New England made the most of its on practice Thursday afternoon, spending more than two hours running against scout teams for the Carolina game.
Most of the focus was on the passing game. Drew Bledsoe and the first offense looked especially sharp from the start. The offense, working against defensive backups, completed 9-of-10 passes in seven-on-seven drills with Bledsoe at the helm.
More importantly, Bledsoe hit on a few deep balls throughout the practice, just one day after he missed several wide open receivers on bombs Wednesday. Bledsoe opened the passing drill by hitting Bert Emanuel, who beat Je'Rod Cherry down the field. Bledsoe then sandwiched two completions to Tony Simmons around his only miss, an out pattern to Emanuel knocked away by Kato Serwanga.
When the seven-on-sevens moved to the red zone, Bledsoe hit David Patten in the back of the end zone on his first play. He followed up by hitting Curtis Jackson, Troy Brown, J.R. Redmond and Brown again in succession.
Still working in seven-on-sevens, the backup quarterbacks did not have as much luck in the red zone running the Carolina against the top defense. Damon Huard had his first pass intended for Patten knocked away by Ty Law. He completed a short pass to tight end Rod Rutledge on the next play, but Law probably would have sacked him on a blitz. Law completed the hat trick with his third straight play when he deflected a Huard pass for Ronney Daniels.
Next up was Tom Brady, who had his first throw picked off by Terrell Buckley. However, Brady responded by hitting Simmons over the middle and then connecting with running back Walter Williams for a touchdown. Williams made a nice play by coming back to the ball over the defense of Buckley.
After the seven-on-sevens, the team stayed in the red zone, but worked with the full units. Bledsoe hit all five of his passes, including a scoring toss to Williams, who this time went over linebacker Antico Dalton for the touchdown. Antowain Smith and Marc Edwards each had a carry in the red zone with the first group, but neither gained much.
Huard, Brady and Michael Brady each ran a couple scout team plays against the first defense. Huard hit Edwards for a short screen, but his second attempt for Simmons was well covered by Buckley. Brady threw incomplete for Sean Morey, but Williams took a handoff around the left end for a score on the next play, which came against the second unit.
The first team was back on the next play, another Williams run. This time he took a handoff from Bishop, but was met behind the line by linebacker Mike Vrabel. Bishop then hit Morey over the middle for consecutive would-be scores. He went to the well once too often on his third try for Morey. Buckley stepped in and picked the ball off.
The practice moved out of the red zone and into situational plays, where Bishop was victimized for his second straight interception. His throw to Smith in the flat was picked in stride by Law, who took it down the sideline for a touchdown. On his next throw, Bishop responded by hitting Curtis Jackson deep down the left sideline over the defense of Otis Smith.
Back to the first offense, Bledsoe continued his strong afternoon, hitting 4-of-6 passes. Troy Brown, who managed to get himself between defensive backs Ray Hill and Hakim Akbar, made the most impressive catch. Brown looked for the pass outside over his right shoulder, but it went to his inside. He adjusted and made the catch while looking straight back as he fell to the ground.
While Brady worked in for the scout team, a scuffle broke out between rookie Richard Seymour and one of the offensive linemen, who couldn't be identified before being swallowed by the crowd of players. The incident got pretty heated with a couple punches being thrown, but it was broken up before it got out of hand.
The team worked on punt and field goal drills before the practice finished. There will be no practice tomorrow. The Patriots will have a closed walk-through session before departing for Carolina for the second preseason game Saturday night.