After a brief cameo by Tom Brady in Friday's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, much of the attention at Gillette Stadium turned to the performance of reserve quarterback Rohan Davey. The Patriots have been looking to Davey throughout training camp to seize the backup duties behind Brady after a successful summer season in NFL Europe. Davey shook off a slow start to finish strong, but it was a performance that didn't leave a definitive mark on the opportunity at hand.
Davey entered the game at the end of the first quarter on the Patriots third offensive drive, playing behind the first offensive line with a mix of skill position players. He got off to a poor start under increasingly heavy rains, missing badly on his first two attempts before the Patriots were forced to punt. He completed a forgettable first half three-for-seven passing for 24 yards, finishing with a 52.1 passer rating.
"Not so much disappointed, I just wish I could have jumped off to a faster start, especially early on when I got into the football game," Davey said. "I think I just wanted to go out and perform really well. I just tried to press a little bit too much at the beginning. I never felt uncomfortable or out of synch or anything like that, I just was pressing too much. I was just pressing too much wanting to do too well too fast, instead of letting it come to me."
Davey had a conversation with offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss after the second series, which reminded him to stick with his fundamentals and not try to do too much on every play. The rain subsided at halftime, and his play picked up in the second half against Philadelphia's defensive reserves.
He led a six-play, 70-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, highlighted by a touchdown pass in which he rolled right and lofted a nice touch pass to wide receiver Michael Jennings in the endzone. He showed nice mobility on several plays, scampering for gains of 16 and 23 yards for first downs. He displayed better decision-making by either throwing the ball away or settling for short completions, and later connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass with Rickey Bryant.
Davey gave himself a "C" grade for his performance. It's not a matter of pressure or comfort for the third-year quarterback, but a matter of slowing himself down and relying on his fundamentals.
"It's not really pressure," Davey said. "It's just trying to put your stamp on a spot on this team. Not so much the backup role, but just trying to let everyone know within this team that you can do the things that are expected of you that you practice when you get out there on the football field. That's the only way you establish confidence with your teammates. Me putting pressure on myself to go out and do it is not going to help the cause anyway. I just have to go out there and play the way I know how to play and the way I've been playing."
As promised during the week by Head coach Bill Belichick, Davey saw substantial action. He played eight series before being relieved in favor of Kliff Kingsbury with just under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Davey completed 8-of-15 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed four times for 40 yards.
"He made a few plays, there were some other things that didn't look so good," Belichick said. "I thought he had a couple situations, one in particular was a real tough situation, that he audibled on and I thought he made a heads-up call on the line. Some things looked better than others. He got the team in the endzone a couple of times, so that was good, but we need more consistencey from that position and every other one too."
Belichick continued his training camp trial of using two-way players in the preseason opener, as wide receiver Troy Brown and linebacker Dan Klecko both saw action on the opposite side of the ball. Klecko, who is in transition from a down lineman to linebacker this season, started the game at fullback and played the first two series with the first unit offense. On the next series Klecko saw time with the first unit defense, replacing Roman Phifer at inside linebacker. Klecko, who also saw action on special teams, was used often in short yardage situations last season when he lined up at fullback on five of the Patriots nine touchdown runs. He said was told before the game how exactly the coaches planned to use him.
"It was nice to get out there and actually get that in and hit some people before I had to go in on defense," Klecko said. "It might have been [an adjustment] last year, but now days I just go out there and play what they tell me to. It is nice. It's my job to come out here and play to the best of my ability."
The bigger surprise came from Brown, who has seen repetitions over the last week of camp as a defensive back. He surfaced on the defensive side of the ball surprisingly early, joining the Patriots first defense nickel unit on a third-and-nine play during Philadelphia's opening drive of the game. His first play resulted in an incomplete pass but was negated by two Philadelphia penalties. Two series later, he assisted Phifer on a tackle on a seven-yard completion from Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell going across the middle. The 11-year veteran, who said he was a little nervous on the defensive side of the ball, also fielded the first two Philadelphia punts of the game and saw action on the Patriots first drive on offensive at receiver. Brown played a total of seven or eight plays on defense and even blitzed on one play, and says he has "no idea" if his work on defense will continue into the regular season.
"I'm just a player, I'm an employee here. Whatever they decide to do I'm willing to do," Brown said. "I just do whatever it takes. If they feel like I can help the team in that position, and I can give them some depth in that position, then I'm willing to do it. Whatever it takes to help this team win football games."
COLVIN SEES ACTION
One pre-game question was how much action linebacker Rosevelt Colvin would see against the Eagles. Colvin, who participated in training camp practice for the first time on Sunday, saw limited action in the nickel package during three to four plays in the first quarter. Colvin missed the first BLANK practices of camp as the team worked him back slowly off rehabilitation from hip surgery. It was against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 last season when Colvin suffered a season-ending hip injury and spent the remainder of the season on injured reserve. Colvin said following the game that he felt fine and didn't experience any problems.
"It was just another step towards playing full time and getting everything back to where I need it to be to be out there all the time," Colvin said. "That's what I plan on doing. You try to work towards getting more. It starts with that, and now I go back during the week and try to practice and do more than I did before and just keep building it."
PLAY OF THE GAME
Friday's play of the game came courtesy of Tom Brady. Brady withstood a sack attempt by Philadelphia defensive end N.D. Kalu and completed a 19-yard pass to wide receiver David Patten for a first down. Kalu had a clean shot on Brady, who managed to avoide the sack despite his jersey nearly being torn off. Brady threw the pass across his body to the left as he fell backwards and hit Patten in-stride coming across the middle of the field.
"A couple of years ago, if someone ran by me I would fall down," Brady joked. "At least now I'm starting to fend these guys off a little bit."
THEY SAID IT
"I'm a winner. I'm a champion. I'll do whatever it takes to win. If they feel like it helps the team, and it gives us some depth, and everybody believes that I can do it, then I'll do it." – Troy Brown on playing defense.
DID NOT DRESS
The Patriots listed eleven players who did not dress for Friday's game due to injury: QB Jim Miller, WR P.K. Sam, CBs Christian Morton and Randall Gay, RBs Kevin Faulk and Cedric Cobbs, LBs Ted Johnson and Matt Chatham, OTs Tom Ashworth and Matt Light and WR David Givens. The team also listed the following players who did not play: P Cody Scates, DB Je'Rod Cherry, TE Andy Mignery, LS Lonie Paxton and WRs Bethel Johnson and J.J. Stokes.
Friday's paid attendance was 68,756. … Belichick improved to 4-0 as head coach of the Patriots against the Eagles in both preseason and regular season games. … Dillon's first carry for the Patriots, a two-yard run on the Patriots first drive of the game, drew large applause from the crowd. Dillon rushed for 23 yards on five carries. … Mike Cloud led the Patriots with 30 yards rushing on 10 carries. … Brady finished 3-of-4 passing for 31 yards and a touchdown in two series of work. … Brown, Terrell Buckley and Ricky Bryant split the punt return duties. … LB Justin Kurpeikis led the Patriots with nine total tackles, including six solo. … The Patriots have now won 14 consecutive games at home, including preseason, regular-season and postseason games.