With the Patriots wrapping up the preseason against the New York Giants, the mantra for every team in the NFL in preseason game four is not “get your starters work”, it is “don’t get anyone hurt”. This is the ninth straight year the Giants and Patriots wrap up the preseason against each other. With gray clouds overhead and light mist, it is football weather in New England already. Quarterback Tom Brady and the majority of the starters are already not playing having earned time off for good behavior (presumably) after the debacle in Detroit last week. This is not a surprise as even defensive captains nose tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo played less than 15 snaps combined. All eyes are instead on the backup quarterbacks with Ryan Mallett and the controversial Tim Tebow.
The Patriots won the coin toss and kicked off to the New York Giants where quarterback Eli Manning and the first team offense took the field. After a completion on the first play of the game, the Patriots were able to stop running back David Wilson and the secondary–since the Patriots front four of Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan, Marcus Forston and Joe Vellano had no pressure on Manning on either play–stopped the Giants and forced a punt. Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole, Duron Harmon and veteran Adrian Wilson manned the secondary for New England.
Quarterback Ryan Mallett opened the game behind center as the Patriots came out throwing on their first five snaps. The Patriots gained a first down on a nice four yard catch and route by undrafted rookie free agent Zach Sudfeld on second down and three. On third and five, Mallett had running back Leon Washington wide open down the sideline but just overthrew him and missed a big, big play. In the punter battle, it was Zoltan Mesko booming a 55 yarder that the Giants receiver muffed and recovered for no gain.
The Giants ran running back David Wilson twice against the Patriots second team defense and continued to strike fear into fantasy football owners who drafted him as he struggled to find running room. On third down, the Patriots called a blitz that, while not getting to or hitting quarterback Eli Manning, moved him off his spot and rookie cornerback Logan Ryan made a nice play on the ball and broke up the pass. Twice in a row the young defense (and Adrian Wilson) stopped the Giants first team offense and forced a punt.
New England got the ball back from New York and finally mixed in a few running plays on the ensuing drive. Running back Brandon Bolden was not spotted by ESPN’s Mike Reiss during warmups, which could mean an injury or another issue. Running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are not likely to play, so besides seeing Leon Washington and George Winn at running back, the question becomes if running back LeGarrette Blount gets playing time or if his role on the roster is secure. After a couple of first downs, including a nice end-around by rookie Josh Boyce that showcased his speed and ability to make plays in space, the Patriots punted after Mallett overthrew rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. Again, it was Zoltan Mesko in to punt and pinning the Giants inside the ten yard line with a 28 yard punt.
Quarterback Eli Manning finally had enough and picked on cornerback Marquice Cole by throwing a jump ball deep down the sideline in front of Cole and with late safety help from Duron Harmon. Mixing the run and pass, the Giants first team offense moved down the field at last and behind strong running from David Wilson (that sound was hundreds of fantasy football owners exhaling) and the short passing game, the Giants found the end zone against the second team defense.
The Patriots offense actually did not look bad, with quarterback Ryan Mallett just failing to put enough touch on two passes that could have extended the drives. This is something that brings to mind how precise and accurate starting quarterback Tom Brady is with his passes regularly by putting the ball in the right spot for his receiver to make the reception and pick up the first down and move the ball down field.
With Marcus Cannon finally playing at right tackle with Will Svitek at left tackle and Dan Connolly playing right guard, the Patriots offensive line was able to open some running room for running back George Winn. Mixing the run and pass, the Patriots moved the ball down field for a few first downs to open the second quarter. Ryan Mallett took a sack for a loss of ten yards on first down as there appeared to be no receivers open and then hit rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld on a tight end screen for seven yards and rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins for fifteen yards to convert a long third down.
After another run by Winn, Mallette found rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson with a nice catch and then a move on Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara to get inside the ten yard line. Another run from Winn moved the Patriots closer before Mallett for the third time killed a drive by not making a good pass. This time a fade route to Aaron Dobson in the corner of the end zone was underthrown and allowed Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara to get revenge and pick off the pass in the end zone and snuff out the potential scoring drive.
Overall, there were good throws and bad throws from quarterback Ryan Mallett that underscores his rawness at the NFL level. With a big receiver like Dobson, the jump ball was so short that Dobson had no chance to make a play. Fortunately for Mallett, the Patriots were back on the field after replay overturned the interception. After an incomplete pass gave the Patriots a first and goal at the one due to pass interference on the Giants defense, the Patriots finally (mercifully) ended the drive as running back George Winn pounded the ball in from one yard out.
After another nice defensive stand forced a punt, veteran punt returner Leon Washington returned the punt 43 yards into Giants territory. Suddenly, BOOM, a big pass by Ryan Mallett to rookie Josh Boyce who showed his blazing speed deep and make a fingertip grab of a beautifully thrown pass form Mallett for six more points. The Patriots traded turnovers with the and allowed a field goal to go into the half up 14-10.