Patriots vs. Giants: 10 Things We Learned from New England's 6-3 Loss
New England only won a single exhibition game. They notched a slim victory over the Saints, then followed it up with three straight losses. They'll now follow that up with a blank slate.
Losing to the Giants is always a glum fiasco. Sure, it was only preseason, but it still pinched some nerves.
Ultimately, though, preseason is all about self-exploration and self-improvement. Did the Patriots make any progress on Wednesday night? Let's investigate.
Here are 10 things we learned from New England's loss.
This Game Was One Long Job Interview
The Giants-Patriots rivalry took a backseat on Wednesday night. This game wasn't about bad blood; it was strictly about employment opportunities.
Bill Belichick distributed minutes to the guys who needed more information on their resumes.
These players included Brandon Bolden, Alfonzo Dennard, Kerry Taylor, Alex Silvestro, Jeremy Ebert, Eric Kettani, Ras-I Dowling, James Ihedigbo, Justin Francis and Sergio Brown.
Unfortunately, none of these guys nailed their job interviews.
The Patriots Lost This Game Twice
New England's primary objective for this game was to give their bubble players a stage and a spotlight to shine. Their second objective was to score more points than the Giants.
That means they lost this game twice.
Consequently, the Giants won twice. They walked away with a 6-3 win, but they also walked away with several bubble players who stepped up big. Guys like Ramses Barden, Andre Brown and Adewale Ojomo made huge strides and left Giants fans with plenty of reasons to be excited.
All in all, a bad night for Patriots fans everywhere.
Brian Hoyer Dropped the Ball, Literally and Figuratively
After Ryan Mallett led a near comeback against the Buccaneers last week, Brian Hoyer went into the Giants game with a somewhat murky grasp on the top backup spot.
Hoyer didn't start. He took over quarterback duties roughly halfway through the third quarter.
Late in the fourth, Hoyer was strip-sacked by Adewale Ojomo. The ball was recovered by Marcus Thomas. It was an awful blunder which eventually led to a game-winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes.
This was the worst possible way for Hoyer to conclude his preseason. Even worse, it was the worst possible way to convince the fanbase that he should still be New England's No. 1 backup slinger.
Ryan Mallett Still Struggles with Inaccuracy
It's been a schizophrenic preseason for Ryan Mallett.
Against the Saints, he threw for 89 yards, zero touchdowns and one pick.
Against the Eagles, he threw for 105 yards and one touchdown.
Against the Buccaneers, he threw for 66 yards and two touchdowns.
Against the Giants, he threw for 40 yards and zero touchdowns.
Mallett's performance against the Giants was frustrating, especially when you analyze it in the overall scope of his development. He continues to struggle with inaccuracy. Several open receivers went home empty-handed because Mallett missed them with his arm and his eyes.
As good as Mallett was against the Buccaneers, he was equally as flimsy against the Giants. He has a knack for following up great throws with bad throws and great games with bad games.
Overall, Mallett walks away as the winner in his backup quarterback duel with Brian Hoyer, but he certainly didn't end his preseason on a high note.
Jermaine Cunningham Earned a Job
While Jermaine Cunningham might be considered a bubble player, the truth is that he's done more than enough to earn a spot on this roster.
The vicious sack he put on Michael Vick in Week 3 is only a snapshot of what he's accomplished over the offseason. Throughout OTAs, training camp and preseason, Cunningham has shown that he's more focused than ever. He's been active, engrossed and productive.
He earned a roster spot before the Giants game began.
Nevertheless, Wednesday night was productive for Cunningham. In addition to his two sacks, he drew a holding penalty and remained consistently active throughout his time on the field.
Cunningham has definitely been one of New England's standout players of the offseason and preseason.
Sterling Moore Still Not Shining
If you were to list the top five Patriots players you're excited to watch in 2012, Sterling Moore would probably make that list.
Unfortunately, Moore has struggled during the preseason. His performance against the Giants was painfully lackluster, as he demonstrated an inability to keep up with high-end receivers like Victor Cruz.
In the first quarter, Cruz ran a crisp route in which he literally beat Moore twice for the first down. Cruz's moves were silky smooth and Moore was totally unable to keep up with his shake-and-bake moves.
Moore seemed visibly frustrated after the play. Patriots fans were frustrated, too.
Brandon Bolden Still in Limbo
Brandon Bolden saw heavy action in the first quarter, but he struggled for most of it. Despite multiple runs for minimal gain, the rock kept getting fed to him.
Bill Belichick gave Bolden every opportunity to shine, with the implication being that he really wants this kid to succeed.
As to the extent of his success, well, that's up in the air.
Bolden walked away from the Giants game with 15 carries for 59 yards (3.9 avg). He had an impressive sprint for a 15-yard pickup in the first quarter, but he dented that achievement with a muffed punt reception in the second quarter.
Brandon Bolden's roster spot remains in limbo.
Alfonzo Dennard Still a Head-Scratcher
Early in the offseason, the legend of Alfonzo Dennard was picking up plenty of steam. Patriots fans were psyched about drafting this kid. He seemed like the steal of the draft.
In all fairness, he could still prove himself to be the steal of the draft. But he has to make the team first.
So far, he really hasn't earned that luxury.
As Dennard struggled with injuries over the offseason, his stock wavered. This Giants game was a valuable opportunity for him to make a comeback.
Dennard registered three tackles on the evening. Not bad, but not the night he really needed to have. He didn't have a signature play to hang his hat on. He was active, but his activity was eclipsed by Nate Ebner.
Like Brandon Bolden, Alfonzo Dennard wraps up the preseason with a big question mark hanging over his head.
Nate Ebner Still Impressing
Nate Ebner has the kind of speed and tenacity that grabs you by the collar and forces you to take notice.
Once again, Ebner was extremely active. He had an impressive pass breakup in the backfield. He also drew a foul and made a tackle on special teams.
When Ebner was drafted, the overall consensus was that his heaviest contribution would come on special teams. But, by the looks of him, he's ready to alternate between special teams and safety.
A great ending to a great preseason for Ebner.
Jesse Holley Earned Some Consideration for the Final Roster
Jesse Holley's touchdown against the Buccaneers was one of the most memorable moments of New England's preseason. From start to finish, the whole play was a thing of beauty. Ryan Mallett scrambled out of heavy pressure and hurled a high laser which Holley caught in epic fashion.
Was it a freak occurrence? A one-time thing?
No, it wasn't.
Against the Giants, Holley sprinted down the sidelines and made a spectacular one-handed catch. The referees ruled him out of bounds, but that call was debatable.
The catch was awesome.
That makes two straight weeks where this guy on the bubble swooped in and made a few ridiculous catches. That can't be ignored.
Clearly, Holley is an outrageous longshot to make the roster. However, it's worth noting that he made me jump out of my seat with glee in back-to-back games. This guy can make amazing catches.
I'm not ready to say goodbye to him.