The New England Patriots’ 22-17 victory against the Tennessee Titans in the two teams’ second preseason game was one of highs and lows: the team saw two of its promising young defenders — Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun — go down with injury and played undisciplined at times leading to twelve penalties, but it also showed considerable mental toughness to come back in the second half and win the game.
The game started as a defensive affair, with the Patriots making the first big play of the day:
Fifth-round rookie Byron Cowart has developed nicely since missing early parts of training camp due to a minor quad injury. On this play, he was able to completely power through Titans left guard Rodger Saffold to get to quarterback Marcus Mariota and take him down for an 8-yard sack. Today’s game, of course, was not the first that saw Saffold struggle against New England: he also was starter on the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive line during last season’s Super Bowl.
Cowart was not the only Patriots rookie to look good, as third-round selection Damien Harris also stood out — he was the team’s best and most productive running back today:
Harris’ longest run of the day came late in the first quarter, when he pulled off a 20-yarder to set his team up at the Titans’ 1-yard line. Following some good blocking by James Ferentz and Ted Karras, the rookie was able to get to the second level and close to scoring. And while he did not find the end zone, this run proved to be one of the Patriots’ best plays of the day — one that set up the following sequence:
After Brandon Bolden was stuffed on the first attempt from the 1-yard line when running inside, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels opted for an outside run on 2nd and goal. His unit executed perfectly, with left tackle Isaiah Wynn and fullback Jakob Johnson helping create a lane for Bolden to reach the end zone. Johnson’s block in particular stands out as he leveled the Titans’ defender.
New England’s second touchdown of the day also saw Johnson deliver a good block:
In the third period, undrafted rookie Nick Brossette was called upon to run the football down at the goal line. The result was the same even with another player in the backfield: a touchdown for the Patriots — one that would bring them within two points of the Titans. Following Johnson’s lead block and a terrific takedown by left tackle Martez Ivey, Brossette found the end zone for the first time in his NFL career.
Damoun Patterson has also never scored a touchdown in his one-plus years in the NFL. Even if it is ‘just’ preseason, he was able to do it today on a perfectly executed back-shoulder throw from Jarrett Stidham.
Stidham’s day was up-and-down, but he delivered when the team needed him to: down two points late in the fourth quarter and facing a 3rd and 12, the fourth-round rookie delivered an accurate pass to give the Patriots their first lead of the day and ultimately their second win of this year’s preseason.