BOSTON (CBS) – Let’s start by saying this: yes, it’s only preseason. But we’re allowed to react (overreact?) a little bit, aren’t we?
Like everyone, we’ve been waiting patiently for six long months to watch a football game (replays on NFL Network don’t count). On Friday night, even though it means nothing in the standings or the record books, we got our football.
It’s hard to take anything from this game and put any real meaning to it, as most of the Patriots starters either didn’t play or played sparingly. But we’ll do it anyways.
Here are 4 Ups and 4 Downs from the Patriots preseason opening win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Running Game
The Patriots got strong performances from Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, but LeGarrette Blount stole the show.
Though Ridley’s 62-yard rush on the first play for the Patriots was impressive, Blount’s 51-yard touchdown run in the second half was better. He reversed direction twice on the play, finding a large hole in the middle and scampering for the long score. Blount finished with 101 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. He was a bit of a question mark heading into the preseason, and was battling with Brandon Bolden for a roster spot.
For one game, Blount made his case.
The run game got it all started for the Patriots, as they ran the ball on all six of their plays on their opening drive — capped off by a one-yard score by Ridley. Though he looked gassed on his long run to begin the game, Ridley said that is one he’ll break in the regular season.
Vereen only had 12 yards on three carries, but he also caught a pair of passes for 18 yards, including a beautiful 13-yard touchdown catch from Tom Brady in the first quarter.
With all the questions surrounding the passing game, the run game will be a huge factor for the Patriots this season. Then again…
He looked stellar in the joint practices during the week, and that carried over into Friday night’s game. Brady went 7-for-8 for 65 yards and a touchdown, throwing a pin-point pass to Vereen in the back of the end zone.
In all, Brady played 16 snaps on Friday night. The most important part was who he passed to though, spreading the ball out between four receivers. He even got two of the young guys involved, hitting Kenbrall Thompkins twice and Aaron Dobson once.
This is what we expect out of Brady, but it’s always good to actually see it (even if it is just preseason).
They only got to catch passes from Brady for a brief time, but both Dobson and Thompkins (especially Thompkins) looked as though they were on the same page as the veteran passer. Thompkins made good reads at the line and made a nice catch in traffic.
Dobson ended up leading the team with 35 yards on two receptions, while Thompkins racked up 23 yards on four catches.
In the end it’s not much, but it’s good experience for these young receivers that will be tossed into the fire come September 8 in Buffalo.
D Forces Fumble
It wasn’t a great night for the New England defense (as you will soon read), but veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly and sophomore defensive end Chandler Jones combined for a nice strip-sack late in the first quarter.
Kelly, who finished the night with two tackles to go with the sack, and Jones put the pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and forced him to cough up the rock. The play was originally ruled an illegal forward pass, but Bill Belichick challenged and the call was reversed.
Most of the Patriots veteran d-linemen received the night off, but it was nice to see Kelly make some noise in his debut — especially since he joined forces with Jones.
The Patriots struggles against the long ball were well documented last season, and those struggles were back on Friday night.
While most of the defensive starters sat, Aqib Talib was beat badly on Michael Vick’s 47-yard touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson (though he didn’t get any help from veteran safety Steve Gregory). Vick finished 4-for-5 for 94 yards and Foles went 5-for-6 for 43 yards.
There were other missed plays on defense, as rookie Jamie Collins over-ran Foles on a potential sack and rookie corner Logan Ryan missed a tackle on Greg Salas’ 12-yard touchdown in the fourth, but these are also good teaching points for Belichick to use next week.
Brady’s backup looked erratic and uncomfortable in his brief time on the field before leaving with a head injury. Mallett went 9-for-18 for 97 yards, but missed rookie Josh Boyce in the end zone for a touchdown.
The preseason is his time to shine, and he didn’t do that in the 25 snaps he was on the field for. But he told reporters after the game his head was “fine,” and he should get another shot to improve next Friday against the Buccaneers at Gillette.
They were anything but special, as Stephen Gostkowski missed two of his three field goal attempts (missing from 44 and 53 yards) and Brandon Bolden had a bad “running into the kicker” penalty that gave the Eagles new life in the second quarter.
While he made some plays with his legs Tebow struggled throwing the ball, completing just four of his 12 passes. He looked better when the Patriots changed their play-calling to more of his style, but overall he was slow to get rid of the ball and struggled to make adjustments at the line.