AFC East: 2013 preseason reaction Week 4 giants-patriots

Ups & downs for Patriots

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
10:55
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At an initial glance, here's a look at players whose performance stood out in the New England Patriots' preseason finale against the New York Giants, and others at the opposite end of the spectrum:

UP

Josh Boyce: Rookie receiver shows his speed on 40-yard touchdown catch on a nice throw from quarterback Ryan Mallett, as the Patriots also work him into the running game a bit.

Michael Buchanan: Rookie defensive end shows up with a few nice rushes and reaches up to bat down a pass.

Zoltan Mesko/Ryan Allen: Both punters are on top of their games, which highlights what has been a good competition throughout training camp.

DOWN

Aaron Dobson: Rookie receiver doesn't seem to fight hard enough for an underthrown Mallett pass in the end zone that is intercepted and then overturned on replay when it is determined Prince Amukamara didn't stay in bounds.

Josh Kline/interior O-line: Some spotty protection for Tim Tebow in the third quarter.

Leon Washington: Fumbles punt that is recovered by the Giants in the third quarter. Although a 43-yard return in the second quarter is solid.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 28, Giants 20

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
10:50
PM ET

 
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the New England Patriots' preseason finale against the Giants, a 28-20 victory:

A night for backups and the bubble watch: Bill Belichick rested most of his first-unit players on offense and defense. The Giants, on the other hand, opened with their starters. So from a Patriots perspective, it was a chance to get a feel of which veterans are truly on the roster bubble -- safety Adrian Wilson, running back Leon Washington and tight end Daniel Fells are three near the top of the list as they played deep into this game.

Tebow plays second half: Fighting for a spot on the Patriots roster, quarterback Tim Tebow came on at the start of the second half and played the final 30 minutes of action. He finished 6-of-11 for 91 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and added 30 yards on six rushes. Things started slowly (he was sacked four times in the third quarter) before his highlight came early in the fourth quarter -- a 52-yard touchdown to rookie receiver Quentin Sims on a third-and-10 play. Tebow made a nice throw over the middle, and over-pursuit by safety Cooper Taylor allowed Sims to race the final 30 or so yards for the touchdown. But later in the quarter, Tebow was intercepted by cornerback Trumaine McBride on a long pass down the left sideline to rookie receiver Aaron Dobson that was underthrown. His final touchdown pass came with six seconds remaining, a 9-yard toss to Sims in the back-right corner of the end zone.

Offensive line getting healthy: One of the more important developments for the Patriots was the return of third-year offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, a top backup who played for the first time this preseason and played into the second half, which was important for him from a conditioning standpoint. Between Cannon's return, and starting right guard Dan Connolly playing for the second week in a row after worked his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, the line is as healthy as it's been all preseason.

No major injuries: The Patriots, who finished the preseason with a 3-1 record, didn't have any players leave the game with notable injuries. The Giants weren't as fortunate, as running back Andre Brown broke his leg, the team announced.

Welcome, Tiger Woods: Patriots owner Robert Kraft welcomed Tiger Woods as his guest for tonight's game. The two spent time on the field together before the game, then Woods watched from Kraft's owner's box. Woods is in town for the Deutsche Bank Championship. In the past, Kraft has played golf with Woods.

What's next: The team's roster must be trimmed from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 6 p.m. Then the focus entirely turns to the Sept. 8 season opener on the road against the Buffalo Bills.
Entering the final 15 of the 2013 preseason, the Patriots trail the Giants 20-14. Passing along some quick-hit notes and observations following the third quarter.

1. Tebow time. Tim Tebow was under center for the Patriots to start the third quarter, relieving Ryan Mallett after a productive first half. We suspect Tebow will play the balance of the game. He needed just two throws to surpass his completion total from last week, while also taking two sacks on his first drive (his offensive line did him no favors). He finished the quarter with those three completions and four sacks taken.

2. Notable veterans still in. It's tough to say with conviction what veterans playing into the third quarter of the final preseason game means, but we nonetheless made note of a couple who remained in the game. On offense, tight end Daniel Fells received reps, while safety Adrian Wilson was a noticeable defender still on the field. This could be an indication that they're on the roster bubble.

3. Punting competition over? As a sign that the punting competition may have concluded, it was veteran Zoltan Mesko who took all of the first third quarter punt for the Patriots, and he's taken all five of six thus far tonight. Mesko has been the more consistent performer over undrafted rookie Ryan Allen throughout the preseason.

4. Washington muffs return. Veteran Leon Washington had an explosive 43-yard punt return earlier in the game, but his fortunes turned late in the third quarter when he muffed a bouncing punt in his own territory. The normally sure-handed Washington likely regrets trying to handle the punt, as he could have allowed it to roll to safety.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties in the third quarter: Cornerback Justin Green (illegal hands to the face, declined) and safety Kanorris Davis (illegal participation).

Sharing some halftime thoughts

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
9:05
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing some thoughts at halftime of the New England Patriots' preseason finale:

The most notable part of the night has been Bill Belichick's approach. Almost all of the team's first-unit players have sat.

There was some question entering the game if Belichick might approach this similarly to 2011, when quarterback Tom Brady played four series in the preseason finale after the team had been blown out in Detroit the week before. This year, the Patriots were blown out in Detroit in Week 3 of the preseason, so this was essentially the same situation.

Belichick approached this year differently, and it will be interesting to hear the reasons (think he might dish after the game?).

A few other quick-hit thoughts:

1. Tim Tebow hasn't played.

2. One of the important things for the team tonight was the return to health of offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Marcus Cannon. The Patriots have been managing a shortage on the line all preseason but this is as healthy as they've been. Connolly played the entire first quarter and is now in position to start opening day at right guard as he's worked his way back from offseason shoulder surgery. Cannon, who played into the second quarter, is a top backup at tackle and guard.

3. We got a good look at the speed of fourth-round draft choice Josh Boyce, the receiver from Texas Christian, on his 40-yard touchdown catch (throw of the night from Ryan Mallett on what has been an up-and-down performance). That's part of what drew the Patriots to Boyce, was was also considered one of the smartest receivers in this year's draft, as we've also seen the Patriots try to get the ball to Boyce on short passes in space to give him a chance to get going.

4. Veteran running back Leon Washington might be on the roster bubble, but he showed with his 43-yard punt return that there is still plenty of life left in his legs. From this perspective, Washington has done enough to stick, not to mention he's considered a top locker-room presence.

5. Rooke seventh-round pick Michael Buchanan has had a few nice edge rushes off the defensive right side. Have to think he's earned a roster spot at this point.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts from the first quarter of the New England Patriots' preseason finale against the New York Giants:

1. The team played almost all second- and third-stringers. One exception was right guard Dan Connolly, who is still working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery. He played three series last week, which was his first action of the preseason.

2. Punter Zoltan Mesko, who appeared to have seized control of the competition against rookie Ryan Allen over the past week or so, took both attempts in the opening quarter. Solid stuff from Mesko, who showed good leg strength on his first attempt, a 55-yarder, then excellent control and hang time on his second, which he landed inside the Giants' 10-yard line after punting from their 37.

3. Perhaps ominous signs for veteran safety Adrian Wilson, who played every snap of the first quarter on a night when it's been mostly backups. That's a clear sign that Steve Gregory is ahead of him on the depth chart and Wilson's place on the roster isn't a lock. Likewise, at running back, veteran Leon Washington has been splitting time with rookie George Winn.

4. Quarterback Ryan Mallett's touch and accuracy in the short and intermediate areas of the field are, to be kind, a work in progress. The first drive ended on an overthrow of Washington, who was open on the play. Mallett also threw high on the second drive.

5. The second-unit defense competed well against the Giants' first-string offense on the first two series. That was an improvement from last week, when the reserves struggled against the Lions.

6. From the penalty box: Rookie cornerback Stephon Morris was flagged for a block above the waist on a punt return.

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