Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Falcons and offers some of his fourth-quarter observations:
1. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Patriots LT Mark LeVoir was beaten inside by RE Emmanuel Stephens, which resulted in one of the seven Patriots’ negative rushing plays in the game, as RB Thomas Clayton was tackled for a loss of four yards.
2. The impressive night for Patriots rookie tight ends was not just limited to Aaron Hernandez. On the second play of the fourth quarter, TE Rob Gronkowski, who was lined up on the left wing, ran a seam pattern through the red zone, turning around LB Spencer Adkins, who was in coverage. Patriots QB Brian Hoyer threw an accurate pass to hit Gronkowski in stride for a touchdown.
3. Patriots DE Ron Brace had a quality game, taking strides to prove he is able to hold up at the defensive end position in the 3-4 scheme. His two-gap technique appeared to be solid, coming off one block early in the fourth quarter to hold Falcons RB Dimitri Nance to a short gain. In the pass rush, Brace displays a good motor, and was able to put pressure on Falcons QB John Parker Wilson on multiple instances during the second half.
4. From a Patriots perspective, the most disappointing aspect of the 19-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter by WR Troy Bergeron was that it came when the team only rushed three players. The Falcons were forced into a third-and-14 situation, and the Patriots dropped eight men in coverage to protect the red zone. Bergeron was lined up in the slot and uncovered, as OLB Pierre Woods covered the wing tight end on a crossing pattern on the play. That gave Bergeron room to make the catch, but five yards short of the marker. Safety Brandon McGowan went for the big hit on the play, missing Bergeron and taking out his own teammate, CB Terrence Wheatley.
5. The Patriots opened their second drive of the fourth quarter with another underwhelming blocking performance by the offensive line. RG Rich Ohrnberger was beaten inside off the snap by DT Vance Walker, who chased down Clayton from behind to make the tackle.
6. The second sack allowed by the Patriots came late in the fourth quarter. On the play, RT Thomas Welch was bull-rushed by LE Lawrence Sidbury, quickly collapsing the pocket. Also helping out on the sack was RE Emmanuel Stephens, who beat LT Brian Simmons around the edge.