By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In their preseason opener against the Lions, the Patriots looked like they might be the greatest football team to ever wear pads.
Turns out the Lions are just very bad.
This week, in a Saturday night matchup with the Titans in Nashville, the Patriots were brought back down to earth by a team that may just end up being a whole lot better than the Lions.
Still, a late scoring drive from the Patriots ended this tough night with a 22-17 victory for the Patriots.
Here are the Four Ups and Four Downs from the game.
The edge rusher was active, tenacious, and disruptive. And he looked like a rookie who just elevated expectations for his first season in the NFL.
Winovich essentially established residence in the Titans’ backfield for the duration of the second quarter, finally registering a sack on Ryan Tannehill late in the quarter after creating havoc a handful of times leading up to the sack.
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) August 18, 2019
— Casey Baker – New Account :/ (@_CaseyBaker) August 18, 2019
In the third quarter, Winovich chased down quarterback Logan Woodside to stop him just past the line of scrimmage, just before a missed Titans field goal.
Mr. High Motor. pic.twitter.com/TGFA4fvEGc
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 18, 2019
Winovich had six total tackles, including a sack and one other for a loss, on the stat sheet. But his disruption was felt far beyond the straight stats.
The third-round pick out of Michigan had an excellent debut last week vs. Detroit. He maintained that in his follow-up performance vs. the Titans.
The rookie running back out of Alabama finally got to see the field, and he carried the Patriots on a 74-yard touchdown drive to tie the game in the first half.
Harris had four carries for 36 yards, picking up first downs on three of those runs. He also had a 10-yard reception on a second-and-8 to move the chains. He broke off a 20-yard run to set up the Patriots at the 1-yard line (he may have actually scored, but Belichick almost never uses challenges on such plays), and the Patriots scored their lone touchdown of the first half two plays later.
smooth as receiver coming out of the backfield. Earlier, Harris caught one split out, a staple of the Pats offense. pic.twitter.com/oq032OLzsF
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) August 17, 2019
Harris had seven rushes for 41 yards and two receptions for 15 yards in the first half. He had another three carries for 24 yards (and another first down) on the Patriots’ touchdown drive to begin the second half, too.
In total, Harris rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries (a 5.7-yard average) and also caught four passes for 23 yards, putting him over the 100-yard mark in yards from scrimmage. He picked up a total of five first downs.
The third-round pick made a solid first impression.
Throughout the summer, even when he was being held back in team drills on the practice field, second-year tackle Isaiah Wynn always expressed confidence in himself. Saturday night, he backed it up on the field.
Starting at left tackle, Wynn played into the second quarter and more than held his own. He was sturdy, quick, strong and sound. And for the presumed starter at left tackle for Week 1, he needed to get some game action — and positive game action — under his belt. He did that Saturday.
It wouldn’t be a day in the summer of 2019 without some positive press for Jakobi Meyers. The undrafted rookie receiver once again looked like he’s already capable of being a reliable receiver in this offense, which is quite the accomplishment already.
He first showed up to catch a two-point conversion in the first half. Outside of that, he caught six passes for 82 yards, including one catch that came after putting an ankle-breaking move on the corner covering him in the slot:
oh my god
Jakobi "🐐" Meyers just did unlawful things to his man from the slot on the slant for a first down on third down. pic.twitter.com/4BOohQQoel
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) August 18, 2019
Meyers did draw some attention from the medical staff after making a catch in the fourth quarter, but that meeting on the sideline didn’t last long, and he returned to the field a few snaps later.
Just another day in the Summer of Meyers.
BONUS UP: Jakob Johnson
The fullback out of Germany absolutely lowered the boom as the lead blocker on a Brandon Bolden touchdown run:
What a block by Jakob Johnson on the TD run. Boooooooom. pic.twitter.com/ac4A1RzSYK
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) August 17, 2019
BONUS UP: Jarrett Stidham
He threw not one but two near-pick-sixes (that’s an unoffocial stat), so his night wasn’t perfect. But, with the help of Meyers getting the offense out of trouble, the rookie engineered a 99-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, capped off by a perfectly thrown 23-yard back-shoulder pass at the pylon to Damoun Patterson for the game-winning touchdown.
Preseason games don’t really matter, per se, but that drive is something the Patriots were no doubt happy to see from the rookie.
Stidham finished 14-for-19 for 193 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. In two preseason games combined, he’s now 28-for-43 (65.1 percent) for 372 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Clay Martin-led officiating crew certainly wasn’t shy about throwing flags, but the Patriots couldn’t really muster a complaint on most of the nine penalties assessed to them in the first half.
Among the most painful were a pass interference committed by J.C. Jackson on a third down incompletion (the Titans scored a touchdown on the very next snap) and a holding penalty by Lance Kendricks committed in the end zone, which resulted in an automatic safety. There was also a penalty called on the Patriots for having 12 men lined up on defense, which prompted Rob Ninkovich to immediately lament the same penalty costing the Patriots a Super Bowl.
In total, the Patriots got hit with 12 penalties on the night.
Derek Rivers/Shilique Calhoun
The edge defenders were lost due to injury just a few plays apart from each other in the first quarter. It wasn’t immediately evident what led to Rivers leaving the game, while Calhoun appeared to suffer a right ankle injury after getting accidentally kicked by a teammate.
The veteran backup looked like a preseason Hall of Famer last week in Detroit. This week, he looked more like a veteran backup.
The numbers were fine — he was 6-for-8 for 55 yards — but he threw an interception on the Patriots’ second offensive snap of the game. It wasn’t a particularly great pass. Not really how you draw up the first series.
It’s possible that the kicker in his 14th NFL season doesn’t really bring his A game to the preseason. His focus might be elsewhere.
Still, kicking is kicking, and Gostkowski missed a 40-yarder in the fourth quarter in this one, a kick that could have given the Patriots a one-point lead. That came a week after he missed a 37-yarder, too.
It’s possible that Gostkowski is having a rough go of it with rookie punter Jake Bailey, who was holding on Saturday’s missed field goal. Nevertheless, nobody in New England really has the patience for missed field goals.