BOSTON (CBS) — After an ugly start, the New England Patriots put together a strong second half to beat the Redskins 26-17 in their preseason opener.
Undrafted rookie running back Ralph Webb stole the show in the final 30 minutes, rushing for 46 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He ran for an eight-yard touchdown and made a nice snag on the ensuing two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter to give New England an 18-17 lead with 9:05 left. It capped off a 90-yard drive by the New England offense.
Defensive end Geneo Grissom nearly scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery later in the quarter, but was brought down at the one-yard line after a 53-yard return. He would have scored but corner Ryan Lewis decided to celebrate instead of block Washington receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr, who was able to catch up to Grissom and keep him out of the end zone.
That just meant another touchdown for Webb, who took it in from a yard out a few plays later. He followed that up with another two-point conversion, this time on the ground, to give New England a 26-17 lead.
Before the Patriots scored their 26 unanswered points, it wasn’t so pretty at Gillette Stadium. Bill Belichick sent most of his defensive starters out to start the preseason, and they struggled mightily against Washington’s second-team offense. Byron Marshall outran linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who took a terrible path to the wide receiver, for a 25-yard touchdown on the Redskins second drive of the game to put the visitors up 7-0.
Washington’s second touchdown (a three-yard catch by Maurice Harris) was set up by a 57-yard reception by Cam Simms thanks to horrible missed tackles by New England defensive backs Jordan Richards and DaMarius Travis. Redskins backup quarterback Colt McCoy completed 13 of his 18 passes for 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns during his time on the field.
Tom Brady was on the field for warmups but did not play for the Patriots, and neither did tight end Rob Gronkowski. Receiver Julian Edelman, who is coming off a torn ACL he suffered last preseason, played 11 snaps but was not targeted.
Patriots backup QB Brian Hoyer got the start for the New England offense, which couldn’t get much of anything going in the first half. They went three-and-out on their first two possessions. They went into halftime with only 100 yards of offense, thanks to 47 yards from receiver Devin Lucien on a pair of catches that set up a 52-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with four seconds left. The Patriots went into the locker room trailing 17-3.
As head coach Bill Belichick told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton just before the start of the second half, the Patriots played 38 seconds of good football over the first 30 minutes.
But the offense looked much better in the second half, as Hoyer went 6-of-6 for 46 yards on New England’s opening drive. The Pats marched 84 yards down the field on 18 plays, capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by veteran running back Jeremy Hill. He rushed for 18 yards on the drive and finished the game with 51 yards on 11 carries.
Hoyer went 16-of-23 for 144 yards before taking a seat on the bench in the fourth quarter. Rookie quarterback Danny Etling entered the game with 7:55 left, and completed one of his three passes for 18 yards.
After a tough first 30 minutes, the Patriots’ defense shut out Washington in the second half. Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley had an impressive game, finishing with six tackles, including two for a loss, and a quarterback hit.
New England’s preseason slate continues next Thursday when they welcome the Philadelphia Eagles (we say “welcome” very loosely) to Gillette Stadium.