Two ring circus
Patriots reveal early surprises
FOXBOROUGH -- Even a player coming back from a career-threatening injury isn't exempt from a little humor from his teammates. As the Patriots stood in the tunnel waiting to take the field for last night's exhibition opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium, Rosevelt Colvin was the subject of good-natured ribbing. It was his comrades' way of saying, congratulations.
"Everybody made fun of me," Colvin, last season's prized free agent acquisition, said after logging a few snaps in the Patriots' 24-6 victory over the team against whom Colvin broke his left hip in Week 2 of last season. Just last week he experienced his first contact in nearly 11 months. "Everybody was like, `New dude,' and [Tedy] Bruschi was like, `Welcome back.' It felt good to get back out there with everybody. It was just another step in the direction of being back out there all the time. I felt good about the little bit that I had an opportunity to do."
There were plenty of new faces and some old ones in new places on display for the Patriots, including Troy Brown at defensive back for eight plays. He played nickel cornerback and covered the slot receiver, made a couple of tackles, and was even sent on a blitz. He also handled punt return duties and found the time to play receiver.
"It was good to get the feel of [defensive back]," Brown said. "I was a little nervous to start off, I felt like I rookie again. If I'm asked to do it again I'll go out and give my best again."
Corey Dillon debuted with 23 yards on five first-quarter carries, and new punter Josh Miller also was strong in his first game as a Patriot, sending three punts beyond 50 yards, including a long of 56, and averaging 48.3 yards on six kicks. Another newcomer, Keith Traylor, started at nose tackle and teamed with Mike Vrabel to stuff Eagles running back Brian Westbrook for a 1-yard loss in the first quarter. First-round pick Vince Wilfork came in at nose tackle in the second quarter, and Dan Klecko started the game at fullback before getting in at his new position, inside linebacker.
Though New England continued its dominance of the Eagles (the Patriots have beaten Philadelphia by a combined 88 points in their last six exhibition meetings and beat the Eagles, 31-10, in Week 2 last season), coach Bill Belichick said it was far from his team's best effort.
"I thought this was a game that was kind of sloppy," Belichick said. "We had trouble with a lot of things. We've got a lot of work to do. We struggled in the passing game. We really didn't do a good job defensively with the quarterback [Donovan McNabb], gave up some easy running yardage, struggled on the punt returns, stuff like that.
"But we made a few plays, made a few scramble plays, got a couple of third down stops finally, and we were able to put a few points on the board. But I think, overall, we've got a long way to go in every phase of the game."
Tom Brady looked sharp for two possessions. In his brief appearance, he completed 3 of 4 attempts for 31 yards, with a 9-yard touchdown pass to David Patten in the back of the end zone at 10 minutes 50 seconds of the first quarter. Brady rolled to his right and found Patten behind the coverage. But Brady's best play was a 19-yard completion to Patten despite having Eagles defensive end N.D. Kalu hanging off him. The touchdown connection capped an eight-play, 54yard drive.
"It was quick and not a whole lot of action," Brady said. "It was good to go down and get a score. Obviously when you win, 24-6, there are some good feelings but I still think there are a lot of things that need to be corrected. Coach like the way we played in terms of how physical we were."
With 12:15 to go in the half, Adam Vinatieri nailed a 47-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead. The field goal was set up by a blocked punt and recovery by Larry Izzo, who started the game with a tackle on the opening kickoff. The turnover set the Patriots up at the Eagles' 25-yard line, but Rohan Davey, who had taken over for Brady with 56 seconds left in the first quarter, took an 11-yard sack on third and 3 from the 18, forcing New England to settle for 3. Davey, trying to secure the backup quarterback job, appeared out of rhythm on his first few throws and finished the first half 3 of 7 for 24 yards.
Dillon provided fans with a good first impression before being relieved by Michael Cloud (team-high 45 yards on 17 carries). Dillon's best run was his last, a 13-yard scamper on which he made several sharp cuts. The run set up Brady's touchdown pass three plays later.
"I was a little nervous to be honest with you," said Dillon. "I didn't know what to expect. I was excited, I had butterflies. That's a good thing, because I haven't felt like that in a long time."
The Eagles were sloppy in the first half and were penalized nine times. McNabb hit on 6 of 11 attempts for 32 yards and had a 10-yard scramble. McNabb and new receiver Terrell Owens connected twice on Philadelphia's first drive.
The Eagles converted only one of 12 third downs.
"What we did out here doesn't exactly show how good of a first two weeks we had," McNabb said at halftime.
The Eagles mounted a 15-play drive on their first possession of the second half behind backup QB quarterback Jeff Blake but couldn't convert a first and goal from the 7. The drive may have ended several plays earlier if not for a holding penalty against Klecko on third and 12 from Philadelphia's 45 and another by Asante Samuel on second and 20 from the Patriots' 23. But the defense held at its 2, and Tim Duncan kicked a 20-yard field goal to make it 10-6.
Davey got going on the ensuing possession. He said earlier in the week that he knew what the coaches wanted to see from him: that he could direct the offense. He did just that in leading the Patriots on a 12-play, 70-yard drive over 6:06 in the third quarter and ended it with a 5-yard touchdown toss to Michael Jennings.
Davey moves well for 245-pound quarterback and showed it on a 16-yard scramble to Philadelphia's 39 to convert a second and 15. On third and 7 from the 36, he hit Malaefou Mackenzie for 18. Finally, on third and goal, Davey lobbed the touchdown pass in traffic to Jennings. It was a risky throw, but it yielded a high reward. It was 17-6, New England.
Davey wasn't done. He took the Patriots 64 yards on six plays to another touchdown at 4:08 of the fourth, this one a 23-yard pass to Ricky Bryant. Davey also contributed a 23-yard run up the middle that was aided by his convincing pump fake.
Davey finished 8 of 15 for 70 yards. Third-stringer Kliff Kingsbury took over with 8:41 left. "As a unit, we just made up in our mind to put the first two drives out of our heads and said, `Let's see about going forward.' "