By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — One preseason game down, and just three to go before they start to count for the New England Patriots.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski watched New England’s preseason opener from the bench, as the Patriots shook off an ugly first half to beat the Washington Redskins 26-17 at Gillette Stadium.
It’s only the first preseason game, so we won’t overreact too much to what we saw on the field. But it’s hard not to like undrafted rookie running back Ralph Webb, who ran strong in the second half of the game as the Patriots did their damage on offense. But while we enjoyed Webb’s big game, there is a lot concern on the defensive side as the first-team D looked like the team that got shredded by the Eagles six months ago (even with Dont’a Hightower back out there).
But at least the game ended on a high note, with an entertaining final 30 minutes from the Patriots. So without further ado, here’s our very first Ups and Downs of the 2018 Patriots season (albeit a preseason edition).
Webb Steals The Show
The rookie out of Vanderbilt had himself a game with a pair of touchdowns and followed them both up with two-point conversions, accounting for 16 of New England’s 26 points. He ran strong on each of his 14 carries, finishing with 46 yards for the night.
It’s only one preseason game, and he did a lot of his damage against third-stringers, but Webb made a strong first impression as he tries to make the 53-man roster. He has an uphill battle in New England’s deepest part of the roster, but he no doubt turned some heads Thursday night.
The veteran back also had a solid game out of the backfield, rushing for a game-high 51 yards on 11 carries, including a second-half touchdown.
Hill had a couple of big runs in the first half while the offense was struggling to do anything, picking up the first preseason first down for the Patriots on a nice 11-yard run.
Solid Game For Ja’Whaun Bentley
The rookie linebacker was active when he was on the field and finished with six tackles, including two for a loss. It was an extremely promising start for the fifth-round pick in his first game.
Nice Grab By Patterson
Cordarrelle Patterson had a nice 19-yard grab along the sideline in the third quarter, a big part of the drive that ended with Hill’s touchdown. He caught both passes that went his way for 38 yards.
Who says the guy is only a return man?
Two-Minute Drill To Close 1st Half
The offense stunk out loud to start the game, but Devin Lucien made sure they had a shot at putting up some points with two long catches in the final minute of the first half. He picked up 47 yards on his two receptions to set up a 52-yard field goal by Gostkowski just ahead of halftime. He finished with 71 yards on four receptions for the night.
The first half was ugly, but Bill Belichick’s one-liner to Steve Burton was tremendous.
At the time, it was the only actual highlight from the game. Thanks Bill.
Defensive Starters Got Burned
Stephon Gilmore did not have a good start to the preseason, allowing three receptions for 39 yards on Washington’s first two possessions. Kyle Van Noy was also burned for a 25-yard touchdown by Byron Marshall for the first score of the game.
The concerning part is the starters did not look good against Washington’s second-team offense. At least Bill has plenty of game film to complain about this next week.
Jordan Richards missed bad on a 34-yard run by Derrius Guice late in the first quarter, which was called back on an offensive holding call. Not a great showing for a guy on the bubble. Both Richards and Damarius Travis had horrible missed tackles on a 57-yard play by Cam Sims after Keion Crossen couldn’t break up a deep pass from Colt McCoy.
Slow Start For Offense
With Brian Hoyer leading the way, the New England offense went three-and-out on their first two possessions. Hill picked up a first down on their third possession, but the Pats were forced to punt again when Chris Hogan dropped a pass on third-and-8 (he was also flagged for OPI, which was declined).
The Patriots finished with just 100 yards in the first half, 47 of which came off the final two plays (accounting for those “good” 38 seconds in the first half).
Fumble In The Fourth
Mike Gillislee is fighting for a roster spot against Hill, and now he has to worry about Webb too. He had 14 carries, the same number as Webb, but both the rookie and Hill were the superior runners Thursday night.
Gillislee was also on the field when the Patriots fumbled the ball away in the fourth quarter, and though that fumble went to rookie QB Danny Etling, it’s not going to help his cause that he couldn’t handle the handoff.
Where Was Bojorquez?!?!
We’ve been pumping up the punter battle between Ryan Allen and rookie Corey Bojorquez, but Allen made all six punts for the Patriots on Thursday night. Maybe next week…