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First one nothing to rave about

New England dropped their first preseason affair 16-15 to the Baltimore Ravens, turning the ball over five times.


Patriots linebacker Shawn Crable intercepts a pass against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on August 7, 2008

Preseason game one for New England went without many of the Patriots starters. Present only on the sideline were Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Benjamin Watson and Ellis Hobbs. They gave way to many of the roster hopefuls looking to get some plays on film to impress their coaches.

So who impressed? Shawn Crable had a nice game from his linebacker spot with 4 tackles, half a sack and an interception. Jerod Mayo had one of the best hits of the night while Terrence Wheatley had decent coverage when Ravens passers looked his way. Brandon Meriweather also looked good in the Patriots secondary, active near the line of scrimmage and in coverage. And when the Patriots starting line was in the the game, they looked ready for the season.

All in all, the Patriots defense looked fine for a first exhibition. Now about that offense...

The question regarding who will be Brady's back-up this season was anything but resolved. None of the other three Patriots signal callers did anything to distinguish themselves although rookie Kevin O'Connell looked OK, for a rookie. Lamont Jordan was probably the lone standout on that side of the ball. His 19 carries gained 76 yards and a touchdown and showed good power inside and speed to the edge.



]()In the end New England turned the ball over five times and preseason, regular season, whatever, that just won't win you a football game.

New England won the toss and made use of the new rule instituted this year of being able to defer their decision to the second half, meaning Baltimore received the opening kickoff and the Patriots could decide after halftime on whether or not to kick off to begin the second half.

The Ravens converted for three on a 42-yard Matt Stover field goal on that first drive. Quarterback Kyle Boller made his way downfield with two passes to Derrick Mason for 21 and 16 yards with a 12-yard pick-up to Yamon Figurs in between.

Starting on defense for the Patriots was first round draft pick Mayo at inside linebacker next to Tedy Bruschi. Second rounder Wheatley also got the nod at cornerback opposite Fernando Bryant.

When New England took over on offense, it was Matt Cassel under center. His first two series amounted to nothing. Series one was three and out. His second came as a result of an Adalius Thomas strip sack of Boller. Ty Warren recovered and the Patriots took over at the Ravens 44. After a Ravens holding penalty, Cassel looked to Chad Jackson but threw behind him and Fabian Washington had an easy pick for an abrupt end to that series. Whether it was a bad throw by Cassel or a bad route by Jackson is hard to tell, although Cassel seemed unhappy with his receiver as they left the field.

Cassel's troubles continued into the second quarter. On a third and 21 from his 20, Cassel rolled out to his left but slipped and lost the ball. He recovered his own fumble but the play brought out Chris Hanson to punt.

Hanson's punt traveled 41 yards and Figurs brought it back 52, to the Patriots 2-yard line. Two plays later Le'Ron McClain banged it in from the 1 and the Ravens had a 10-0 lead.

Cassel's numbers on the night were 1 of 4 passing for 11 yards, a sack and a fumble. Matt Gutierrez took over on the Patriots next series and fared no better, getting sacked twice on consecutive plays.

The Ravens committed their first turnover of the night later in the second quarter. On first and 10 from his 37, Boller looked to his left but Crable read the play and came up with the interception, returning it to the Ravens 41. Boller's night ended there with decent numbers, 11 of 15 passing for 102 yards and an interception.

The Patriots drive after the turnover started off on a good note with Marcus Pollard picking up 12 yards. Later, Kevin Faulk picked up another first down with a 9-yard draw on third and 8. Things stalled from there and Stephen Gostowski was good on a 36-yard field goal attempt.

Troy Smith replaced Boller after the field goal and connected with Demerian McCants for 30 yards on his second snap of the game. That was the big play of the drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Stover to make the score 13-3 with 1:19 left in the first half.

New England went into hurry-up mode and Gutierrez looked like he might put at least three more points on the board after connecting with Ray Ventrone for 14 yards and Heath Evans for 15 on second and 10 from the 37. The new-found offense didn't last, however. On second and 10 from the 22, Gutierrez looked to Matthew Slater along the left sideline but the ball was underthrown and Washington of Baltimore came up with his second pick of the game to essentially end the half.



]()New England chose to receive to open the second half but the offense continued to sputter. After an 8-yard run by Jordan, Gutierrez fumbled the snap and the Ravens recovered on the Patriots 37. Piotr Czech booted a 37-yard field goal to make it 16-3. On a bright note, Meriweather made a nice play of a little pass that could have resulted in big yardage. He made the solo tackle close to the line from his safety spot with a lot of green behind him.

New England bounced back with a decent drive beginning at the its 32. Jordan ran well with 27 yards on 5 carries but the 20-yard line was as close as New England could get. Eventually, Gostkowski was good on a 44-yard field goal to make it 16-6 with 5:46 left in the third quarter.

After a three and out by the Ravens, Kevin O'Connell came in at quarterback for the Patriots and injected some life into the offense with his feet. After hitting on his first two passes for 6 and 9 yards, O'Connell took off for runs of 7 and 15 down to the Ravens 27. There was no hesitation on the 15-yarder; O'Connell immediately saw space in the Ravens defense and took off after the snap to the delight of the crowd. An illegal formation penalty on the Patriots set the drive back and on third and 10, O'Connell's quick pass to CJ Jones only netted 6 yards. That brought out Gostkowski who was good on his third field goal of the night, a 40-yarder.

Joe Flacco came in for the Ravens at quarterback and on his second play was stripped and sacked by Pierre Woods. Woods also recovered giving New England the ball on the Ravens 31. O'Connell hit Jones for 13 yards and then Jordan did the rest, rushing five straight times with his last a 1-yard dive into the end zone to make the score 16-15.

Bill Belichick elected to go for the lead with a two-point conversion but O'Connell's pass was knocked down with under six minutes left to play.

The Patriots got the ball right back after Crable and Kenny Smith split a third down sack of Flacco. It set the stage for a Patriots comeback but on the ensuing punt, Jones muffed the catch and the Ravens recovered.

Baltimore set up at the Patriots 18 but New England's defense held with Vince Redd knocking down Flacco's fourth and 1 pass from the 9.

That left 2:45 on the clock for O'Connell to work some magic but three plays netted minus 8 yards. On fourth down from the 1, O'Connell bought time in the end zone and spotted Jones over the middle downfield. The pass was true but Jones bobbled it and Ronnie Prude grabbed it mid-air for the Ravens to essentially end the game.

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