EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots made Thursday night’s preseason finale the “Jimmy Garoppolo Show,” putting the ball in the rookie quarterback’s hands for his first NFL start, and he responded with a respectable performance.
Garoppolo, the second-round pick from Eastern Illinois, was 22 of 42 for 284 yards and had a touchdown, an interception, and was sacked three times as the Giants pulled out a late 16-13 win.
New England went for it on fourth down in their own territory late in the fourth quarter, but Garoppolo’s pass for Josh Boyce was incomplete, as it appeared Boyce ran the wrong route.
“It could have went better. There’s definitely some things we messed up on — fixable things, and things to learn from when you watch the film,” Garoppolo said. “I felt pretty comfortable from the beginning, but just gradually — that’s how every game is — you start to pick up what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to do it, so gradually got more comfortable.”
It hasn’t been a good preseason for Boyce, who was targeted nine times for the game and had just two catches; he also was the intended target on both of Garoppolo’s interceptions, one of which was wiped away by a penalty. A fourth-round pick last year, Boyce may not make the roster when 53-man cuts are made Saturday.
Already in field-goal range when they took over on downs, the Giants ran the ball three times to kill some clock, then Josh Brown made a 37-yard field goal to prevent overtime.
The Patriots end the preseason at 2-2, winning their home games against the Eagles and Panthers, and also losing at Washington.
With Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett on the sideline in uniform — Brady was the holder on the extra point — Garoppolo continued to show poise in the pocket.
He and Aaron Dobson, seeing his first snaps of the preseason, had the play of the game in the second quarter. On second and 6 from the Giants’ 33, Garoppolo let go a beautiful sideline pass that Dobson hauled in, falling over the goal line for the touchdown.
The play was reviewed and the call was upheld.
The first play of the drive was a pass to Timothy Wright, the tight end the Patriots acquired from the Buccaneers in the Logan Mankins trade. Wright was targeted three times in the first half, with two catches.
Josh Kline, signed as a rookie free agent last year, played every snap of the game at left guard, Mankins’s old spot.
The Giants’ first-string offense, led by quarterback Eli Manning, played two series and went a total of 26 yards. Coach Tom Coughlin has made little effort to hide his displeasure with the performance of the offense this preseason, and seeing them gain just one first down against mostly backups did not ease his mind.
“I thought the worst play of the night was the misconnection between Rueben Randle and Eli [on third and 3 on the Giants’ first possession] — ‘I thought’, ‘he thought’ — one of those kinds of things,” Coughlin said. “We’re all, everyone in this room, is tired of hearing that stuff. There’s no place for that.”
Coughlin was asked why the starters played only two series, less than he had indicated earlier in the week. “If they wanted to play more, they should’ve made some first downs and stayed out there,” he said.
The Giants have installed a West Coast offense this season with new coordinator Ben McAdoo, and it’s clear there are growing pains — though the club struggled last year as well, with Manning throwing 27 interceptions, leading to the dismissal of longtime coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
Manning completed just one pass, his first of the night, on four attempts before ceding the offense to Ryan Nassib and the second-year player was under center for both scoring drives, including the 14-play, 80-yard touchdown. Curtis Painter was at the helm for the two fourth-quarter field goals.
The Patriots made two good stops from the 1 in the second quarter, first keeping fullback John Conner out on second down then Peyton Hillis on third down. But the Giants went for it on fourth down, and Hillis leaped over the pile and into the end zone.
Garoppolo got the ball back with 3:31 left in the first half but the Patriots did not go hurry-up, instead using their three timeouts as well as the two-minute warning.
Passes to Dobson and running back James White were the big plays, but the drive stalled after Garoppolo was sacked on first down at the New York 26. Stephen Gostkowski converted a 37-yard field goal to close the half.
New England’s first two possessions of the third quarter were three-and-outs. On the third, they posted another field goal, eschewing a fourth-down opportunity from the 3 to take the points.
Garoppolo looked for Dobson in the end zone on second and third down.