Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pats sluggish in debut without most of starting lineup


It's amazing what a few Pro Bowl absentees can do to the potency of a team.

Second-string quarterback Ryan Mallett was handed the reins Thursday as New England made a conscious effort to keep veteran Tom Brady away from the action in their first preseason game. With a number of other starters -- namely the receiving crew and pretty much the entire defensive squad -- afforded the same rest due to some extended reps in joint practices with the Redskins this week, the Patriots were noticeably sluggish in their opener at Fed Ex Field against Washington.

Mallett, who played the entire first half despite an ugly slide attempt that looked like it may knock him out early on, went 5-for-12 for 55 yards, was sacked once and held scoreless in his season debut. The team's leading receiver, sophomore Josh Boyce, had three of those receptions for 30 yards, while Brandon LaFell and Kenbrell Thompkins (the team's starting wideouts) combined for three receptions and 37 yards.

New England's starting ground crew saw little action as well, as running back Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley combined for nine yards on only three total carries. Rookie James White equaled that yardage with four carries of his own.

For the defense, the team's top two defensive ends (Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich) as well as their three starting linebackers (Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower) and two strongest secondary players (Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty) all sat, and Washington took advantage of the mainly second-team squad.

The Redskins drove down and scored on their first two possessions, starting with good field position on both drives and taking a 10-0 lead into the second quarter. They added a field goal in the second behind the solid play of second-string signal-caller Kirk Cousins, who went 9-for-13 for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Other first half game notes:

- Washington's starter, Robert Griffin III, went 2-for-4 for nine yards and did not scramble for any yards on the ground.

- Kicker Steve Gostkowski missed his only field goal attempt of the night, clanging a 54-yard attempt off the right upright with less than three minutes to play in the half.

- Redskins starting running back Alfred Morris carried the ball five times for 27 yards, while fourth-year back Evan Royster notched 23 yards on seven carries.

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