Chris Hogan batted away Duron Harmon's pass for the key goal line stop.
Yes, you read that sentence correctly.
Near the end of New England's seventh day of training camp practice – a full-pads session that was probably the most physical and energetic to date – Bill Belichick flipped the script and the field a little bit by having his offensive and defensive players switch roles for a couple plays on the goal line.
On the first snap Patrick Chung was under center before he pitched it to the safety Harmon who tried to throw into the corner of the end zone on the run, actually throwing in the direction of "safety" Tom Brady who was also drifting in coverage. But Hogan knocked away the pass that looked to be intended for Devin McCourty.
The second snap saw Chung roll to his left, his throw falling incomplete in the front of the end zone.
It wasn't quite the same as the real defense's four goal-line stops a few days earlier, but it was certainly one of the more fun, unique moments early in training camp this season as Belichick continues to break up the monotony of practice action. There was plenty of chatter and celebration throughout the two role-reversal plays.
Unfortunately, beyond the fun, one of the other key stories of Thursday's practice was the mounting injuries. A day after New England release injured receiver Jordan Matthews the Patriots practiced without right tackle Marcus Cannon and first-round rookie running back Sony Michel, both of whom left practice early on Wednesday.
Still, even while taking into account the mounting injuries, the overall tempo and energy despite the sunny, hot, humid conditions, Thursday felt like quite a productive morning on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.
Beyond the injuries and fun, here are one way-too-sweaty man's blogservations from a stifling media tent atop the hill at the end of the field:
--Matthew Slater was in uniform and full pads for the practice, apparently coming off PUP. Though he spent a little bit of time early in practice working on the lower rehab field, he took to the regular field for the latter part of the workout. He spent most of the morning working on individual special teams drills and doing g a lot of extra running.
--Mike Gillislee returned to practice with limited action, though he wore a red, non-contact jersey. The veteran running back said afterwards that he expected to return to regular action in his normal jersey on Friday.
--Those players remaining on PUP include Jonathan Jones (Achilles), Cyrus Jones (ACL), Nate Ebner (ACL) and Kenny Britt (leg).
--Cannon, Michel and Nate Theaker were not seen on the field at any point.
--Rookie cornerback Keion Crossen also returned to action on a limited basis, spending the early part of practice on the rehab field before joining his teammates.
--Malcolm Mitchell remained out of action and worked on the lower rehab field.
--With Mitchell and Britt out of action and Jordan Matthews out of the mix, New England reportedly reached a deal to sign veteran free agent receiver Eric Decker on Thursday. Decker worked out for the team earlier in the week.
--As has been the case on a few different days, the defense did the pursuit angle drill early in practice where the defenders chase a ball carrier running down the sideline. The front side guys run to the ball while the backside defenders take angles deeper down the field to meet the runner. Some teams call the drill the rabbit drill, the nickname for the guy they are pursuing. One of the ball boy rabbits fumbled when a defender punched the ball out on the way by.
--Veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn was the first player on the field, followed by Hogan who went directly to the stationary bike between the two fields. Rookie quarterback Danny Etling, who is often the first guy on the field, was third today.
--Kyle Van Noy was back in his usual No. 53 blue jersey a day after he had to wear a blank shirt when offensive players ripped off his numbered jersey.
--Rookie defensive end Trent Harris jogged off the field and back to the Stadium during pre-practice action.
--Bill Belichick spent some time talking one-on-one with defensive lineman Keionta Davis during the pre-practice team installation work. Davis spent his rookie season on NFI, but has been getting reserve reps on the defensive line and may be a name to keep an eye on. The 6-4, 280-pounder certainly looks the part of a guy with an NFL future based purely on his build.
--Former Arizona State head coach Todd Graham was in town to watch practice. There were reports this offseason that Graham would be joining the Patriots staff, but that never happened.
--High-powered agent Drew Rosenhaus was at the practice. Afterwards he chatted with director of player personnel Nick Caserio in front of the friends and family area. He then also spent some time speaking with New England owner Robert Kraft, who was on the field for the second half of the workout. Rosehaus also spoke with a number of players including Rob Gronkowski, Trent Brown, Braxton Berrios and Philip Dorsett.
--Will Tye had a nice one-handed catch working with the quarterbacks against air early in practice. The returning practice squader has caught the ball well so far this summer.
--The offensive and defensive linemen did some group work early in practice working on stunts and combination blocks.
--Derek Rivers left the field and spent time being examined in the blue medical tent at the end of the field. He later returned to seemingly full practice action.
--Receivers coach Chad O'Shea and his players did pushups after some group work with the defensive backs early on.
--The receivers and defensive backs took part in some pretty competitive one-on-one work. Hogan beat Stephon Gilmore on the first rep when the cornerback slipped trying to make his break. Julian Edelman beat Duke Dawson with Brady dropping a pretty over-the-shoulder throw into his slot receiver's hands.
--Eric Rowe put the clamps on Cordarrelle Patterson who continues to struggle to create separation on his routes. The newcomer has caught the ball very well, including a one-handed grab for a completion against Jason McCourty, but he rarely seems to open up much space between himself and the coverage.
--Jomal Wiltz struggled in the one-on-ones, getting beaten badly by both Dorsett and Berrios.
--Jason McCourty got verbal praise and a high-five from O'Shea after putting the clamps on Devin Lucien as he tried to get off the line. O'Shea congratulated Ryan Lewis for a similar effort later. You don't see assistant coaches show such open praise for opposing players too often in practice.
--Edelman toasted Rowe on one rep, making the easy catch on a deep out cut before tossing the ball behind him in the cornerback's direction as he ran out of bounds. Rowe looked like he batted the ball to the ground in frustration.
--Dorsett got tangled up with Wiltz on one rep and appeared to reach at his left calf. He was looked at by a member of the medical staff but returned to full action and made a nice jumping grab on the sideline shortly thereafter in seven-on-seven work.
--Brady did pushups after the one-on-ones, not something you see too often from the 41-year-old.
--Brady connected with Jacob Hollister crossing the field early on in the very competitive seven-on-seven session. The second-year tight end continues to catch the ball very well and looks smooth and comfortable in his route running. It's early, but he seems to be very much in line for an increased role in the offense in 2018. Given the lack of proven options at wide receiver, the tight ends and running backs may very well be leaned on more in the pass game this fall.
--As he works back from his undisclosed injury that sidelined him for the first six days of camp, Slater spent a lot of time working one-on-one with special teams coach Joe Judge.
--The offensive and defensive lineman did their own one-on-one battles. One of the more notable takeaways from the action was undersized center David Andrew holding his own in two matchups with oversized defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
--Isaiah Wynn was beaten by a good bull rush from Clayborn.
--With Cannon absent the top offensive line had left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Joe Thuney, Andrews at center, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle. Wynn did take a couple reps at left tackle with the group in team action.
--In the middle of practice the Patriots did their version of the Oklahoma drill. There were three stations of the drill, each with one defensive player taking on one offensive blocker in an attempt to get to a ball carrier who took a handoff and had to run between two large bags that were approximately 5 yards apart.
--Ulrick John stayed down on one knee after one rep, seemingly grabbing at his lower leg or foot. But he continued to practice.
--Backup lineman Jason King spent time in the middle of the field with the medical staff late in practice. It appeared that they were looking at his left knee. He did not return to action.
--During a two-minute or end-of-game segment the sub defense had Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Trey Flowers and Clayborn from left to right on the line with Van Noy and Hightower at linebacker. The secondary included Gilmore, Rowe and Dawson at corner with McCourty and Harmon at safety. Some other sub looks had Chung swapped in for Dawson in a three-safety package that's been common the last couple seasons.
--Many drills had a second offensive line with Wynn at left tackle, Brian Schwenke at left guard, James Ferentz at center, Ted Karras at right guard and either John or Cole Croston at right tackle.
--The sub defensive line had a second group of Wise, Eric Lee, Davis and Geneo Grissom from left to right.
--Rookie punter Corey Bojorquez handled the holding duties for Stephen Gostkowski's field goal attempts in various segments and appeared to do so without issue.
--Luke Bowanko had to take a lap for a false start in one team drill.
--Wise took reps at right defensive end opposite Flowers in a group that included Shelton and Malcom Brown at tackle. At least in the early going it looks like the Patriots may have three guys for two spots at both end and tackle. Clayborn, Flowers and Wise are all getting high-level reps at end, while Shelton, Guy and Brown may be separating themselves from the rest of the pack at tackle. Over the years, especially at linebacker, Belichick often had three guys for two spots and used rotational/matchup lineups to much success. We may see that again up front this fall.
--Van Noy had a nice pass defense in coverage of Hollister, at least the third pass defense the linebacker has had this summer while displaying much improved coverage skills.
--Brady had to instruct Riley McCarron on his motion responsibilities on one play in team action before the QB eventually called a timeout. The young receiver was then replaced by Edelman when the unit returned to the line.
--A staple of the Patriots offense for years, James White took a direct snap for a touchdown run over the left side in team action with the second unit.
--Dorsett continues to catch the ball really well and is certainly making a run at a key role at the wide open receiver position.
--Impressive rookie JC Jackson got his hands on two balls for would-be interceptions during the workout, including one that should have been an easy play on poorly-thrown deep ball. He was not able to secure either pick. Still, the undrafted free agent continues to be around the ball and show potential.
--Hoyer hit Patterson for a big play crossing down the field, beating Jordan Richards.
--After the play the offense went for a two-point try that was picked off by Jackson.
--A crew of officials came onto the field very late in practice and seemingly did little more than watch the action. They wore a few different combinations of officiating uniforms, including one with white pants in what was a really bad look.
--Flowers is still wearing a large bandage on his forehead from the cut he suffered on the first weekend of camp.
--Those players talking to the media after practice included James Develin, Stephen Gostkowski, Bojorquez, Ryan Allen, Dawson, Slater, Devin McCourty and others.
--The Patriots are scheduled to return to the practice field again on Friday morning at 9:15. As always be sure to check Patriots.com for any last minute schedule changes.
--Belichick did not speak with the media on Thursday but is scheduled to do so at 8:45 Friday morning. It will be his first chance to talk about the Matthews' release, Decker reported signing and other topics.