Thursday, August 7, 2014

Garoppolo, Tyms shine, but sloppy Patriots fall to Redskins

"Some guys leave it on the practice field, some are gamers.  Is Jimmy Garoppolo one or the other, or neither?  Patriots' fans may be pleasantly surprised to find out that Garoppolo has never really been a workout warrior, but has proven time and again in college that he steps up and delivers in actual game situations.

This is not to say that the Eastern Illinois product is going to light it up, and there is every reason to believe that he will stink up the joint.  But here's the thing: some guys are just gamers, and we'll find out tonight if Garoppolo has any of that in him as far as the pro game is concerned."
- Foxborough Free Press, August 7, 2014

It was supposed to Ryan Mallett's affirmation as the Next Big Thing.  Turns out it was a coming out party for Jimmy Garoppolo instead.

The rookie, who has endured a horrific stretch of performances in training camp practice sessions, showed that he's a gamer, completing nine of thirteen passes for 157 yards and a dazzling deep bucket throw for a touchdown in the second half of play, but he couldn't help New England overcome a mistake-filled first half as the Washington Redskins' depth chart beat up on the Patriots' depth chart in Thursday night's preseason opener for both teams.
Brian Tyms hauled in this circus catch, though it was disallowed

The 23-6 final score meant nothing to either squad, neither did the savage beating the Redskins' running game dished out to the Patriots defense, nor did the fact that Ryan Mallett looked like - well - Ryan Mallett.  What did matter were three drive-killing penalties and three fumbles committed by New England and a performance by the offensive line that was just plain offensive.

Granted, there was no game plan involved and the majority of the game featured players that may or may not still be around when the roster is reduced to 53 players, but New England coach Bill Belichick has little tolerance for the mental errors and zero patience for error repeaters, which means that Monday morning's film session is going to look and sound like something out of Rob Zombie's twisted imagination...

...especially for veteran left tackle Nate Solder, who allowed a Matador sack of Mallett by Redskins' linebacker Brian Orakpo, perhaps because he didn't hold the speedy gent for a ten yard penalty like the one that wiped out a first down on a previous drive - and also for garden gnome Roy Finch, whose electric moves got him in trouble on his first kickoff return, fumbling the ball trying to pick up extra yardage.

Finch also misjudged a punt and ended up on the ground trying to tuck the ball away after it had squirted loose - not the kind of night one hopes for when planted firmly on the roster bubble.

It wasn't all bad, however, as Garoppolo's deep ball looked effortless and was consistently on target, finding rookie free agent Brian Tyms on tosses of 53 yards and 26 yards, the latter the aforementioned dazzling bucket throw - and was robbed by preseason malaise of an even niftier 40 yard connection that Tyms bobbled as he fell into the end zone, then snatched out of the air for what looked like a catch for a score...
Ryan Mallett is sacked by Brian Orakpo

...while defensively rookie free agent Malcolm Butler flashed tight coverage while linebackers Steve Beauharnais and James Anderson solidified their already secure positions on the depth chart with steady performances - and even the up-to-this-point bust Tavon Wilson did some nice things at strong safety.

Unfortunately for most everybody else, Belichick's terse presser after the game sums up what next week's practices are going to be like.

“I don’t think our protection was good enough." Belichick fumed, "I don’t think our passing game was good enough, I don’t think our running game was good enough. I don’t think our run defense, pass defense, kicking game were good enough. They all need to be improved.”


The pass protection was lousy, particularly in the first half when Mallett had a face full of Redskins more often than not, making it difficult to step into his throws, which is disconcerting in itself as it appears that Mallett can only "pop" when he has a clean pocket.

The running game yielded but 63 yards in 24 carries as the offensive line could generate no push at all, the best run of the night a nine-yard scramble by Garoppolo.

New England's run defense suffered through a miserable night, particularly on the right side where no one could seem to set the edge, Washington Rookie Lache Seastrunk consistently turning the corner for big gainers.

The sledding was a little tougher up the middle, but the Patriots' interior defenders suffered from the 3-4 alignment that they were in for the majority of the evening and found themselves fighting through double teams and latching on to the ball carriers instead of meeting them in the hole.

The total damage of 177 yards on the ground seems appalling on the surface, but it took 44 carries to get there - or, to put the entire night in perspective, those 44 carries were just six shy of New England's total plays for the entire game as Washington dominated the time of possession by nearly a two-to-one margin, the Patriots' offense managing just 50 snaps in a little over 20 minutes.

Yet despite all of the ugliness, eliminate the drive-killing penalties and Stephen Houston's fumble in Redskins' territory, then challenge the Tyms circus catch, and there was a close ball game.

With the Redskins leading 3-0 and driving at will, backup quarterback Kirk Cousins finished off a 10 play, 60 yard drive by burning Patriots corner Logan Ryan on a 10 yard strike to slot receiver Aldrick Robinson on a slant route that Ryan misplayed for a 10-0 lead, and another Redskins' field goal made the lead at halftime thirteen points.
Garoppolo led three long drives in the second half

Washington third-string quarterback Colt McCoy got the scoring started in the second half, hitting tight end Ted Bosler with a laser for a 20-0 Redskins' lead in the third quarter after the lanky pass catcher had gotten behind the Patriots' linebackers and gathered in McCoy's offering for the easy score.

Garoppolo was sensational - albeit tethered to the fact that he was facing layers from the Redskins' depth chart, but the sharpness of his short throws and the sick accuracy on the deep ball were impressive regardless of the competition.

The rookie from Eastern Illinois led drives of 56, 74 and 78 yards deep into Washington territory, but the wrongly disallowed circus catch by Tyms instead turned into a first down inside the Redskins' 10, and the Patriots couldn't convert on four downs and came away empty...

...Houston's fumble killed Garoppolo's second series after he had taken the Patriots offense from their own five yard line to the Redskins' 21 in just five plays, then a thre and out on his next series was followed by the perfect touch pass to Tyms.

After the game, Mallett offered his take on the evening, saying, "Obviously, you're gonna see stuff on the film that you didn't see in the game because your eyes may not have been over there because that wasn't your first read. It's tough to second guess yourself then when you're playing the game."

He's going to see stuff on film, alright, and the reviews are not going to be entirely favorable - but at least Mallett can take solace in the fact that he martyred his hide behind a turnstile-like offensive line, meaning that Tom Brady didn't have to.

At least not yet - but Brady's day is rapidly approaching, which means that the offensive line needs to find some rhythm even more rapidly...

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