The New England Patriots and New York Giants have had some memorable clashes through the years, most notably (and disappointingly, from a Patriots perspective) in the Super Bowl. Their annual preseason meetings, meanwhile, are on the other end of the excitement spectrum.
The two teams have met 30 times in preseason over the years, with New York holding a 19-11 edge. While this year will be different, the game established itself as the preseason finale for both clubs over the last few years: the previous 16 preseasons, excluding 2020’s cancellation due to Covid-19, all ended with Patriots versus Giants.
The final week of preseason is usually reserved for the bottom-of-the-roster players to make one last push onto the team or practice squad; with most of them set to be released soon, however, the quality of play usually did not live up to other contests — even when it comes to preseason. As a result, the history of the series is a rather dull one.
Take the first meeting this century, a 2001 game that ended 14-0 in New England’s favor. Soon-to-be-starting quarterback Tom Brady went 8-for-14 for 92 yards but the scoring consisted of four Owen Pochman field goals as well as a Matt Chatham tackle for a safety. It was a sign of things to come.
There was a 6-3 snoozefest in 2012; 2015 saw a 12-9 affair followed by 17-9 battle the next year. Highlights from these games are a distant memory, with one exception.
Let’s turn the clock back to August 30, 2018.
As they did, the Patriots and Giants met in the preseason finale. The game taking place at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium saw virtually every starter on both sides sit on the bench throughout the day, resulting in backup players fighting it out.
Among them was Patriots third-string rookie quarterback Danny Etling, who ended up playing all 67 snaps that day. Etling went 18-for-32 for 157 yards, a touchdown and a pair of interceptions — a sign of his upcoming release. His stat-sheet looks a lot better when adding his contributions as a runner, though.
Not counting his two kneel-downs to close out the game, Etling carried the ball five times for 115 yards and a whooping 23-yard average per carry. He also scored a touchdown.
It was a spectacular one.
Wait, what?!— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 31, 2018
Just your standard 86-yard rush TD for QB Danny Etling.#NEvsNYG | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/6aNijrpqc6
A seventh-round draft pick out of LSU, Etling ran a 4.76 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine seven months earlier. He put his relatively solid speed to use on this bootleg play, getting around the edge and leaving the entire New York defense in the dust.
86 yards later, he was in the end zone. The Patriots ended up winning 17-12, and later went on to earn their sixth Super Bowl title.
As for Etling, he was part of that team throughout 2018. Following his release, he was signed to the practice squad and spent the remainder of the season there. He was moved to wide receiver the following training camp, and eventually cut for good. Since then, he has been a journeyman who spent time with seven different clubs, including the CFL’s BC Lions.
Going into his fifth year as a pro, Etling is currently a backup for the Green Bay Packers. It remains to be seen whether or not he can carve out a role on their roster, but regardless of what happens he already has left his mark on Patriots history.
Preseason history, yes, but history nonetheless.