FOXBOROUGH — A little more than a week after ceding the exhibition season opener to their backups, the majority of the Patriots’ starters were on the Gillette Stadium field Friday night against the Eagles.
In a game that featured a lot of scoring and even more penalty flags, the Patriots won, 42-35, racking up nearly 500 yards of offense in the process.
Tom Brady started and played 23 snaps, though as Bill Belichick would say, his first drive didn’t exactly go the way the Patriots drew it up. After getting the offense to the Philadelphia 30, Brady looked Steve Maneri’s way but the tight end wasn’t where he was supposed to be and Brady was intercepted.
The defensive back that got the pick was Cary Williams. Williams made headlines in the days before the Eagles-Patriots joint practices for calling the Patriots “cheaters” and dredging up Spygate.
Though there were no fireworks between Williams and the Patriots this week, he did hear it from the fans on Tuesday and Friday night, as he was roundly booed on his way to the end zone with a pick-6 and a 7-0 lead for the Eagles, their last lead of the game.
“It was just a miscommunication,” Brady said of the interception. “It happens. I’m glad it happened in the preseason, though. The thing about offensive football, all 11 players have to be on the same page.”
Maneri was only on the field because tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, and D.J. Williams were not able to play. Maneri, who was an offensive lineman for the Patriots in 2010, was signed just six days ago.
Brady bounced back on the Patriots’ second possession, going 74 yards on nine plays to even the score. Kenbrell Thompkins, who has had an up-and-down camp but seems to have Brady in his corner, was on the receiving end of a 15-yard, back-shoulder touchdown pass.
“K.T. made a great catch,” Brady said. “I’ve got so much confidence in him and what he’s been able to do and continue to achieve for us has been great, so hopefully there will be a lot more of those.”
During the drive, Belichick was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct between downs after what looked like a heated discussion with an official after a sideline catch by Julian Edelman was ruled incomplete. The Eagles’ Curtis Marsh was flagged for defensive pass interference on the play.
The New England defense didn’t take the field until nearly 10 minutes had passed in the first quarter, and when it did, it wasn’t for long: on the Eagles’ first snap, Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Butler forced a fumble by receiver Ifeanyi Momah that was recovered by the Patriots’ Tommy Kelly.
Jimmy Garoppolo took over at quarterback, and the rookie continued his run of improved play that began in the exhibition opener against Washington.
The Patriots took over at the Philadelphia 28 after the turnover, and the two big pass plays on the drive went to James Develin — first for 12 yards, and then a 15-yard touchdown.
The Patriots’ defense forced Philadelphia into a three-and-out on its second possession.
Garoppolo led a 13-play touchdown drive in the second quarter, with a 25-yard completion to Brandon LaFell on third down followed by an 18-yard carry by Brandon Bolden that put the Patriots in the red zone.
The lowlight of the possession was a fumble by Stevan Ridley — and he was immediately benched.
LaFell caught a 4-yard touchdown pass to finish the drive.
“I felt good going into this game, had a good week of practice,” Garoppolo said, adding that he found out when everyone else did that he would back up Brady.
“They just kind of threw me in there; it was kind of a last-minute thing. But you always have to be ready,” he said. “Whenever the opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of it.”
The Eagles’ first offensive touchdown came thanks to a turnover on special teams, when Arrelious Benn beat rookie long snapper (and Harvard product) Tyler Ott and blocked Ryan Allen’s punt attempt.
Starting from the Patriots’ 31, Philadelphia was in the end zone in four plays.
After completing 8 of 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, Nick Foles turned the offense over to Mark Sanchez, who made quick work of things, going 5 for 5 to lead the Eagles to a touchdown right before the half that tied the score at 21.
The first-half special teams error wasn’t the only one of the night for New England — later, Allen mishandled a good snap from Ryan Aiken. He got the ball off and it ended up being a good punt, but it was still another mistake.
Stephen Gostkowski also missed a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Mallett, who missed a couple of days of practice this week, played the entire second half.
Not known for his wheels, Mallett flashed some running ability on a couple of plays, the first when he ran 6 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
Though he was the last Patriots’ quarterback on the field, Mallett did not seem bothered: “I get to play in the game — that’s all that matters. That’s all. I just want to get out there and try to get better as a player and I felt like I did that tonight. I’ve just got to keep building on it.”
Duron Harmon intercepted Sanchez two plays into the second half, giving Mallett and the Patriots field position well inside Philadelphia territory.
Mallett and the reserves would score twice more before the night was out, both in the third quarter. Rookie Roy Finch had a 10-yard rushing touchdown, and Brian Tyms, who has made highlight-reel catches with regularity, added another with a 17-yard score.
In celebration, Tyms imitated one of his idols, Randy Moss, doing Moss’s “splitting the defense” move. Tyms played with Moss when both were in San Francisco in 2012.
In all, there were 21 accepted penalties in the game, but there were eight that were declined. It slowed the pace of the game tremendously, as it took well over three hours to get to the final whistle.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.