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Patriots vs Giants: Observations from New England’s surprisingly fun 40-38 loss to New York

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The Patriots back-up defense was terrible, but the 20-point comeback was AWESOME.

NFL: New York Giants at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots fell to the New York Giants 40-38 in the final preseason game of 2017, finishing with a 1-3 preseason record.

The Giants appeared to be using more of their actual projected roster players than the Patriots were, but New England fell behind quickly due to some seriously bad plays, before mounting an incredible 20-point comeback at the end of the game.

After starting the game with a forced fumble, the Patriots defense failed to force a Giants punt until 4:59 left in the fourth quarter. The Giants ripped off six scores on seven drives, sandwiching a pick-six on a bad screen pass by Jacoby Brissett, running up a 34-14 lead.

The Patriots lost 40-38, but that was a surprisingly fun game. What'd you think?

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Patriots offense was far less successful. The team turned the ball over twice and had a couple three-and-outs. Brissett was surrounded by maybe two players that will make the final roster- OL Ted Karras and whichever third-string tight end makes the roster- and still managed to make some nice plays.

But then Brissett flipped on a switch (likely due to the Giants playing their back-ups) and the Patriots outscored the Giants 24-3, capped off with a 55-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 58 seconds left in the game and a 38-37 Patriots lead.

The Giants responded with a 7-play, 45 yard drive and kicked a field goal as time expired to win 40-38.

CB Cyrus Jones appeared to suffer a serious knee injury and is likely out for the season. We wish him a speedy recovery. Here are our observations from the game.

The Patriots starters

On offense, the Patriots opened with QB Jacoby Brissett, RB LeShun Daniels, TE Jacob Hollister, TE James O’Shaughnessy, WR Austin Carr, WR Tony Washington, OT LaAdrian Waddle, OG Jamil Douglas, C Ted Karras, OG Cole Croston, and OT Conor McDermott.

On defense, the Patriots played EDGE Geneo Grissom, DT Woodrow Hamilton, DT Darius Kilgo, EDGE Michael Bart, LB Brooks Ellis, LB Jonathan Freeny, LB Trevor Bates, CB Cyrus Jones, CB Kenny Moore, S David Jones, S Damarius Travis.

Players that don’t play are likely roster locks

According to WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, the Patriots have cut just 5 of 78 players over the past three seasons that did not play in week 4 of the preseason. I believe those are CB Cre’Von LeBlanc and WR Chris Harper in 2016, RB Jonas Gray in 2015, and QB Ryan Mallett and OL Chris Martin in 2014.

There were 9 players that didn’t suit up at all for injury reasons. But the players that dressed and did not play include RB Brandon Bolden, OT Cameron Fleming, DL Adam Butler, LB Elandon Roberts, CB Justin Coleman, CB Jonathan Jones, and SS Jordan Richards.

Are all of these players roster locks? Maybe. The injury to Cyrus Jones definitely helps Coleman and J. Jones to make the roster. But it’s definitely a good sign for the players.

QB Jacoby Brissett was awesome, awesome, awesome

Brissett finished the day 28 of 39 for 341 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, along with 3 rushes for 20 yards and a touchdown. That interception was a pick-six and it was a poor decision by Brissett to follow through, but it happened because OL Conor McDermott didn’t execute on his cut block.

His touch wasn’t consistent, but it was leaps better than it’s been in weeks past. He was tough standing in the pocket without much help. He spread the football around to 10 different receivers. He hit players deep down the sideline and up the seam and on shallow crossers and on slip screens. He hit every pass in the Patriots playbook and it should make the coaches much more comfortable moving forward.

Brissett finally nabbed that fourth quarter comeback that eluded him in the first two weeks of the preseason, even if it didn’t hold. He did his job.

Not sure if any bubble player decisively won a roster spot

Every player that took the field against the Giants was doing so with their roster spot on the line. The best players were Brissett, EDGE Geneo Grissom, WR Devin Lucien, and RB D.J. Foster. WR Austin Carr played well, but wasn’t given as many opportunities to shine in the second half. CB Kenny Moore and CB Will Likely were solid and given a lot of snaps to show their worth.

But Brissett was always likely to make the team. The other players might not have done enough to win a spot outright; the debates that took place prior to the game will continue until Saturday.

The Patriots need a new punt returner

The only definite outcome from the game is the Patriots need for a new punt returner. With both WR Julian Edelman and CB Cyrus Jones injured, the Patriots top punt returner is WR Danny Amendola, who might be too valuable to the offense to use on special teams.

WR Brandin Cooks and S Patrick Chung are the only two other players on the roster with NFL experience returning punts. Neither of them should be expected to take on the role, either.

So who gets the job? RB D.J. Foster has preseason experience in the role. RB Dion Lewis hasn’t done it, but theoretically could do it. But don’t be surprised if the Patriots try to acquire a wide receiver for depth on both offense and in the return game.