Final, Patriots 26-17: And that will do it.
After struggling mightily in the first half of their preseason opener, the New England Patriots came alive after halftime, outscoring the Washington Redskins 23-0 over the final two quarters.
Running backs Jeremy Hill and Ralph Webb paced the New England offense, with Hill rushing 11 times for 51 yards and a touchdown and Webb, an undrafted rookie, carrying the ball 14 times for 46 yards and two scores.
Webb’s second touchdown was set up by a 53-yard fumble return by defensive end Geneo Grissom, who was hauled down at the 1-yard line.
The Patriots’ preseason continues next Thursday night with a Super Bowl LII rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Fourth quarter, 3:27, Patriots 26-17: After a botched handoff between Danny Etling and Mike Gillislee gave the ball to the Redskins, the Patriots stole the momentum right back.
On the third play of the ensuing drive, rookie defensive end Trent Harris strip-sacked quarterback Kevin Hogan, and Geneo Grissom scooped up the fumble and began galloping downfield. The D-end made it 53 yards before being hauled down at the 1-yard line.
Ralph Webb proceeded to punch in his second touchdown of the night, followed by his second two-point conversion.
Fourth quarter, 7:41, Patriots 18-17: After three-and-a-half quarters of Brian Hoyer, it’s Danny Etling time. Let’s see how the Patriots rookie quarterback fares in his first taste of NFL action.
Fourth quarter, 9:05, Patriots 18-17: An acrobatic catch by Cordarrelle Patterson and some hard running by rookie Ralph Webb helped the Patriots take the lead for the first time tonight.
Webb carried the ball eight times for 35 yards in his first game action as a pro, capping the drive with an 8-yard touchdown scamper. The Vanderbilt product followed that up by hauling in a screen pass from Brian Hoyer on the ensuing two-point conversion.
Third quarter, 2:12, Redskins 17-10: Wholesale changes for the Patriots’ defense, which proceeded to force its first three-and-out of the night.
Third quarter, 4:44, Redskins 17-10: The Patriots swapped out their offensive line to begin the second half, but Brian Hoyer remained under center.
Hoyer led the Patriots on their longest sustained drive of the night, completing passes to Ryan Izzo, Will Tye, Cordarrelle Patterson, Devin Lucien, Henry Poggi and Jeremy Hill.
Hill, who continues to be the offensive star of this game for the Patriots, employed a vicious stiff-arm to pick up 12 yards on third-and-8 and later plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.
Back to the offensive line for a moment, the left tackle in that second unit is Matt Tobin, not rookie Isaiah Wynn, who has occupied that spot for much of camp.
Halftime, Redskins 17-3: Brian Hoyer’s stat line will look a tad more respectable after that drive, which featured completions of 22 and 25 yards to Devin Lucien and culminated in a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
Overall, not a particularly strong half for the Patriots, who have an odd tendency to struggle in preseason openers. Running back Jeremy Hill, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive end Derek Rivers all stood out in positive ways, however.
Second quarter, 0:49, Redskins 17-0: Solid showing by the Patriots’ defense, which allowed 15 yards in six plays and forced a punt. Let’s see what Brian Hoyer can do in what might be his final drive of the night.
Second quarter, 2:00, Redskins 17-0: How’s this game going for Brian Hoyer? Well, the Gillette Stadium crowd just started chanting “We want Brady.” That should tell you all you need to know.
Through five offensive series, Hoyer is 3 of 9 for 9 yards. Yeesh.
Receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Decker checked in for that fifth series, but neither was targeted.
Patriots safety Jordan Richards was leveled with an illegal blindside hit during punt coverage. He remained down on the field before being taken to the sideline medical tent.
Second quarter, 4:30, Redskins 17-0: After ending Washington’s last possession with a third-down pass breakup, Keion Crossen began the next drive by surrendering a 57-yard pass to Cam Sims.
Safeties Damarius Travis and Jordan Richards didn’t help Crossen’s cause, as both missed tackles on the play. Travis then was in coverage on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Harris two plays later.
This is not going to be a fun game for the Patriots to rewatch in film study tomorrow.
Second quarter, 6:02, Redskins 10-0: Jeremy Hill continues to be the star of the Patriots’ otherwise anemic offense. He’s up to 30 yards on four carries. His teammates have combined for 14 yards from scrimmage.
Second quarter, 8:40, Redskins 10-0: This has been a lackluster effort by the Patriots’ defense overall, but their latest series ended with the unit’s best sequence yet.
First, the Patriots’ D-line stopped Samaje Perine for a 2-yard gain on first down. (Danny Shelton appeared to recover a fumble in the pile, but officials ruled Perine’s forward momentum had been stopped.) Adrian Clayborn and Damarius Travis then provided heavy pressure on Colt McCoy to force an incompletion on second down, and Keion Crossen broke up a pass on third down to force a Redskins punt.
Second quarter, 13:30, Redskins 10-0: Jeremy Hill ripped off an 11-yard run up the middle on his first carry as a Patriot, but that was the lone highlight of another punchless New England possession.
The Patriots have had the ball three times and have run 10 plays.
First quarter, 0:11, Redskins 10-0: The Patriots changed out their secondary for their third defensive series, with safeties Jordan Richards and Damarius Travis and cornerbacks Ryan Lewis and J.C. Jackson all checking in.
Rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley also entered, replacing Kyle Van Noy.
Lewis made the play of the drive when he leveled Redskins wideout Trey Quinn, who remained down on the field for an extended period of time. Cameras later caught Quinn vomiting into a trash can on the Washington sideline.
A Dustin Hopkins field goal stretched the Redskins’ lead to 10-0.
First quarter, 4:46, Redskins 7-0: Not the best start for the Brian Hoyer-led Patriots offense, which has gone three-and-out on each of its first two possessions.
LaAdrian Waddle, who’s starting at right tackle in place of the injured Marcus Cannon, allowed a sack on second down.
First quarter, 6:33, Redskins 7-0: Touchdown, Redskins. Running back Byron Marshall hauled in a short pass from Colt McCoy and outran Kyle Van Noy for a 25-yard score.
McCoy has completed six of his first seven passes against New England’s starting defense and, surprisingly, has picked on top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who’s been dominant in practice this summer. Gilmore has allowed three catches on three targets for 39 yards so far, including a 20-yarder on third-and-4 to extend Washington’s latest drive.
First quarter, 9:13, 0-0: The Patriots’ first possession ended quickly.
After Mike Gillislee carried for 3 yards on first down, Brian Hoyer hit tight end Jacob Hollister on a crossing route for 4 yards but was unable to connect with Phillip Dorset on a deep ball down the right sideline. Ryan Allen came on to punt the ball away.
Of note: Julian Edelman was part of the starting offense. We’ll see how many snaps he gets in his return from a torn ACL.
First quarter, 10:41, 0-0: Takeaways from the Patriots’ first defensive series, which ended in Redskins punt:
— Defensive end Derek Rivers tackled running back Rob Kelley for a 1-yard gain on the game’s first snap. This is Rivers’ first game action since he tore his ACL last August.
— Jomal Wiltz is the Patriots’ top slot corner tonight. He joined starters Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore on the field for a few snaps. Rookie Duke Dawson has filled that role for much of the summer, though Wiltz did see some reps with the first-team defense in practice this week.
— Riley McCarron fielded the first punt of the night. Expect to see Braxton Berrios back there at some point tonight, as well.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Patriots won the opening coin toss and elected to defer. They’ll begin the 2018 preseason on defense.
7:08 p.m.: The Patriots’ starting offensive line in warmups, from left to right:
Trent Brown — Joe Thuney — David Andrews — Shaq Mason — LaAdrian Waddle
Waddle is starting in place of the injured Marcus Cannon. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer was under center with that unit, suggesting Tom Brady will not play tonight.
And the starting defense:
Derek Rivers, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL, gets the nod at left defensive end with Trey Flowers sitting this one out.
7:00 p.m.: The following Patriots players were not on the field for warmups:
Special teamer Matthew Slater
Running back Sony Michel
Running back Rex Burkhead
Linebacker Harvey Langi
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon
Offensive lineman Brian Schwenke
Offensive lineman Jason King
Wide receiver Kenny Britt
Defensive end Trey Flowers
All other players are on the field in uniform, including Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Devin McCourty. Just because a player dresses for a preseason game doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll play, however. It’s still unlikely Brady and Gronkowski will see the field.
Cornerbacks Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones and safety Nate Ebner all are dressed after being limited in practice this week.
6:57 p.m.: Less than one hour to kickoff. The Patriots specialists are on the field for warmups.
For the first time since the 2013 preseason, this group includes two Patriots punters, as rookie Corey Bojorquez is competing for a roster spot with veteran Ryan Allen.
Cornerback Cyrus Jones, who was activated off the physically unable to perform list this week, is in uniform tonight. He’s one of several players catching punts in warmups, along with Julian Edelman, Patrick Chung, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron.
Tom Brady also is dressed for tonight’s game. We’ll see how much he plays, if at all.
4:47 p.m.: Julian Edelman, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, is the first Patriots player on the field this afternoon.
Despite his impending four-game suspension, Edelman is eligible to play in the preseason. We’ll see how many snaps he gets tonight as he works his way back from his injury.
Speaking last Friday, the 32-year-old wide receiver expressed frustration with his progress thus far, saying he hadn’t regained his “football legs.”
3:30 p.m.: As we count down the hours until kickoff, take a look at the Patriots’ fancy new locker room, which underwent a facelift during the offseason.
12:15 p.m. ET: Good afternoon from Gillette Stadium, and welcome to opening night of the New England Patriots preseason.
The Patriots, who kicked off training camp two weeks ago, will host the Washington Redskins tonight in their first of four exhibition contests leading up to the 2018 NFL season.
Entrenched New England starters rarely play more than a few series in the preseason opener — quarterback Tom Brady, for example, has sat out three of the last four entirely — so much of the snaps in this game will go to players fighting for spots on the 53-man roster.
We won’t know exactly which players will suit up for this one until closer to kickoff, but a few can effectively be ruled out based on their level of participation in practice this week.
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Sony Michel, linebacker Harvey Langi and offensive linemen Brian Schwenke all missed practice Wednesday, and defensive end Trey Flowers, running back Rex Burkhead, special teamer Matthew Slater, cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones, safety Nate Ebner and offensive linemen Jason King were limited.
Though Michel, a first-round pick in this year’s draft, will be sidelined, the rest of the Patriots’ rookie class should see significant playing time. That group includes third-string quarterback Danny Etling, wide receiver Braxton Berrios, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, cornerbacks Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen, linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam, tight end Ryan Izzo and punter Corey Bojorquez.
Patriots rookies received new, position-appropriate jersey numbers Thursday, the full list of which can be found here.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Stay tuned throughout the afternoon for full pregame coverage.
Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images