Their first joint practice with the Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday was a rather difficult one for the New England Patriots, especially on the offensive side of the ball. In what has been a familiar sight this summer, the unit struggled to generate a consistent push in the running game and also had more downs than ups passing the football.
But while the majority of the session was won by the Las Vegas defense — at least as far as the outside evaluation goes — New England did find its groove late. The Patriots’ starting offense went on a successful two-minute drill late, finishing practice on a high note.
For center and team captain David Andrews, that was one moment to build on and take away from the session.
“Thought we finished the day well in the two-minute drill,” Andrews told reporters after practice. “Mac [Jones] did a great job. Good job communicating everything, and finishing the day off well.”
The two-minute drive was the highlight of the day for the Patriots offense. Quarterback Mac Jones was would-be sacked once and also saw a throw to Nelson Agholor broken up, but he still completed six of his seven pass attempts — including a touchdown to Kendrick Bourne.
Jones hit Hunter Henry twice to get the drive started, connected with Jakobi Meyers on third down, hooked up with DeVante Parker down the sideline and found Jonnu Smith to bring the unit into goal-to-go territory. The sophomore QB finished the series off with a touchdown pass to Bourne in the back of the end zone.
“We’ve all been in those games where maybe a couple of things don’t go right, and you end up in a big two-minute drive. Maybe it was an ugly day, but I think there’s a lot to build on,” Andrews said.
“We’re not game-planning and it’s a good football team. So, we’ll go in there today, correct some things, tweak some things. But we’re really out here working on fundamentals and trying to be the best we can be at the play call. Maybe there’s some things we’ll adjust scheme-wise. But it’s not really a game-planning type of thing.”
Before the Patriots offense successfully executed a two-minute drive, the defense also stood its ground. While better than its counterpart when looking at the whole body of work on Tuesday, it too had its miscues — most prominently in 1-on-1s and when guarding All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams.
Late in practice, however, the group delivered. Matthew Judon, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Josh Uche all registered would-be sacks. Adrian Phillips, meanwhile, nearly picked off a Derek Carr pass.
“We always talk about we want to start fast and finish strong,” Phillips said after the session. “It was good to see our defense go out there and finish strong. It’s the last period of practice. It’s the fourth quarter. You’ve been out there for two-and-a-half hours. It’s winning time. When it gets to the end of the game, it’s winning time. So, for our defense to go out there and stand up against a potent offense like that is great to see.”
Can the Patriots’ late success change the tune of what had been a rather disappointing-looking session up until that point, though? Partially but not entirely, Phillips pointed out.
“It’s definitely a positive when you finish the two-minute the way we finished it because it’s winning time whether it’s the end of half or end of game. But at the same time you still pick out the focal points of each and every period of practice,” Phillips said.
“Two-minute is important. The end of practice is more of a gut check, making sure you’re mentally strong when you’re tired. But at the same time, you have to start fast, you have to weather the storm when you get into the middle of practice. Those middle period you go out there and it’s dog work. You have to weather that. So, you can pick out focal points from each and every period of practice and understand, ‘We need to get better at this, this, this and this if you want to be the team we want to be.’”