In the preseason opener, the Patriots welcomed the Washington Redskins to Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. The contest started in the most Patriot way possible, with New England winning the coin toss and electing to defer. The first half left much to be desired from the five-time Super Bowl champions, however.
The Redskins opened the scoring when Colt McCoy, backup to the newly acquired Alex Smith, found running back Byron Marshall in the flat on third and eleven. Marshall turned the corner and blew by linebacker Kyle Van Noy on his way to paydirt. It only seemed like a matter of time, as McCoy and the Washington offense had little problem attacking the Patriot defense early on.
A key moment in the opening quarter came when Brian Hoyer, who started under center for the Patriots, faced a third and long with the opportunity to build some early momentum. Hoyer found Philip Dorsett, entering his second year with New England, in a crowded middle of the field, but Dorsett could not make the play. Washington extended their lead to ten at the end of the quarter when Dustin Hopkins converted on a 52-yard field goal.
While Mike Gillislee started the game at running back, it was Jeremy Hill who stood out in this one. Hill, the former Bengal who signed with the Patriots this offseason, helped pace the Patriot offense in the second quarter.
After the Patriots fell short on one of their many unsuccessful third down conversions, the Redskins offense stormed right back down the field. Safety Jordan Richards missed his tackle on a Washington receiver who then ripped off a 57-yard catch and run, which quickly turned into another touchdown. And with Richards now a repeat offender with missed tackles, he will need to turn it around for a spot on the roster.
At the end of the first half, the Patriots turned to their notorious two-minute drill. Hoyer found receiver Devin Lucien, a former seventh-round draft pick, on two consecutive completions over 20 yards. This set up Stephen Gostowski for a 52 yard field goal.
The Pats received to open the third quarter and wasted no time cutting into the 14-point deficit. Hoyer and the offense showed new life on the opening drive. Jeremy Hill, who outplayed his counterpart Mike Gillislee throughout, shook a defender on a catch out of the flat then finished the job with a one-yard touchdown run.
Down 17-10 to begin the fourth quarter, the Patriots offense did not miss a beat, and Gilette Stadium turned into the Ralph Webb show. The undrafted free agent back out of Vanderbilt shined in his Patriots debut. Webb scored the tying touchdown, and followed it up with the two-point conversion to give the Patriots a 18-17 lead.
And then it was finally time for Danny Etling, but it was short-lived. The third-string signal caller out of LSU mishandled a high snap and could not convert a handoff to Webb, resulting in a Patriot turnover in their own territory.
Converting In Crunch Time
But the defense, who was at the mercy of Colt McCoy in the first half, stepped up and iced the game for New England. Defensive end Geneo Grissom scooped up a fumble by Washington quarterback Kevin Hogan and took it all the way down to the one yard-line. Webb added to his stat sheet, picking up his second touchdown and two-point conversion of the evening.
On the Redskins final drive, they broke out for a big run but the momentum was thwarted by an Eric Lee sack that resulted in a missed field goal.
The New England Patriots scored 26 unanswered points and defeated the Redskins 26-17 in the preseason opener. The offense and defense both came out a little sluggish, but that can be expected at this point. Devin Lucien and Cordarrelle Patterson showed promise at the crowded receiver spot. Considering Hill’s play in this one, the battle for the final running back depth chart is going to be very interesting.
The Patriots will play the reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles in their next preseason game on Thursday, August 16 at 7:30.
-Ethan Roy is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @ethan_roy1