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Despite an early 7-0 lead 20 seconds into the contest, the New England Patriots fell to the New York Giants, 18-17, in the final preseason tune up on Thursday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
Head Coach Bill Belichick played the fourth preseason game differently than past years. On Thursday, Patriots fans were able to see quarterback Tom Brady, as well as recently acquired defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis start and contribute in limited action.
Brady finished the evening 5-9 for 116 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Haynesworth contributed on his very first play, collapsing the pocket around Giants QB David Carr, whose pass to Dominik Hixon was fumbled and recovered by New England. Ellis registered a sack late in the second quarter in his preseason debut.
Chad Ochocinco and Aaron Hernandez each had receptions, while Shane Vereen contributed out of the backfield with 34 yards on the ground as well as an eight yard reception.
Blessed with a 17-3 halftime advantage, Belichick turned to his second unit to finish the game. This did not go as expected however, as New York rallied for 15 fourth quarter points to prevail.
Backups Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet were unable to lead any scoring drives in their efforts. Hoyer finished the evening 3-5 for 31 yards, while Mallet was just 6-16 with 57 yards.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: The Lawfirm cemented himself as the primary goal-line back in this preseason. Green-Ellis recorded a pair of touchdowns, punching it in from one yard 20 seconds into the game before scoring again from the same spot late in the first.
Matt Slater: The special teams ace proved he belonged on the roster with a solid performance against New York. Slater hauled in a Brady pass, scampering 64 yards on a catch-and-run to improve his stock. He later had good plays on both the kickoff and punt units to cap off his evening.
Pass Defense: Torched and abused last year, the Patriots’ secondary had an outstanding evening Thursday. The defense allowed just 119 yards through the air, while creating turnovers throughout. Devin McCourty intercepted a David Carr pass while Pat Chung recovered Hixon’s fumble on the first play from scrimmage, returning it to the New York one.
Brandon Tate: Rumored to be on the roster bubble throughout the preseason, Tate did not impress in Thursday’s preseason finale. Tate averaged 19.3 yards on three kick returns and totaled just one yard on a pair of punt returns. The North Carolina alum had no catches on four targets as well.
Special Teams: Once again this season, the special teams unit struggled, costing the team valuable points in the loss. The Pats surrendered a 42 yard punt return in the first quarter, a 65 yard touchdown on a fake punt in the fourth, and had an anemic return game that limited field position.
Third down offense: The Patriots struggled on their third down opportunities, converting just 2-14 attempts. The team was just 1-3 on fourth down attempts. Without an explosive player, New England must convert third-down opportunities to have offensive success.