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Looking ahead, back to Patriots vs. rookie QBs

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With the Bills announcing today that top pick E.J. Manuel will start for the team Sunday afternoon in Buffalo and the Jets also declaring that second-round pick Geno Smith will be their Week 1 starter, there is a good chance that the Patriots will open the season with consecutive games against rookie passers.

New England faced rookie quarterbacks in four games last season, and for the most part did relatively well although the defensive action against fresh-faced passers got off to a rocky start.

Russell Wilson was the first rookie passer the Patriots went up against last fall, with the third-round pick leading his Seahawks to the 24-23, come-from-behind win in Seattle. Wilson completed 16 of his 27 passes (59.3%) for 293 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 133.7 passer rating. He won the game on a 46-yard touchdown to Sidney Rice with 1:18 to play in the fourth quarter.

That was the low of the season for Bill Belichick's defense against rookie quarterbacks.

A month later the unit was more productive against No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck and the Colts. Luck completed 27 of his 50 attempts (54.0%) for 334 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 63.3 passer rating in New England's 59-24 victory in Foxborough.

The third rookie passer New England squared off against last fall came in a pair of meetings against Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins.

The Patriots won 23-16 in Miami in early December with Tannehill completing just 13 of 29 throws (44.8%) for 186 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a 66.2 passer rating.

A month later in Foxborough the Patriots prevailed 28-0 as Tannehill completed 20 of 35 passes (57.1%) for 235 yards with no touchdowns and one interception for a 65.8 passer rating.

For the season in action against Wilson, Luck and Tannehill the Patriots held rookie passers to a combined 75.0 passer rating, allowing five passing touchdowns compared to four interceptions. That's better than the overall 86.9 opposing passer rating Matt Patricia's defense allowed last fall.

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