The first game of the New England Patriots’ 2021 season is in the books, and it saw them deliver a solid performance en route to a 22-13 victory over the visiting Washington Football Team. Obviously, there is plenty of room for improvement, but the Patriots did have their moments throughout the evening.
Patriots (1-0) 22 : 13 Washington (0-1)
August 12, 7:30 pm ET | Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA | Broadcast information |
With the coin toss going Washington’s way, and the visitors deciding to receive the opening kickoff, the Patriots started the game on defense. The unit, which missed safety Devin McCourty but saw the return of Dont’a Hightower, gave up one first down but eventually forced a punt thanks to a Matthew Judon tackle on 3rd-and-short.
While New England’s defense started the game well, the offense — led by veteran quarterback Cam Newton — was unable to move the sticks. A short run by Damien Harris was followed by an incomplete throw intended for Jonnu Smith. On 3rd-and-8, meanwhile, Newton was pressured from the blindside, resulting in an incomplete throw and a Jake Bailey punt.
Washington’s second series saw the team drive into New England territory again, but once more come away with no points: kicker Dustin Hopkins hooked his 40-yard attempt wide to the left to keep the game scoreless. The drive’s most notable moment came earlier in the series, though, with Matthew Judon going down after a cutdown block. The offseason acquisition went straight to the medical tent, but he later returned to the lineup. The Patriots dodged a bullet — which is much more important in preseason than any points.
Taking over at its own 30-yard line after the missed field goal, the Patriots offense responded with an impressive drive. Cam Newton completed throws to Jakobi Meyers, Jonnu Smith and James White, with some strong Damien Harris sprinkled in. New England eventually had to settle for a field goal, though, after a holding penalty against Smith disrupted the team’s momentum.
However, undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin split the uprights from 35 yards out to give the Patriots their first lead of the night. [Patriots 3 : 0 Washington]
Washington’s third drive saw some personnel changes on both sides, but the result stayed the same: New England’s defense kept the game scoreless, with the Football Team being forced to punt after gaining one first down.
At that point, it was time for a change at quarterback: rookie Mac Jones made his NFL debut, replacing Cam Newton who went 4-for-7 for 49 yards in two drives.
Jones’ first play was a handoff to Sony Michel, followed by a pass to Jakobi Meyers that was erroneously called incomplete despite the wideout making a terrific catch. While New England faced a 3rd-and-6 at that point, the rookie quarterback was able to keep the series going with a 7-yard completion to Kristian Wilkerson.
Jones’ first series continued into the second quarter, with the rookie make more good throws. He connected with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne on a 13-yard play-action pass before a beautiful touch pass into the end zone from 34 yards out that was dropped by Wilkerson. The series eventually stalled, but Quinn Nordin’s second field goal — this one from 50 yards out — added to New England’s lead. [Patriots 6 : 0 Washington]
Even though Washington held the ball for almost six minutes on its next drive, the Patriots defense again made the stops when it had to. After another punt, Mac Jones was therefore back on the field. While his first series saw him lead a 10-play, 43-yard field goal drive, his second was less successful: while an 11-yard screen to J.J. Taylor gained a quick first down to start the series, the offense went nowhere afterwards.
Washington then took over possession again with just over three minutes remaining in the second half, and this time the team made the most of its opportunities. With New England now fielding a defense consisting primarily of second-stringers, the visitors were able to march 64 yards in 12 plays and score the game’s first touchdown when Peyton Barber crossed the plane from one yard out. [Patriots 6 : 7 Washington]
Mac Jones took the field again after the score, but with three seconds left took a knee to end the half.
The second half started with Jones under center again, leading the Patriots in a no-huddle attack and completing the first eight of his throws: the youngster connected with J.J. Taylor and N’Keal Harry, hit Kristian Wilkerson twice, went back to Taylor before a third-down conversation to Wilkerson; Jones then went back to Taylor and Wilkerson before an incompletion on a quarterback hit.
That incomplete attempt happened on third down, leading to Quinn Nordin returning to the field. The rookie was again perfect, nailing a 40-yard attempt to give the Patriots another lead. [Patriots 9 : Washington 7]
New England’s defense also had a good opening series in the second half, forcing a quick three-and-out to give the ball back to Jones and the offense. The first-round QB did not do any throwing on the series, though: he handed the ball off three times, with the offense gaining only nine yards in the process. What followed was a Jake Bailey punt.
Starting in relatively good field position after a 19-yard return, Washington drove right back into field goal range while trying to re-take the lead. However, Dustin Hopkins sent another kick wide to the left — this one from 50 yards away — to keep the score intact.
Mac Jones returned for a fifth series after the Football Team’s unsuccessful field goal try, but the Patriots offense again did not go anywhere. After a false start call against Marcus Martin, Jones threw an incompletion intended for Wilkerson, was sacked for a loss of nine yards, and was unable to connect with Gunner Olszewski on a deep attempt. Onto the field came Bailey again.
The fourth quarter started with the game’s first takeaway. Joejuan Williams reacted well to a tipped pass, picking it off and returning the interception 36 yards to the Washington 19-yard line.
This time around, however, the Patriots did not turn to Mac Jones, who was pulled after completing 13 of 19 throws for 87 yards. With third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer in the lineup, New England drove to its first touchdown of the day: Rhamondre Stevenson crossed the plane from one yard in to put the Patriots up by eight points.
The score stayed at 15-7 on the point after attempt, with rookie Quinn Nordin missing the try wide to the left. [Patriots 15 : 7 Washington]
The two clubs went on to exchange punts after the touchdown before the Football Team went onto a long drive, trying to tie the contest at 15 late in the fourth quarter. Washington almost did just that, with the New England defense surrendering a touchdown and seemingly also giving up a two-point conversion. However, the conversion was overturned in the review process. [Patriots 15 : 13 Washington]
All New England had to do after the touchdown was run out the clock. Rhamondre Stevenson had other plans, however, converting a 3rd-and-9 via a 91-yard touchdown run:
Quinn Nordin successfully made the extra point to finalize the score. [Patriots 22 : Washington 13]