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Halftime analysis: Patriots 3, Giants 0

08.29.12 at 8:28 pm ET
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Two quarters are in the books, and the Patriots hold a 3-0 lead over the Giants in the final preseason game of the year for both teams. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢Ryan Mallett got the start at quarterback for the Patriots and was 8-for-15 for 40 yards. Brandon Bolden provided the bulk of the New England offense — he ran hard, and while he fumbled a punt return (one that was recovered by Jeff Demps), he finished the first half with 15 carries for 59 yards, as well as three catches for 16 yards, both team highs.

‘€¢The punters were by far and away the stars of the first half. Zoltan Mesko was a very busy man in the first half as he punted six times for a 45-yard average for the Patriots, with a long of 54 yards. Steve Weatherford continued his impressive performance from Super Bowl XLVI, punting six times for a 47-yard average, including a long of 64 yards.

‘€¢Other than right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, the Patriots opened with backups on both sides of the ball in the first half on both their opening offensive and defensive drives. Good news for Patriots fans — Vollmer looked solid. It was against the New York backups for a portion of the reps, but at the same time, just seeing him out there should give New England fans cause for some optimism about the state of the right side of the offensive line. (He sat after the first two series.) Marcus Cannon and Dustin Waldron saw time at right tackle, and the latter gave up a bad sack late in the first half.

‘€¢As for the rest of the offensive line, they shuffled a few different combinations in and out, most notably at center where Dan Koppen, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Donald Thomas all took reps. Overall, the protection was pretty good — however, a protection breakdown came on the first play of the second quarter led to a sack of Mallett. (It appeared that running back Eric Kettani was trying to talk to Mallett when the two were coming off the field, but it looked like Mallett was having none of it.) In addition, Darrion Weems allowed Adewale Ojomo a free shot at Mallett.

‘€¢One guy who got a lot of work out of the gate was running back Bolden. With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen sitting out, Bolden got a ton of reps in the first half. Another guy who got a lot of work was running back/returner Jeff Demps, who worked as a returner and occasional running back. He finished the first half with two carries for 11 yards, one kick return (19 yards) and three punt returns (10 yards).

‘€¢Mallett struggled with touch early — on one third-down screen pass, he put the ball in a tough spot for Bolden. He caught it, but the running back couldn’t reach the sticks for a first down. A small thing, but something that he still needs to work on if he wants to get to the next level. He also appeared to hold onto the ball too long while standing in the pocket at time. There was some good with Mallett, as he appeared to build confidence as the half continued — he had a nice rollout and connection with Alex Silvestro that led to a first down. He also had a pair of first downs picked up on consecutive plays, one on a five-yard completion to Kerry Taylor and another on a 15-yard run by Bolden.

‘€¢On New England’s fourth drive of the night, Mallett was able to put together a nice 12-play, 51-yard drive, the best offensive sequence of the first two quarters for the Patriots. The series stalled out in the red zone and ended with a 20-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski that gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead with 8:22 left in the second quarter. The drive included a seven-yard run from Demps and a 10-yard pass play to Silvestro.

‘€¢Nate Ebner almost allowed a long-distance connection from Eli Manning to a New York wide receiver when he squatted on a route and allowed the wide receiver to get past him. (The Patriots dodged a bullet when the pass fell incomplete.) Ebner almost got his hands on another pick midway through the second on a third-down pass play. Ebner, who got the start at safety, has appeared to do enough to land a spot on the final 53-man roster.

‘€¢Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, who got the start at left defensive end, flashed positively early. On the Giants second offensive series, he split a double team (slipping past Mitch Petrus), beating a missed holding call and took down Manning for a sack. Cunningham had another sack on the final play of the first half. A good half for the Florida product. Fellow defensive end Trevor Scott also beat his man around the edge late in the first half for a nice sack on New York backup quarterback David Carr.

Mike Petraglia contributed to this report.

Read More: New England Patriots, New York Giants, nfl, Ryan Mallett
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