Despite its importance to players fighting for jobs, the fourth preseason game will never be confused for the Super Bowl. But Thursday night's preseason finale in Foxborough between the Patriots and Giants was an entertaining affair with New York pulling out the victory on a 48-yard Aldrick Rosas field goal as time expired.
The story of the night – with the bulk of New England's likely 53-man roster players watching from the sidelines – was second-year third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The former third-round pick actually led a would-be comeback to a 55-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal with 44 seconds to play that looked like it would pull out the victory.
Though New England's defense struggled allowing five-straight Giants scoring drives after forcing an opening turnover and failing to force a punt until the fourth quarter, Brissett and the offense moved the ball well and made plays.
Many of the guys on the field – New England had 49 players from the 90-man roster that did not play – were fighting for roster spots, practice squad roles and future jobs in football. That made for competitive action filled with notable plays for both teams.
Now Bill Belichick's squad will turn the page toward the final roster cuts on Sept. 2 and the Sept. 7 NFL Kickoff against the Chiefs in less than a week at Gillette Stadium.
Before moving on to cuts and regular season action, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the fun-filled preseason finale.
Jacoby Brissett – After limited playing time and practice reps this summer, the No. 3 got the start and played wire-to-wire against New York. He took advantage of a short field after a turnover to drive 35 yards to a 9-yard touchdown pass to Cody Hollister on his first drive of the night. Though he threw a pick-six interception on his very next throw, that was really the only black mark on a performance that saw Brissett complete 28 of 39 passes for 341 yards with four touchdowns and the one interception for a 121.8 passer rating. He also ran four times for 29 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run. Brissett made, for the most part, good decisions and throws. It's the most he's ever looked like an NFL-caliber passer. Opportunity knocked and Brissett answered the call.
Austin Carr/Cody Hollister/Devin Lucien –Though it might not matter in terms of winning a roster spot, three of the Patriots next-in-line receivers came up big in the final shot to show their stuff this summer. Hollister had a nice catch on a 9-yard score to open the scoring, going up and fighting for the ball on what was his only catch of the night. Carr had three catches for 48 yards including a touchdown. Lucien was the most impressive of the group, notching five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, including a nice 45-yard deep ball. None of the three may end up on the team, but they closed out the preseason on an uptick.
Woodrow Hamilton – As an undrafted rookie a year ago the defensive lineman jumped from the practice squad to the active roster where he started one of the two games he played. Though Hamilton has sort of been lost in the mix this summer as guys like newcomer rookie free agent Adam Butler have shined. But Hamilton impressed in multiple ways against New York. He played well early, taking on blockers and making plays. He then was helped off with an ankle injury, only to return and finish the night despite clear discomfort. Hamilton finished with five tackles, including one for a loss. He may not make the roster, but he's certainly in the mix for the practice squad and no one can question his toughness and desire after Thursday night.
Cyrus Jones – The second-year cornerback went down with a non-contact right knee injury in the second quarter. He went to the locker room and did not return. Initial reports from multiple outlets were less than positive. Jones was battling to retain his role as a punt returner and reserve cornerback. The injury certainly sets back his development while also leaving the Patriots plenty of questions in the return game heading into the regular season.
Conor McDermott – The rookie sixth-round pick won't be credited with an interception thrown. That goes to Brissett. But the right tackle deserves his share of the blame. McDermott was supposed to cut down defensive end Kerry Wynn on Brissett's first-quarter throw. When he didn't get the job done, the defensive end picked off the pass and returned it for the score. McDermott, who seems pigeon-holed as a right tackle, has been up and down this summer and that continued against New York. With other guys showing more versatility (Cole Croston) or having more experience (Cameron Fleming/LaAdrian Waddle), McDermott's best chance at this point may be on the practice squad.
Jonathan Freeny/Trevor Bates –Freeny is a guy who started four of the first five regular season games last season before landing on IR. Now, he was playing four quarters of action in the fourth preseason game. He struggled both in terms of tackling and coverage heading into roster cuts where his spot is by no means guaranteed. Bates is a former practice squader who also entered the final week battling for his job. Though he had decent coverage at the line, he allowed Matt LaCosse's early touchdown. He also struggled to keep up with some runners on the edge. Bates had been seen as a possible sleeper for the roster but a return to the practice squad may be more realistic at this point.
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