The quarterback position has been the story all summer in New England and that was the case yet again Thursday night in New York as the Patriots closed out the preseason with a 17-9 loss to the Giants.
Tom Brady got the starting nod at MetLife Stadium and maybe somewhat surprisingly played the entirety of the first quarter while Jimmy Garoppolo – who'll start the first four games of the regular season with Brady serving his four-game suspension – stood on the sidelines watching throughout the night.
The Brady-led offense struggled early, though, especially with turnovers. Brady played a part with an interception, while Martellus Bennett and D.J. Foster each had fumbles.
Brady did lead a scoring drive late in the first quarter, concluding with a 7-yard touchdown to Keshawn Martin. The drive included a 20-yard hookup to Julian Edelman and a 30-yard catch-and-run for Foster.
Brady finished completing 16 of 26 passes for 166 yards with the one touchdown and single interception.
"I'm happy I was able to play as much as I did," Brady said. "We did a decent job moving the ball but turned the ball over too many times."
He then acknowledged that after Thursday night, as he heads into his suspension, that he's embarking on "uncharted waters."
Jacoby Brissett played the entire second half, leading the offense to just one scoring drive on a 32-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The rookie quarterback completed 13 of 21 throws for 152 yards and did not throw an interception.
As has been the story all summer, while the quarterback play was getting all the attention a lot of the Patriots big plays were coming on defense. New York mustered just a field goal in the first half, while New England's defenders forced another pair of turnovers. Justin Coleman forced a fumble that was recovered by Anthony Johnson, while Jordan Richards had a nice interception in the red zone on an ugly Ryan Nassib throw.
The most notable of the defenders making plays was newcomer Barkevious Mingo. The linebacker made his debut just a week after landing in New England via trade from the Browns and made his impact immediately.
Mingo was all over the field. He had a strip sack wiped out by a Roberts penalty but was in on the Coleman/Johnson turnover on the very next snap. He finished with six tackles, a QB hit, a tackle for a loss. Mingo showed the ability to play on two feet, with his hand in the fake dirt and move around well in space. For a guy just learning the defense it was an impressive start as he adds yet another athletic, versatile body to the Patriots defensive front.
Beyond the newcomers and stars like Brady, much of the finale was about guys making a last, late run at a roster spot. It made for some interesting personnel combos and competition.
"We can now turn the page and have some tough decisions to make over the weekend," Bill Belichick said. "Now we can move on to Arizona."
How those battles and decisions play out for Belichick will be decided in the next couple days. But before moving on to the 53-man cuts and the preparation for the regular season opener a week from Sunday night in Arizona, here's a look at the personnel highs and lows from the fourth and final preseason game.
Barkevious Mingo –The linebacker was flying all over the field. He showed closing speed on the sack that was nullified by penalty. He showed the ability to take on blocks, shed and make the tackle. He danced around the front putting pressure on the line to make calls. Mingo is just learning the scheme and the Patriots are just learning his ability. But the first taste of action, even if just against mostly Giants backups, was a tempting, hopeful look toward what could be.
D.J. Foster – Assuming you take away the terrible fumble in which the rookie back just didn't put the ball away quickly or securely enough, the undrafted player made a nice surge toward a possible roster spot. Even on the fumble, Foster made a nice one-handed grab. Overall he finished with nine catches for 110 yards, with the long of 30. He wasn't quite as productive on the ground, churning out just 22 yards on nine attempts. He also had some ups and downs in protection.
AJ Derby – The second-year tight end bounced back from his drop against the Panthers with another solid performance against the Giants. Derby, also making a charge for a roster spot, had five catches for 51 yards with a long of 18. Derby is a work in progress as a blocker, but he continues to show solid hands and impressive athleticism as an option in the move tight end role.
Nate Solder – The veteran anchor of the offensive line limped off with what looked like a left leg injury in the first quarter. Though he remained on the bench and the injury didn't appear to be serious, at this late point in the process it's not good to see the most experienced, talented, consistent member of the line limp off.
Injuries –Beyond Solder, the likes of Elandon Roberts, Tyler Gaffney, Martin and Devin Lucian limped off with injuries. All are in battles for roster spots and roles, so seeing them dinged up in the summer finale is less than ideal for them and the team. Gaffney went to the locker room, especially tough to see for a guy who's spent the last two years on injured reserve. Health is the top priority in the fourth preseason affair, and the Patriots didn't fair particularly well, even if none of the injuries looked to be overly severe in nature.
Martellus Bennett –The veteran tight end had a very tough night in New York against his former team. First, Bennett had an ugly drop on a quick slant from Brady. Later, he tried to spin after a reception and lost the fumble while seeming to try to change it from one hand to the other. Bennett has not had a great summer or preseason. The potential he brings to the offense is clear, but it will need to come to more consistent fruition in the regular season.
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