Patriots rattle off 26 unanswered points to win preseason opener
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots were sleepwalking through the first half of their preseason opener against the Redskins Thursday night at hazy, hot, and humid Gillette Stadium.
The boys in blue appeared more interested in hitting the snooze button than hitting the Redskins through the first 29 minutes. Missed connections, missed tackles, and missed opportunities added up to a 17-0 deficit.
Then Brian Hoyer smashed the alarm clock to smithereens and jolted his teammates back to football reality.
Hoyer sparked a lightning-quick four-play, 56-yard drive that was capped by Stephen Gostkowski’s 52-yard field goal to trim Washington’s lead to 17-3 with just eight ticks left in the first half.
It was the first of 26 unanswered points — and three straight scoring drives — New England rattled off to post the 26-17 victory.
Hoyer hit Devin Lucien with completions of 22 and 25 yards to fuel the drive and provide the spark.
“It was huge [drive],’’ said running back Jeremy Hill. “You know, it was a three-possession game at that point and to get it to a two-possession game with that field goal was huge for us and getting the ball right back and coming out and getting points again, that put us right back in the game, so we’ve just got to continue to execute.’’
According to Hill, Bill Belichick delivered a message at halftime that helped keep the momentum going.
“Coach wanted us to come out there and play tougher,’’ said Hill. “We were letting them get a lot of easy stuff, especially on offense; we weren’t executing. So we just had to go out there and execute and play tougher. And it paid off, we kind of strung some long drives together and kept their defense out there. I think just playing tougher, that’s all it was.’’
The Patriots stormed out for the second half and marched 84 yards on 19 plays — with Hill and Mike Gillislee fueling the drive on the ground. Hill capped it a 1-yard plunge.
Rookie Ralph Webb kept the good feelings going when he scored back-to-back touchdowns — capping each with 2-point conversions for the final margin.
Webb’s second touchdown was set up by Geneo Grissom’s 53-yard fumble return to the 1-yard line following Trent Harris’s strip sack of Kevin Hogan.
“That was a great play by Trent,’’ said Grissom. “We practice picking up fumbles every day so just try to make it happen.’’
Langi out a month
Harvey Langi suffered an internal laceration in practice this week and the second-year linebacker is expected to miss up to a month, according to a league source.
The injury is considered minor and Langi is being held out for precautionary reasons. Langi missed most of his rookie season after he sustained neck and back injuries in a car accident in mid-October. Langi’s wife, Cassidy, suffered hip fractures and broken ribs in the crash.
Langi has been enjoying a solid camp and hadn’t missed any sessions until this week.
A number of changes
The Patriots reassigned the jersey numbers of their rookie class after most had oddball numbers (for their positions, anyway) through the spring and summer.
First, the draftees in order: offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn — 76; running back Sony Michel — 29; cornerback Duke Dawson — 42; linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley — 51; linebacker Christian Sam — 44; wide receiver Braxton Berrios — 14; quarterback Danny Etling — 5; cornerback Keion Crossen — 35; and tight end Ryan Izzo — 85.
And the undraftees: punter Corey Bojorquez — 7; Webb — 22; cornerback A.J. Moore — 33; cornerback J.C. Jackson — 34; defensive lineman Trent Harris — 45; defensive lineman Frank Herron — 92; and defensive lineman John Atkins — 97.
Add ex-tight end Martellus Bennett to the list of former and current Patriots who have dismissed the claims by some that there’s no fun in Foxborough.
“I had the most fun in my NFL career playing for the Patriots . . . because they didn’t worry about anything else but football,’’ Bennett said during an appearance on “The Doug Gottlieb Show” Wednesday. “In some other workplaces, they worry about how you dress, what you look like, all this other stuff.
“You come to work to play football, the only things coaches should be talking to you about is football. Everything else is ridiculous.’’
Bennett was drafted by Dallas in 2008 and also had stops in Chicago, New York (Giants), and Green Bay.
Standing in place
Every player and staffer on the Patriots and Redskins stood for “The Star-Spangled Banner” . . . Longtime Patriots captains Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty were joined by James White and Nate Ebner for the coin toss. New England won and deferred . . . Tight end Jacob Hollister practiced long snapping before the game and is possibly being groomed as the emergency backup to Joe Cardona. It was a ritual practiced by James Develin in past seasons . . . Former Patriots quarterback Matt Cavanaugh (1978-82) is the Redskins’ offensive coordinator . . . Cavanaugh was a Giants QB in 1990 when Bill Belichick was the team’s defensive coordinator . . . Patriots tight end Will Tye and Redskins offensive tackle Timon Parris were teammates at Stony Brook in 2013-14 . . . Washington has some great names on its roster, including tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and safety Fish Smithson.