by Scott Benson
scott@patriotsdaily.com

Ha! Just kidding.

In many respects, the Pats 16-15 loss to the Ravens in last night’s pre-season opener was nothing to look at, yet we could not avert our eyes. Here’s some quick thoughts.

  • Big story? Jerod Mayo. Hey, now! He made plays with the first team and even more plays with the second team. And here’s what I loved more than anything: the tackling. He squares up and drives through the ballcarrier, wrapping him up and driving him to the ground so there’s no misunderstanding. He looked every bit the player, even with the big kids, in his debut.
  • He wasn’t the only young linebacker to raise eyebrows. Standing in for Mike Vrabel, Pierre Woods brought consistent heat from the left edge. On the right was Shawn Crable, doing the same, but also grabbing his first pro pick on a very deep drop up the right hash (Ravens left). Is this actually happening? Do the Patriots actually have some young linebackers who won’t be anonymous? Too early to tell, I guess, but so far so good.
  • So far so bad was the story for the undermanned offensive line. Really awful, especially when the Ravens rushed more than four guys. The middle of the line was especially sieve-like. The Pats spent all night in second and third and long, and most of that could be attributed to missed assignments, lost matchups, and a steady stream of penalties. Good thing Tom Brady spent all night in that windbreaker and hat his mom bought for him.
  • The quarterbacks? Cassel did everything he could to relate to his offensive line – meaning he stunk too. Matt Gutierrez wasn’t any better, really – what’s with that backpedal screen pass out of bounds? On first down? Matt, have you and Cassel been studying together? Kevin O’Connell played better than the both of them put together, mostly with his legs. His best pass plays came when he improvised, which ain’t going to keep us warm when the cold winds blow. To be fair to them all, their go-to receiver last night was Ray Ventrone.
  • LaMont Jordan was probably the best offensive player for the Pats, scoring the team’s only touchdown with some tough, determined inside running at 4 yards a pop. And what of receiver Chad Jackson? Let’s just say his status is unchanged, even after getting the start.
  • The secondary gave up too many intermediate completions, some of which helped the Ravens get off to a 10-0 lead. Lewis Sanders had the best coverage of the night, breaking up a few sure completions with well-timed strips. Terrence Wheatley got plenty of snaps but Sanders was the best looking corner while working the slot.
  • Special teams helped hang the L on the scoreboard by giving up a long punt return (complete with missed tackles) and CJ Jones had maybe the worst kick returning game in NFL history. Savvy choice to grab that punt at the two and try to return it. Matt Slater took kickoffs and ran like hell to the 20, where he stopped so Baltimore could tackle him. Nothing to see here, other than Stephen Gostkowski’s three field goals.
  • Oh, one more ST note: Sam Aiken went down with an undetermined injury. Was it the curse of Mel Mitchell, the last ST free agent to get hurt before he could even get started with the Pats?

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I have for now. Please consider adding your own impressions in our comments section. Our own Chris Warner will look at the tape again and be back on Monday with his thoughts on the Patriots’ first action of the 08 season.