FIRST OVERALL PICK
Tonight's game began in the exact same manner as last week's preseason opener - with an interception on the first play from scrimmage. Last week, Asante Samuel intercepted Cincinnati's Carson Palmer on the game's first play, but this week the Patriots weren't so fortunate, as Tom Brady was intercepted by New Orleans' Dwight Smith on the first play from scrimmage tonight. It has been rare for Brady to throw interceptions at Gillette Stadium, as he has been picked off just six times in the 19 regular season and playoff games in Foxborough since the beginning of the 2003 season. In the 29 overall games he has played at Gillette Stadium, Brady has thrown 39 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.
Tom Brady connected with Tim Dwight on a 45-yard bomb in the first quarter, marking Dwight's first reception of the preseason. Dwight was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on March 13, 2005, and has a long history of long plays, often resulting in touchdowns. He has recorded seven career touchdown plays of more than 50 yards and five touchdowns of more than 70 yards. The long scores have come via receptions (52 yards, 60 yards), punt returns (70, 70, 84) and kickoff returns (87, 93). The eighth-year veteran enters the 2005 campaign as the only active NFL player to have scored multiple touchdowns in each of the following four categories: receiving (14), rushing (3), punt returns (3) and kickoff returns (2).
Rodney Harrison picked off an Aaron Brooks pass in the second quarter after the ball bounced off of Chad Scott's arm. The interception set up a first-and-goal from the 3-yard line, setting the stage for a 3-yard touchdown run by Kyle Eckel on the next play, giving the Patriots a 17-10 lead. Harrison is the only player in NFL history to have recorded at least 25 sacks and at least 30 interceptions in his career and has recorded more tackles than any other NFL player in the last 10 years (1,013 stops). In his Patriots career, Harrison has recorded five interceptions in 32 regular season games and six interceptions in just six playoff games (including two picks in Super Bowl XXXIX).
PASS CATCHING ON
Patrick Pass put the Patriots on the scoreboard with a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Last season, Pass turned in the most productive statistical season of his 5-year career, setting personal bests in rushes (39), rushing yards (141), receptions (28) and receiving yards (215). Pass led all Patriots running backs last season with 28 receptions. The University of Georgia product has one regular-season touchdown to his credit, a 23-yard scoring reception on Dec. 22, 2001 against the Miami Dolphins.
HAPPY RETURN FOR FLUTIE
Doug Flutie quickly made his preseason return to the Patriots a memorable one, connecting on two quick passes, a 12-yard toss to Tim Dwight and then on the very next play, a 29-yard touchdown toss to Jason Anderson. Prior to tonight, Flutie's last appearance in Foxborough as a Patriot was more than 15-and-a-half years ago, on Dec. 3, 1989 in a game against the Houston Oilers at Foxboro Stadium. The last time the former Heisman Trophy winner from Boston College threw a touchdown pass in Foxborough while wearing a Patriots uniform was on Nov. 6, 1988 - nearly 17 years ago.
- Rodney Harrison nailed Saints tight end Ernie Conwell to break up a pass on second down with New Orleans at their own 11-yard line.
- Rosevelt Colvin and Richard Seymour teamed up to drop Deuce McAllister for no gain in the first quarter.
- The Patriots pinned the Saints at their own 3-yard line in the second quarter when a 41-yard punt from Josh Miller was downed by Larry Izzo.
Undrafted rookie fullback Kyle Eckel scored a touchdown for the second consecutive week, giving the Patriots a 17-10 lead in the second quarter. Last week in Cincinnati, Eckel notched a 4-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. As of halftime tonight, Eckel had notched two touchdowns on four rushes this preseason. Eckel attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he recorded 13 career 100-yard games, the fourth most in school history.
Rookie wide receiver Jason Anderson scored a touchdown on a nice play for the second consecutive week. Tonight, Anderson acrobatically hauled in a 29-yard pass from Doug Flutie to give the Patriots a 24-13 second-quarter lead. Last week in Cincinnati, Anderson grabbed a Matt Cassel pass and made a nifty move to scamper into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
Third-round draft pick Ellis Hobbs, the second player selected by the Patriots in the 2005 NFL Draft, returned a kickoff 53 yards in the second quarter, setting up a Patriots scoring drive punctuated by a 29-yard touchdown toss from Doug Flutie to Jason Anderson. Hobbs returned 24 kicks in his four seasons at Iowa State (with a long of 41 yards).
The following veterans made their Foxborough debuts in Patriots uniforms tonight: CB Chad Scott, S Antuan Edwards, LB Monty Beisel, LB Chad Brown, LB Wesly Mallard, WR Tim Dwight and DL Rodney Bailey.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
As a part of the NFL's Play Football Month, the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation welcomed 1,500 football players and coaches from 18 different Massachusetts high schools to tonight's game. The schools were invited after their players served as volunteers at the local Punt, Pass and Kick competitions held during 2005 Patriots Training Camp.
THE LIGHT FOUNDATION
Matt Light welcomed six teenagers to Gillette Stadium for his "Patriots Experience" event sponsored by the Light Foundation. Each of the six kids, four from his home state of Ohio and two from Roxbury, Mass., were selected based on good grades and community service work. The four children from Ohio were flown in for the game before meeting up with the remaining two winners for pre-game field access, where they watched Matt and the Patriots warm up. They then took in the game from the stands and were expecting to meet with Matt after the game.