For a game that held a lot of hype by the media because of the match-up, the Patriots were the ones who made this one memorable after making plenty of plays while winning their second preseason game of the year with a 37-20 victory over Philadelphia.
Here’s a quick rundown of somethings we took away from last night’s game.
1) Solid Outing For Brady – Tom Brady saw his first preseason action of 2018 and played well after spending the entire first half on the field.
He opened the game a perfect 5-for-5, leading the team to a touchdown on just seven plays after driving the offense from their own 38-yard line and firing a 4-yard strike to Chris Hogan in the back of the end zone.
Overall, he finished the night 19-of-26 for 172 yards with two touchdowns and had good command of the offense, with the team moving up and down the field fairly consistently as they put up 20 offensive points, which included two field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.
He played 39 snaps (51%) and after the game admitted that while they did some good things, there’s still some work to be done.
“You know, it was good – [we were] challenged by a good team, a good defense, good front,” said Brady. “You know, we did some good things, but I’m sure there’s things, a lot of things, we didn’t do very well. So, I mean, I think this is all just part of the building process. It feels good to win, but you know, there’s certainly a lot of things we’ve got to do better.”
But for anyone concerned after watching Brian Hoyer for most of last week, seeing Brady back out there should hopefully put their minds at ease.
2) Flores a Perfect Fit – One thing that was noticeable about new defensive coordinator Brian Flores is the fact he has a calm yet intense presence on the sideline, which is different from what we saw in previous years from Matt Patricia and that energy seems to be carrying over to the field.
The Patriots’ defense did a good job all night of getting pressure on Philadelphia in key situations and you can see just by watching the meetings with his players on the sideline that he clearly already has the respect of this group.
It’s been great to see and hopefully that same intensity and success carries over into the regular season.
3) New Leading With the Head Penalty Is Confusing – For the first time this preseason we saw the new penalty called frequently Thursday night, with the penalty being called on both teams. New England was called for it once, while the Eagles were flagged for it three times. There were some confusing moments, one of which saw Patriots defensive back Jordan Richards lead more with his shoulder than his head with contact occurring more in the middle of the player’s body.
There were other plays that seemed to be good calls, including one where Julian Edelman and Cordarelle Patterson each took a couple of head shots, while another occurred when there was seemingly incidental contact after a defender collided heads with a running back who lowered his head in anticipation of the hit.
Either way, this game left us with more questions than answers and it’s scary to think about the implications this may have during the regular season in key moments if they don’t come up with a more consistent way to call it.
Bentley had another strong outing.
4) Another Great Game For Bentley – JA’Whaun Bentley had another big night, flying around on defense while making a huge play where he scooped up a fumble and returned it 54-yards for a touchdown.
Bentley’s athleticism has been something that has really stood out and he was terrific again Thursday night. He finished tied with Patrick Chung for third with five tackles, but he also had a pass defended in addition to his fumble recovery.
For a team that’s needed to get a little faster at the linebacker position, Bentley appears to be a player who can give them that and what he’s done thus far has been impressive. With two games to go, if Bentley can keep it going, he may be poised to earn a starting role given what we’ve seen.
5) An Up-and-Down Performance For Crossen – Keion Crossen may not have had his best night, but he showed enough where he’s still a player who could develop a role for himself.
Crossen was flagged for three penalties on the night, including two defensive pass interference calls on one drive that lead to Philadelphia’s first touchdown of the game in the second quarter.
But what’s the most impressive about Crossen is the fact that he appears to have a short memory and doesn’t let a mistake slow him down. He doesn’t hang his head, he doesn’t point fingers or flail his arms, etc. He just gets back out there like it didn’t happen and gets back to work. In fact, with just under a minute left, Crossen was flagged for a defensive holding call on a 2nd-and-8 that put the Eagles at the 4, but then came up with a nice play on 4th down where he nearly picked off a desperation shovel-pass by Nate Sudfeld.
To be able to not get down and keep battling is a trait that not a lot of young guys have and it’s pretty obvious that the coaches like what they see. In fact, Flores was spotted on the sideline working with Crossen, showing him photos on the tablet, with Crossen looking very engaged in what seemed to be a pretty productive conversation.
Crossen, who was taken in the 7th round out of Western Carolina in this year’s draft, finished the night as the team leader in tackles with 8, including one pass defended.
This is the time to make the mistakes rather than during the regular season and we’ll have to see over the final two games how this plays out.
Patterson looked great Thursday night.
6) Patterson is going to be fun to watch – Cordarrelle Patterson has already been one of the more exciting players we’ve seen in camp and he went out and had a pretty good game Thursday night.
He finished the contest with 4 receptions for 51-yards and a touchdown, with the latter play being one for the highlight reel. He made a nifty move against Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones, who after a quick pass to Patterson dove and came up empty, with Patterson cutting and leaving him on the ground as he scooted by him and then beat three other defenders on his way to the end zone for the 11yd touchdown. It was a great play and it put the Patriots up 34-7 with 10:27 left to play in the 3rd quarter.
Brady, who targeted Patterson once while he was out there (an incompletion), said after the game he thought the receiver had a good night.
“I thought he did a great job tonight,” said Brady. “He’s so dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands, and obviously over the course of his entire career, that’s the way it’s been. You know, he had a good touchdown there. He almost had the one at the sideline that I threw it to him, but he’s done a great job.”
7) Solid Night for Clayborn – Adrian Clayborn had his first big game as a Patriot, finishing with a forced fumble that Bentley recovered for his touchdown and was extremely disruptive.
The veteran defensive end, who also finished with a sack, didn’t register much on the stat sheet but he got into the backfield on several occasions and helped create opportunities for other players. Adam Butler was the beneficiary of another one of those moments after he picked up a drive-stopping sack early in the game. Clayborn drove up the right side and pushed his guy back, collapsing the pocket while allowing Butler to make the sack.
It was great to see and he seems like he’s gained quite a bit of confidence compared to where he was prior to this game. This is a group that really seems poised to do some big things this year and the former Falcon showed some reasons Thursday night why he’ll likely be a part of that.
8) Bad break for Wynn – Rookie Tackle Isaiah Wynn finally got some playing time Thursday night but it didn’t end well after suffering what reports initially seemed to believe was an ankle injury early in the game.
It was a strange play, with Wynn being driven back while pass blocking before his leg collided with Brady’s and he immediately went down. He appeared to be in a lot of pain and they immediately erected the blue medical tent for him, where he was evaluated by trainers. But the more concerning part was the fact he was later carted off the field, which was a bad sign.
Unfortunately, the news got worse on Monday after reports say he suffered a torn Achilles, which will end his season before it ever got started.
It’s a bad break for an offensive line that is already thin at tackle with Marcus Cannon still dealing with an injury and will be something to keep an eye on heading into the season.
Despite taking a shot, Gostkowski was perfect Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)
9) Great Night For Gostkowski, but he took a shot – One of the last things you want is for your kicker to be involved in a tackle and that’s exactly what happened to Stephen Gostkowski Thursday night. Following Hogan’s touchdown, the Eagles answered with a 46-yard return after AJ Moore missed containment on the outside and allowed Shelton Gibson to break outside and get upfield.
From there, Gostkowski ended up being the one to track him down and as he dove at Gibson, he got kicked in the head and seemed a little woozy after the play.
Fortunately, he ended up being O.K. and had a solid night, hitting all three of his field goals including one from 49-yards. He also hit all four of his extra point attempts.
One of the more entertaining moments of the night came late in the game when Gostowski made a terrific catch on an out of bounds pass by Sudfeld that he leaped up and snagged and then got fired up after the play. Gostkowski showed some great hands and let his teammates know it, which had several players laughing afterwards.
10) Another Good Night For Rivers – Derek Rivers quietly had another great game as he continues having a solid preseason.
Rivers played 29 snaps Thursday night and had some great moments including where he showed great quickness on back-to-back plays just before the 2-minute warning as he dropped Sudfield for the sack on a 2nd-and-8, and then helped flush him out where Kyle Van Noy swooped in and dropped him for a 13-yard loss.
This group seems to have some guys who look like they’re going to be able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. It’s obviously a little too early to get too excited, but there appears to at least plenty of reasons to feel optimistic like they’ll improve in that area this season.
McCourty was beat badly for a TD Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)
11) Not a Great Night for Jason McCourty – This was the first work we saw McCourty get and it didn’t exactly go as well as he probably hoped.
McCourty, who finished the night having played 31 snaps, looked slow and confused, with one play that will likely haunt him after this game.
He got beat badly on a touchdown pass to Gibson, where Gibson broke in and then back out and McCourty wasn’t even close on the play. But it was more or less his entire body of work that was the more concerning part and the next question is whether or not its a physical limitation or the fact he’s thinking too much and not playing as fast as he’s capable of.
Unfortunately, with only two games left he’s got a limited opportunity to pull things together because as it stands right now, his chances of making this team could be in jeopardy if this continues.
The Patriots will now turn the page as they start preparing for their next preseason game, which takes place on the road next Friday night down in Carolina at 7:30pm ET.
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