conference, you can head here. It's a bit slow for the first six or seven minutes, but when Belichick is asked about the idea behind being a "game-plan offense" and which coaches inspired him to take that mindset into his own career, things start rolling. Belichick rattles off the names of those who influenced him, including Annapolis High coach Al Laramore, Phillips Andover's Steve Sorota, Navy coach Wayne Hardin, Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda and several others. He calls the list of coaches who educated him -- including his father, of course -- a "menagerie." If you're into those types of Belichick responses about football philosophy and his own personal football upbringing, it's a video that's worth your time.)

Here is Belichick's response to a question from Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard, then of the Boston Globe, concerning Ryan and his '46' scheme. A tip of the hat to Chris B. Brown of Smart Football for pointing out the quote on Twitter early Tuesday. 

Q: You mentioned Buddy Ryan earlier. How come we don’t see more 46 defense? I’m not talking about for a full season – not everybody is the ’85 Bears, but in a one-game situation. Is it because of the quarterbacks and the shotgun?

BB: "A lot of the success that Buddy had with the 46 defense came in the ‘80s when there was a lot of two-back offense. It was one of the things that probably drove the two-back offense out. If you remember back in the ‘80s when Buddy was in Philadelphia, he had a lot of trouble with the Redskins and their one-back offense, a lot of trouble. There were a lot of mismatches of Art Monk and Gary Clark on the middle linebacker and stuff like that.

"I think the 46 was really originally built for two-back offenses, whether it be the red, brown, blue and the flat-back type offenses and eventually even the I-formation. I think it still has a lot of good application; a lot of teams use it in goal-line situations. They either use a version of it like a 5-3 or cover the guards and the center and however you want to quite fit the rest of it, but that principle you see a lot in goal-line, short yardage situations. You see it and some teams have it as part of their two-back defensive package.

"As it has gone to one-back and it’s gotten more spread out, if you’re playing that, it kind of forces you defensively to be in a one-linebacker set. You lose that second linebacker and depending on where the back lines up and what coverage you’re playing, then there’s some issues with that. If you’re in a one linebacker defense and you move the back over and the linebacker moves over then you’re kind of out-leveraged to the back side. If you don’t move him over, then you’re kind of out-leveraged when the back releases and that kind of thing.

"There are some issues there that, I’m not saying you can’t do it, but you have to work them out. In a two-back set, I’d say it was probably a lot cleaner and it always gave you an extra blitzer that was hard for the offense. Even if they seven-man protected on play-action, there was always an eighth guy there somewhere. You didn’t have to bring all eight; if you just brought the right one and they didn’t have him or somebody would have to have two guys and that creates some problems.

"I think that’s what Buddy, really, where the genius of that was. He had by formation a different combination and group of blitzes so depending on what formation you were in, then he ran a blitz that would attack that formation and then when you changed formations, then he would change blitzes. Now, plus the fact [he] had Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, [Otis] Wilson, [Wilbur] Marshall, that was a pretty good group there. You could have probably played a lot of things and that defense would have looked pretty good, especially when they put Hampton on the nose. That was pretty unblockable."

Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

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Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

Tom Brady has never been one to hide his emotions when he's on the field, and it sounds like he's not much different at the ping pong table.

When asked about Brady during an interview on ESPN's NFL Insiders show, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola recalled one story from his first few days at Gillette Stadium back in 2013.

"He's the best teammate," Amendola said. "He's so competitive . . . I remember one story, it was my first week in the building and he wanted to play some ping pong. I didn't know how to go about it. I knew I was better than him, [but] I didn't want to beat him too bad because I wanted him to throw me the ball.

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It's the reason we love him, and the reason why he's the best quarterback."

That first encounter at the ping pong table didn't seem to hinder Amendola's relationship with Brady in the least. In their first game together, Amendola fought a groin injury and still ended up with 10 catches for 104 yards in a win over the Bills. Since then, when healthy -- and particularly since New England's most recent run to a Super Bowl title -- Amendola has established himself as one of Brady's most trusted targets.

Amendola and the rest of the Patriots are facing a start to the regular season without their No. 1 quarterback as Brady awaits a decision from the Second Circuit on whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Should backup Jimmy Garoppolo take the reins in Brady's place, however, Amendola said he'll be confident. 

"He's a great player," Amendola explained. "He's been in the system a couple of years now and he's learned a lot. He's picked up everything that Tom has taught him and then also what coach [Bill] Belichick has to offer him. So we're all excited to see where he goes and see what the future holds for him."

Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

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Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

Danny Amendola did not participate in OTA or minicamp practices that were open to reporters, but that doesn't mean he's ailing. 

"I feel really good," Amendola said while paying ESPN's NFL Insiders show a visit. "I had a couple minor procedures done after the season. Everybody knows how long the season can be. I wanted to go into next season feeling as fresh and ready as I can."

Amendola joined a relatively long list of Patriots regulars -- including LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon -- who were not spotted during spring workouts. There exists, however, some optimism that he'll be ready to participate in training camp.

Though Amendola has battled nagging injuries in three seasons with the Patriots, he's often played through them rather than miss time. The 30-year-old wideout has played in all but six regular-season games since 2013.

Amendola is coming off of his best year in a Patriots uniform, finishing 2015 with 65 catches for 648 yards and three scores. He now helps make up a receiving corps that will include Edelman, newly-acquired wideouts Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper and rookies Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien.