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Jimmy Garoppolo shines, Patriots lose preseason opener to Jaguars: 31-24 final score

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The Patriots fared well early on, but a few big plays hurt the defense.

The New England Patriots trailed the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-10 coming out of the half (see our first half recap here) and received the ball looking to tie the game.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo continued his strong game with three completions for 60 yards and a touchdown on the drive, including a big 38-yard gain to rookie TE Jacob Hollister. RB LeShun Daniels picked up 12 yards on three carries to help move the chains and tie the score 17-17.

The Jaguars needed just one play to take the lead as Corey Grant broke free for a 79-yard touchdown thanks to a missed gap defense by LB Elandon Roberts and a poor job breaking down in the open field by SS Jordan Richards. The Jaguars led 24-17.

Garoppolo went back to work and had no problem moving the ball down the field, reaching the Jaguars 8-yard line before RB D.J. Foster fumbled the ball, ending any chance of a score and ending Garoppolo’s evening with a sour note. Still, Garoppolo ended 22/28 (78.6%) for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns for a 125.8 passer rating.

QB Jacoby Brissett took over the offense and was unable to score on his first drive. His touch was off as he sailed a fair number of passes over his intended receiver.

The Jaguars got the ball back and Patriots LB Elandon Roberts suffered an apparent injury and left the game. Three plays later, the Jaguars completed a 42-yard touchdown pass over Cyrus Jones and Jordan Richards to take a 31-17 lead.

Brissett and company responded with a strong drive with Hollister gaining 32 yards (and an additional 15 yards via penalty), TE Sam Cotton gaining 22 yards, Daniels gaining 7 yards, and Foster gaining 5 yards and a touchdown to bring the Patriots back to a 7-point deficit and a 31-24 difference.

Neither the Jaguars or the Patriots were able to score again, but the Jaguars were able to drain 7 minutes and 38 seconds off the clock with their pair of fourth quarter drives as the Patriots defense was unable to get off the field.

Overall, the Patriots have plenty to be happy about. Garoppolo looked excellent against the starting Jaguars defense, despite playing with the Patriots back-ups. Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden both made strong cases for roster spots.

Jacob Hollister collected 7 receptions for 116 yards and made a few amazing catches in traffic. He’ll need to work on his blocking to prove he’s more than just the annual preseason tight end tease, but he has the inside lane on the Patriots third tight end roster spot.

Fellow undrafted rookie Austin Carr also had a strong day with 5 receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown. He made a few circus catches and could make the roster if a player like Matthew Slater starts the season on the injured reserve.

On defense, the Patriots had less to be excited about. Deatrich Wise and Elandon Roberts both suffered injuries and left the game, with Roberts not playing well prior to the injury. Jordan Richards and Cyrus Jones both looked awful in coverage and the Patriots actually moved Jones to safety in the fourth quarter.

It’s important to note that the Patriots defenders were punching up- the Patriots third stringers were facing the top Jaguars units- but the field leveled late in the game and the Patriots defense failed to keep up. While there were individual bright moments, it’s hard to say that any Patriots defender had a standout day- and that should be considered a negative for veterans like Jonathan Freeny and Kony Ealy.

The Patriots will likely add their starters into the mix for the second week of the preseason, but there’s much more excitement around the offensive players. The problem is that the Patriots don’t have any roster spaces available on the offensive side of the ball; they need some of their young defenders to emerge to bolster the team’s weaker unit, especially in the face of injuries.