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5 Keys from Patriots preseason win over Packers

Here are the key immediate takeaways from the Patriots preseason contest with the Packers.

PS2-2023-KeysFromTheGame (1)PDC

The Patriots and Packers capped off a productive week in Green Bay with a back-and-forth three quarters of football that carried over many of the same elements from joint practices but was unfortunately suspended early due to an injury to Patriots rookie cornerback Isaiah Bolden. On the scoreboard, the Pats dropped the Pack, 21-17, but it's of little consequence, as Bolden's health is at the forefront of everyone's mind after he collided with a teammate and fell motionless to the ground before being carted off.

Prior to the abrupt ending, there was plenty to digest on the field. Mac Jones played three series, leading a touchdown drive and making some clutch third-down throws, but also giving up a fumble when he was hit from his blindside. The Pats defense produced a takeaway themselves, pouncing on a botched shotgun snap, but also struggled to contain Green Bay's rushing attack that helped the Packers establish a halftime lead.

Here are the key takeaways from the Pats second preseason game of the summer as the regular season rapidly approaches!

The New England Patriots take on the Green Bay Packers in a preseason game at Lambeau Field on Saturday August 19, 2023.

1. Pats offense brings good and bad from joint practices

The Patriots offense had one of their best days of the summer during Thursday's practice against the Packers, converting multiple red zone snaps into touchdowns, and that carried over to the first drive on Saturday night. After Josh Uche recovered a bad snap on the Packers' first possession, Mac Jones and the offense took over deep inside of Packers territory. Mac had two nice completions to Kendrick Bourne, one coming on an RPO slant that went for 13 yards, and got a drawn holding call by DeVante Parker in the end zone, that set up Rhamondre Stevenson's one-yard touchdown run behind the push of the right side of the line.

The Pats certainly got some help with the fumble and penalty but had to overcome a false start by Trent Brown on their first offensive snap. It wasn't perfect, but it was a touchdown for the starters on their first drive of the preseason and anyone will take that.

The second drive of the game, however, was more up and down. Early on came a slashing carry from Rhamondre Stevenson that went for 23 yards, but later the drive ended with Mac taking a sack on 3rd-and-9, with pressure coming off the right side of the line around rookie Sidy Sow. Even with an overall strong day on Thursday, protection was a sporadic problem that also carried over into the game with their red zone prowess.

2. Pass protection and run defense breaks down

The Pats' problems grew in the late first quarter, with the Packers putting together a scoring drive that was aided by a 15-yard personal foul on Sam Roberts for a late hit on quarterback Jordan Love and a 42-yard sideline throw to Romeo Doubs that was initially ruled incomplete. The Packers finished off the drive with Love hitting rookie Jayden Reed on a crosser for a touchdown, beating Shaun Wade across the field. Wade had a solid two practices but was victimized by an excellent throw by Love.

Again it was up and down for the Patriots offense. The good, Mac Jones converted two third downs, showing poise under pressure on the money down. The first came with Mac getting the ball out quickly in the face of pressure, finding Pop Douglas to convert a 3rd-and-10, then Mac and Kendrick Bourne again connected for a 17-yard gain on 3rd-and-8.

But those quality conversions were all for not when left tackle Andrew Stueber was beaten off the edge by Kingsley Enagbare, who hit Mac and forced a fumble that Green Bay recovered. The Packers then cut through the Patriots defense in eight plays, going 57 yards for the touchdown with five first downs along the way.

The Patriots run defense was especially troubling early in the game with many starters in the game, as Green Bay put up 78 yards on the ground with a 5.2 yards-per-attempt average through their first four possessions. Josh Bledsoe and Josh Uche appeared to lose the edge on Patrick Taylor's eight-yard touchdown run.

Situational defense was again a problem as well, as the Pats allowed a field goal on the final drive of the first half. It came on eight plays, over 57 yards, with 23 of them coming on a tough pass interference call on Christian Gonzalez. Gonzalez was in phase with the receiver but an underthrown ball helped initiate enough contact for the yellow flag to come flying in. Last week against the Texans featured a similar problem to end the first half.

Gonzalez continues to acquire valuable experience. He had a solid third-down tackle that forced a punt and even on his pass interference penalty, showed impressive recovery skills to get back into coverage after initially squatting on what he thought was an underneath route. It will be a process for the rookie, but he's making strides every time he takes the field.

3. Boutte Scoots to the End Zone

Kayshon Boutte has had a solid camp but was still looking for a signature preseason moment to hang his roster hopes on and he got it against the Packers, catching a throw from Bailey Zappe on a quick slant that he took to the house, running 42 yards for the game-tying score.

While Pop Douglas has gotten most of the attention and quality playing time, there could still be a role to be had for someone like Boutte, especially with Tyquan Thornton battling an injury suffered in Thursday's practice. Boutte also got a chance to return a punt (it was downed), as the coaching staff continues to see how much value he might bring to the team.

This week in Nashville is a big one for Boutte.

4. We're on to Tennesee

With Green Bay now in the rearview mirror the Patriots will ship straight to Tennesee for another set of joint practices and a preseason game with the Titans to cap off their summer next week. If they get as much out of those practices and games as they did in Green Bay, the Pats should be on a good track for their opener against the Eagles.

The main issues arising from Saturday night were pass protection and the run defense. The pass protection problems weren't much of a surprise, the team has razor-thin depth thanks to injuries and have two rookies starting in their front five, both of whom were victimized for sacks. Still, with the hope that Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu could stabilize the middle sooner than later, right tackle could be the only question that needs to be solved, whether it's Sidy Sow, Riley Reiff or someone else there.

Still, the offensive line needs to get their real starting five healthy and settled and get them all on the same page as soon as possible, especially considering the pass rush firepower that the Eagles will bring to Gillette.

The run defense was concerning but at this point in the summer probably not all that surprising given the amount of full contact the team has seen thus far. It should be something to keep an eye on, but until the regular season, when starters are in their full-time and everything is schemed up, it's hard to get too concerned about a run defense loaded with so many veterans up front. They've been a top-10 DVOA run defense in three of the last four seasons. But again, the Eagles will challenge this weakness on this side of the ball immediately.

Prayers for Bolden

5. Lastly, and most importantly, is the health of rookie cornerback Isaiah Bolden, who was carted off the field with an apparent head injury in the fourth quarter. The game was suspended following the injury and now the number one takeaway from the game is all about his health and recovery.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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