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Snap Judgments: Mixed bag for Patriots in preseason loss to Giants

09.01.11 at 10:32 pm ET
By

Albert Haynesworth

FOXBORO — The Patriots closed out the preseason with a relatively uneventful 18-17 loss against the Giants Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. New England, which ends the preseason with a 2-2 record, played the starters on both sides of the ball for the bulk of the first half — while New York went with its second- and third-teamers all night.

As a result, the Patriots controlled much of the action. (But because it was first-teamers against backups, it was also hard to gauge what everything really meant.)

Here’s a quick look at what went right and what went wrong for the Patriots on the night:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

• The Patriots’ starting offense, which sputtered last Thursday against the Lions, was able to end the preseason on an up note against the New York backups, picking up 17 first-half points and generally looking pretty efficient along the way. Tom Brady was in for 18 snaps (before yielding to No. 2 quarterback Brian Hoyer) and went 5-for-9 for 116 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. He led three scoring drives as the New England offense operated without a problem for much of the first half, punting twice on the way to a 17-3 lead at the half.

• New England got its first look at new defensive linemen Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth. The two veterans played for much of the first half, with Ellis at left defensive end and Haynesworth lining up at defensive tackle next to Vince Wilfork. According to our unofficial count, Ellis had 24 snaps and Haynesworth finished with 16 snaps. As expected, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Haynesworth started strong but slowed late in the first half,  but a defensive line of Ellis, Haynesworth, Wilfork and Andre Carter looks to be the starting combination the Patriots will roll out come Week One of the regular season.

•n Several players who might be considered “on the bubble” when it comes to roster cutdowns this weekend helped their cause, but no one did more for themselves than wide receiver Matthew Slater, who had one big catch for 64 yards and a stellar special teams tackle.

• A year after the Patriots were plus-28 in the takeaway department, New England was able to force a pair of takeaways on Thursday night, with Patrick Chung collecting a fumble on New York’s first play from scrimmage and Devin McCourty picking off David Carr in the first half. They almost had a third one when Gary Guyton recovered a fumbled punt return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter, but newcomer Tiquan Underwood was flagged for illegal formation on the play and the Giants were forced to punt again.

WHAT WENT WRONG

• The backup offense, led by No. 2 quarterback Brian Hoyer, was unable to get any sort of sustained offensive drive. Hoyer, who was in the game from roughly the middle of the second quarter until the midway point of the third quarter (14 snaps total) finished 1-for-2 for nine yards. Hoyer spent much of the night scrambling, as the backup offensive line (including Nate Solder at left tackle) had trouble holding back the Giants’ second defense.

• New England’s backup defense was gashed on the ground several times throughout the second quarter as the Giants put together two lengthy drives. Both series’ ended with New York coming away with zero points. Oone play ended on a goal-line fumble by Carr and another finished with a missed field goal from Rhys Lloyd. But it was still an ugly series for the Patriots as New York was able to string together several running plays right up the middle and get some offensive rhythm going. (The Giants finished the first half with 101 rushing yards, and averaged four yards a carry.)

• The New England special teamers were fooled on a fake punt early in the fourth quarter when Da-Rel Scott motored 65 yards for the Giants’ first touchdown of the night. Not a big deal, but still worth mentioning. (Other than that, it was a fairly routine night for the Patriots’ on special teams, which tried out several different options at kick returner, including rookie Shane Vereen, Brandon Tate and Matthew Slater.)

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