It is a game to which many derisively refer as ‘meaningless.’ Projected starters often see little-to-no action. Most fans already have their attention keenly focused on the regular season opener. However, despite the collective eyerolls caused by this contest, there are several roster hopefuls that play their way onto a roster. In the process, they ignite their hopes of realizing a lifelong dream of playing in the National Football League. For the 2019 New England Patriots and New York Giants, this game took place on Thursday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
While this description might seem a bit melodramatic, there was a bit more at stake than a ‘throwaway’ contest at Gillette Stadium during the fourth and final preseason game for these two teams. Patriots rookie Jarrett Stidham bolstered his bid to be Tom Brady’s backup by throwing two touchdown passes for New England. However, it would not be quite enough as the Giants scored on the final play for a 31-29 victory over the Pats.
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Stidham connected on both of his touchdowns to Demaryius Thomas; for 35 and 3 yards, respectively. The fourth-round draft selections from Auburn played the entire night. He went 18 of 28 for 225 yards against the Giants and also rushed for 50 yards. Despite some early sputtering, Stidham showed poise when necessary. While it is unclear if he impressed enough upon head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots personnel to unseat incumbent Brian Hoyer as the Pats primary backup, he certainly proved that he is more than capable of playing in this league.
The Pats also welcomed back wide receiver Josh Gordon and Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman to the playing field. Edelman’s return was short-lived, as he left on the first drive following an injury scare to the same hand that caused him to miss the first three preseason games. Having sat out the majority of the preseason with a broken left thumb, Edelman caught a 20-yard pass on the first series. Immediately following the catch, he got up wincing, while looking at his hand. He was met on the sideline by a trainer and remained on the sideline the rest of the game. It should be noted that Edelman was in good spirits, and did not appear to show signs of being treated for any additional injury.
Gordon, on the other hand (no pun intended,) had two catches for 30 yards in six targets in his first game action after being reinstated by the league on Aug. 16. Thomas made seven catches for 87 yards and the aforementioned two touchdowns. The first was on a back-shoulder pass from Stidham for 35 yards. The second was a 3-yard snag, after Stidham threw on the move while rolling left.
Unfortunately, the Patriots did not escape the game without an injury concern. Undrafted safety Malik Gant was carted off the field late in the second half with a leg injury. With the Pats thin in the defensive backfield for this game, they turned to special teams fan-favorite Gunner Olszewski to play in the secondary. Olszewski had actually played cornerback at his Division-II alma-mater, Bemidji State. His time in the secondary was largely uneventful, until the final play of the game. Giants quarterback Kyle Lauletta had driven his team down to the Patriots 14-yard lines. As time expired, he threw a touchdown pass to Alonzo Russell to win it. Russell had beat Olszewski in coverage to cap the Giants tally from a 29-10 deficit.
As will the remaining 31 NFL teams, the Patriots must trim their current roster to a maximum of 53 players by Saturday at 4:00pm. Once the roster is set, the defending champs will prepare to unveil their sixth championship banner since 2001, before their Sunday-night opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 8.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC