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Snap Judgments: Patriots drop preseason finale against Giants

08.29.12 at 10:03 pm ET
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It wasn’t their most painful loss to the Giants, but the Patriots wrapped up the preseason Wednesday night with a 6-3 loss against the defending Super Bowl champions at MetLife Stadium.

The Pats took the lead in the second quarter on a 20-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, with the Giants tying in the third quarter on Lawrence Tyne‘s 34-yarder. A late strip-sack of Brian Hoyer gave the Giants the ball at the Patriots’ 18-yard line just prior to the two-minute warning to set up Tynes’ game-winner. The Pats tried to move down the field to set up a field goal in the final minute, but a deep pass from Hoyer was picked in the endzone by Laron Scott.

As expected, some big names sat out for New England in the team’s final tuneup, a group that included Tom Brady, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Stevan Ridley, Jerod Mayo, Aaron Hernandez, Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Nate Solder, among others.

The Patriots will open the regular season on Sept. 9 against the Titans in Tennessee.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS

- It will happen when you sit your starters, but not having an offense meant a whole lot of work for Zoltan Mesko. He sure got his work in, as he punted nine times for 421 yards (an average of 46.8 yards).

- This is something that went more wrong for the league than the NFL, but it was still something when definitely, definitely went wrong. WIth 6:08 left in the second quarter, a reminder was delivered as to why people should start to worry about replacement officials calling regular-season games. On a New York punt, there were two infractions on the part of the Giants (an illegal shift on kicking team and a facemask on the return), but replacement ref Don King struggled in both calling the penalties and delivering the news to a crowd that grew wilder with each flub. This led to a prolonged stoppage of play and a conference with the officials before the calls were correctly delivered. WEEI.com colleague Mike Petraglia timed the ordeal as lasting around seven minutes.

- With the Giants forced to punt again following all the confusion, Brandon Bolden muffed it. Jeff Demps recovered the fumble to retain possession, but it further hurt Bolden’s case for potentially serving in the return game for the Pats. Bolden also fumbled on a punt return against the Eagles in the Patriots’ second preseason game.

- Ryan Mallett had a poor showing at quarterback for the Pats over the course of the first half, completing eight of 15 passes for 40 yards and a quarterback rating of 59.0. Under Mallett, the Patriots had just two passing first downs. The Arkansas product’s best drive was the Pats’ fourth of the night, which resulted in Gostkowski’s field goal.

Taking over in the second half, Brian Hoyer completed nine of 15 passes for 96 yards and a 51.0 rating. He had a nice throw down the sidelines to Jesse Holley in the fourth quarter that was ruled out of bounds. Bill Belichick challenged the play too late, and unfortunately for the Pats, replays showed that both of Holley’s feet were indeed in bounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS

- Jermaine Cunningham made the most of his start at defensive end by coming through with a pair of first-half sacks. The first one was particularly impressive, as he blew past Giants right guard Mitch Petrus and route to driving Eli Manning to the ground. He added his second sack of the evening to close the first half. Cunningham also played some defensive tackle in the third quarter.

In a draft in which the Patriots got great value on a pair of offensive players in second-round pick Gronkowski and fourth-round Hernandez, it sure seemed like the Cunningham (53rd overall) was taken a bit high. To this point in his NFL career, the 24-year-old pass-rusher hasn’t exactly proven that line of thinking to be incorrect. After some immersive performances in preseason games, perhaps this is the year that Cunningham will prove to be worth that second-round pick.

- An undrafted rookie, Bolden did well with starting running back Stevan Ridley and backup Shane Vereen getting the night off. In taking the vast majority of the carries, Bolden ran the ball 15 times for 59 yards, but the Mississippi product’s highlight of the night was a 15-yard scamper on New England’s third drive.

On the subject of running backs, Jeff Demps carried the ball six times for 15 yards. He also caught three passes for 31 yards, including a 23-yard play on a short pass from Brian Hoyer out of the shotgun early in the fourth quarter. He Demps also returned four punts for 49 yards.

- Seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard made a play in the fourth quarter, stripping the ball from Giants running back Andre Brown deep in New York territory. The ball was recovered by the Giants, but Carr and the rest of the New York backups couldn’t manage a first-down on the drive.

Dennard was more than a seventh-round talent, but his stock plummeted when he was arrested for punching a police officer prior to the draft.

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